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The Fake Wemby Rookie Cards Scandal

fake wemby rookie cards

The hobby has been shaken by the revelation that the market is saturated with counterfeit Victor Wembanyama rookie cards.

For years, there have been whispers that many of the top rookie cards in the market are fakes, often originating from China. In some instances, these suspicions have been confirmed.

A substantial shipment of cards, including a significant number of Prizm Victor Wembanyama rookie cards, has been seized in Port Rochester.

We understand the value and significance of your collections, and we’re here to guide you through this.

So, what’s the plan? How can we protect our collections, and what does this mean for your prized possessions? We have all the answers in our overview of the fake Wemby rookie cards scandal.

How The Fake Wemby Rookie Cards Were Seized

On April 23, the US Customs and Border Patrol announced that it had successfully intercepted containers brimming with counterfeit goods from China. A substantial stash of NBA rookies ‘ cards was discovered among the haul of designer clothes, shoes, watches, and sneakers.

The estimated value of the seized goods in this operation is a staggering $400,000. However, this figure is a mere fraction of the colossal counterfeit market. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, a mind-boggling 2 trillion counterfeit products are sold worldwide yearly.

It’s crucial to note that Customs and Border Patrol officers have observed a global trend in the origin of these counterfeit items.

They state, “We see these items coming from every other country worldwide. It’s just from all over.” However, it’s worth mentioning that this particular shipment did originate in China, further highlighting the country’s role in the counterfeit market.

How to spot Fake Wemby Cards

One thing that is immediately noticeable is that these cards are very close to the original. It seems that these forgeries get a little bit better every year.

Luckily, the US Customs and Border Patrol published a picture of one of the seized Wemby Prizm cards, which isn’t bad either. So, people have been trying to find the differences between this specimen and the real ones.

We have to add all the expected caveats. We only have one picture of the forged card; a hobby professional did not take it. The lighting may be playing tricks on it, and the specific angle could alter the card’s appearance.

In addition, this is just one card, and they may not all be identical. So, take what we say here with a significant grain of salt.

The Differences

Nonetheless, there appear to be a few differences between the forged card seized at Port Rochester and those we know to be genuine.

  • The swoosh: Some observers have noted that the Nike swoosh looks different in the forged version. The Nike logo is prominently displayed on the top left-hand side of Wemby’s jersey. In the original, it flows like the actual symbol. But the logo appears to be almost cut in half in the forgery.
  • The team lettering: The team name SPURS appears in a white box at the top of the card. The original card has it in bolder font. The lettering also seems to be cleaner than the original.
  • The shadow effect: The shadow effect present in the original around the outside of the white Spurs nameplate appears absent in the fake ones.
  • The Prizm lettering: The way the Prizm brand name is printed on the fake card is vaguer and less bold. That is particularly noticeable in the lower half of the logo. As you can see, the top of the word is in lighter ink than the bottom of the logo. However, the fake card appears to be less differentiated between the two. Both the top and bottom are weaker and in lighter color.

I have looked at many different versions of the original card from various angles. Unfortunately, I only have one picture of the counterfeit version. But these differences are concrete and noticeable.

The general trend is that the fake cards tend to have weaker and less defined print. That can help you differentiate between the two. But of course, it will be easier to tell the difference in person than when seeing the card online. So, be very careful buying these cards.

Other Fake Wemby cards circulating

The Prizm base cards have been the focus of attention since they appeared in the media. But it would be best if you were pretty naïve to think those are the only fake cards of the French phenom on the market.

Indeed, you can go on Esty and buy “custom” Wemby cards, like this supposed Colorblast. You can buy them for $35; some have tried to sell them for far more on eBay.

Therefore, don’t think that the other Wemby cards are fine. This was just one shipment. Lord knows what else is around.

How the hobby has reacted to fake Wemby cards

As always, you can rely on people to have their hilarious takes. One Blowout Forums member quipped, “They immediately knew the cards were fake because Panini cards aren’t that well-centered.”

Meanwhile, South Valley Cards jokingly speculated that the plan is to “Create thousands of fake Wemby Prizm RCs and have them intentionally confiscated at customs, therefore lowering the cost of legitimate Wemblys, creating the perfect buying opportunity while everyone questions their own card’s legitimacy.”

But my favorite joke was from a Reddit post: “Forget PSA. I’m sending my cards to the border patrol.”

But the general reaction, as one would expect, is confusion. Many collectors feel that there is no particularly visible difference between the fake cards and the real ones. One Twitter user complained that it is hard to tell the difference between counterfeit and real cards.

Meanwhile, a thread on Redditt asked, “Do we have faith that grading companies would be able to determine that these would be fake if they made it to their gates?”

Are Wemby cards the only ones to worry about?

