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Altered Patch Cards Fall on Negligent Manufacturers

Updated: Apr 15

The Spiegels v. Goldin Auctions lawsuit is one of the year's biggest stories, but not enough people are paying attention to it. Hobby friend Paul Lesko has been giving updates on the lawsuit as the case moves through discovery and what looks like a potential settlement. 

But before a potential settlement is reached, when facts can be kept from public record, it's important to note the case's implications and how we got to the lawsuit. 

For those unfamiliar with the case, it centers around an Upper Deck LeBron James Exquisite RPA card, #44/99. Alan and Steven, the Spiegel brothers, consigned their card to Goldin Auctions in 2021. 

Within one day, the card reached $690,000 in bids. But just hours later, founder Ken Goldin called to tell them he had to pull the card because there were questions about its authenticity.

More specifically, Goldin was provided with an image of the same card with a plain white patch. The image first appeared in Blowout Forums in Dec. 2018, alongside a picture of the Spiegels' card from an archive kept by the Blowout member buybuymj. 

The Spiegels' card has a three-color patch and was graded by Beckett. Goldin withdrew the card from auction because he believed its patch was fake. It seemed cut and dry, and Goldin did the right thing. After all, if an image of the card with a different patch appeared in 2018, it made sense to assume it was replaced by a nicer patch to increase its value. 

The image in question, left, contains a plain patch. The Spiegels’ card, right, was graded by Beckett.

But it turns out Juan Garcia, aka cardporn, was involved. Garcia provided Goldin with the image. As more people have looked at the photo of the single-color patch, it's not just a blurry mess, but it has tell-tale signs of being photoshopped. We know Garcia is especially fond of Photoshop.

Garcia hoodwinked one of the industry's best authenticators, MeiGray, using a photoshopped image to photo-match a Michael Jordan jersey he owned. Convincing a few Blowout Cards readers wasn't that difficult, and it probably wasn't difficult to persuade Goldin, who had business ties with Garcia.  

A few other facts in the case make you realize why the Spiegels filed a lawsuit, which I won’t get into in this article.  

When it was released in 2003, each box of Exquisite went for $500.

There is 1 pack per box. Other key RPAs include Wade, Carmelo, and Bosh.

So what the heck does this have to do with card manufacturers?

We wouldn't have a lawsuit if Upper Deck had kept an archive of its RPAs. Exquisite was released in 2003, revolutionizing the model for high-end cards. It's reasonable to think Upper Deck thought scammers would never alter the patches of such valuable cards. But they were wrong. 

Would it take a bit of extra work? Sure, but nothing that a little cataloging for a few weeks wouldn’t accomplish.

This card is out there. Do not buy this card. 

If you do buy the card, do not contact Topps for any help - you won’t get any.

I was explaining the situation to my wife, who doesn’t know much about cards. She asked, "So they have no records of the cards?"

That's right, Upper Deck didn’t archive its LeBron Exquisite RPAs or any of the other cards. They didn't bother photographing the serially numbered cards for their own records. It could have been an excusable faux pas (sort of) for the industry. 

Except, none of the manufacturers have yet to create a database - at least not one the public is aware of - to archive original patches on some of the biggest cards of the modern era. To quote my wife again, "They didn't keep any records?"

More than 20 years later, they still haven’t. 

The manufacturers have been negligent. They can create patch databases, make them easily and readily available to the public, and give collectors a puncher's chance at collecting their favorite cards without worrying about getting scammed. 

However, when collectors continue buying their products, manufacturers are not incentivized to spend money on databases. In that regard, the hobby is also to blame. The people have spoken with their wallets and, in this case, shown a willingness to spend increasing amounts of money on products that the community is then charged with policing.  

Upper Deck could have been the ultimate arbiter, of sorts, in the Spiegel v Goldin Auctions lawsuit with a few clicks of a mouse. 

But this isn't just about LeBron Exquisites. It's about the big card companies, the tens of thousands of altered patch cards circulating on eBay and other auction houses. It's about the thousands of altered patch cards encapsulated by the industry's most trusted card graders. 

It’s about the scammers that continue to work unimpeded and the people that have lost thousands or unknowingly own cards that are worth a fraction of what they should go for. 

As consumers, we should demand more. The manufacturers have let themselves off the hook and left the collectors to piece together the mess left behind the wake of their negligence. 


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