The ongoing revelation of vintage and current era trading cards that have been altered and re-sold for profit has attracted the attention of federal investigators, according to a story in the Washington Post.
While it had been strongly suspected that the FBI was interested in the case, the Post story–the third mainstream media outlet to report on the issue– indicated that four collectors had already spoken with investigators.
Over the past few months, a small number of collectors who are members of the Blowout Cards online forums have revealed hundreds of graded cards that appear to have been purchased, cracked out of their holders, trimmed, bleached or colored in some fashion, then re-graded at higher levels and sold. The result appears to have netted significant profits for the “card doctors.” Why those cards passed authentication despite their changed appearance isn’t known but the methods used by unscrupulous individuals to obtain higher grades have improved to a great degree over the years, according to grading firms.
Most of the cards revealed so far have been bought and sold through PWCC Marketplace, an auction house based in Oregon. Many of the vintage cards connected to the scandal appear to have been originally purchased by New York dealer Gary Moser, who told the Post he was simply looking for undergraded cards he could crack and resubmit.
“I look for cards that PSA rated 5s and 6s, crack them out and hopefully get a better answer,” Moser told the Post. “I’ve been buying and selling cards for 20 years. If I’ve been doing this [altering] for that long, I’d be retired. If I was this master alterer, I’d be pretty bad at it. I’d be pretty stupid.”
The issue of altered cards isn’t new and some were quite open about the process prior to the advent of professional grading such as this story on a card restoration business from the pages of the Chicago Tribune 30 years ago. These days, the primary motivation is profit–and the major issue is the lack of disclosure associated with high value cards being purchased by collectors who may not be aware of the alteration. Internet archives, built up in recent years, have made it easier to search “before” and “after” pictures.
No charges have been filed in connection with anything uncovered by the Blowout sleuths but attorneys say the case could result in a myriad of legal action.
While the FBI doesn’t comment whether it has undertaken an active investigation, agent Brian Brusokas of the bureau’s Chicago office stated, “I tell anybody I deal with within the hobby that it’s built on trust: trust with the buyers, dealers, sellers, graders, auction houses. In order to gain trust, you have to deal above board. If you’re not, other people may make it known you shouldn’t be dealt with.”