Not at all. Right now, Wemby is the flavor of the month in the hobby. His card sales have totaled $1.1 million in eBay sales alone. The more giant cards are, of course, sold elsewhere. Most notably, the $516,000 sale of a 1/1 in a PWCC Marketplace Premier auction.

But Wemby cards will neither be the first nor the last to warrant this treatment. There was a time when forgers in China and elsewhere focused on Luka Doncic, Tom Brady, and Michael Jordan rookie cards.

There was also a trend of selling these cards in fake BGS slabs. It is hard to believe they aren’t also forging cards for massive players like Shohei Ohtani. The folks at Blowout Forums recently to a rash of forged Kobe Bryant autographed cards.

Remember that professional forgers often deal with things that are far more difficult to copy, like clothing, with many more details and tells of foul play. Therefore, many cards would be relatively simple to recreate. And, of course, the materials used for many of these cards are bought from China.

What does this mean?

We are a hobby website, and we are primarily interested in our card collections and the market. This isn’t the New York Times.

However, it is essential to note that buying and selling counterfeit cards has real implications far more important than pieces of cardboard.

Public Affairs Liaison and Program Manager at CBP Jeff Toth says that the money going into these programs funds “Illegal drugs, illegal guns, forced labor, child labor, things along those lines. So, one of the biggest reasons we want to try and catch these items and end this is it feeding a lot of criminal activity.”

Authorities recommend buying suspicious goods in person from licensed vendors rather than online. Of course, that is trickier in the hobby, where so many of our purchases are made online. We have institutions designed to authenticate cards, like PSA and the eBay authenticity guarantee.

But the truth is, our trust in these institutions is minimal. For example, PSA has been unable to spot cards treated in chemicals and has made deals with sellers like eBay and Goldin that give it an interest in providing higher grades.

How to protect yourself from fake Wemby cards

On a more hobby-oriented level, this will undoubtedly make Wemby Prizm base cards less desirable. Luckily, the seized cards do not appear to be numbered or autographed. Of course, there is a reason for that.

The lower print is more accessible to spot because fewer are available, and the serial numbers are known. Meanwhile, the numbers are vast for base and far more challenging to track.

Since those are the most valuable anyway, they will not affect those who have seriously invested in his cards. Indeed, this may raise the price of numbered and auto versions since they will be even more premium than usual.

So make sure to get those instead of base rookies. That was a good idea, to begin with, and now it is more imperative. However, it would be surprising if there weren’t counterfeit versions of the more expensive cards.

Avoid card sellers from China

One way to protect yourself is to avoid buying from eBay sellers in China. It is certainly possible that many of the sellers in China are very much on the level and get their cards from reputable sources. However, considering that the source of these fakes is China and there is no verification or authorization of the cards, it seems like a needless risk.

Indeed, we have seen a steep rise in the sale of Wembley Prizm rookie cards from China. Ivan from Watch The Breaks posted this perusal of a bunch of auction cards ending soon and ready to be shipped from China.

However, when I took a look, there were far fewer. That means someone in China is likely monitoring hobby social media. One Twitter user speculated, “I brought this up yesterday. I bet the person who created the counterfeit cards probably sold a bunch on eBay to see if buyers would notice a difference first.”

The main card sellers from China

Many of us have bought from Chinese sellers, perhaps without knowing it. The top sellers there have a ton of sales and very good reviews. In particular, TopStox-Official stands out, with over 174,000 sales on eBay. Another popular seller is buffuncollectibles.

I talked to a Chinese seller who replied anonymously about the fake Wemby sales. They denied any knowledge of fake Wemby cards. However, the seller told me he was “unsurprised because everything can be faked these days.”

He added that it was “just as likely to get fake stuff from America” and that he gets his cards “from America like everyone else.”

We have no reason to doubt this particular seller. However, China seems to be a hub in the fake card industry.

Final word on fake Wemby rookie cards

A new story seems to come along every few days to shake our belief in the hobby and the authenticity of the cards in our possession. We commend the US Customs and Border Patrol folks for doing their job so well and seizing all these counterfeit cards and other goods.

But as we know, the authorities have limited resources. Trillions of dollars of counterfeit products are sold annually in the United States. We don’t know what percentage of those are sports cards, but it has likely risen significantly over the past few years.

The bigger the money and hype in the hobby, the more likely these events will be.

All we can do is recommend that you take some steps to lower the risk. Only buy from reliable sellers and avoid those from countries where fake cards tend to come from. Gravitate towards numbered and auto cards, more challenging to counterfeit, over base cards when possible.

Try to buy graded cards when significant sums are involved. Those are also harder to fake. Pay close attention to serial numbers and inconsistencies in the card. It can be challenging (but not impossible) to monitor every card you buy closely. But you can do so for the massive purchases you make. It is worth the effort.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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