05 February 2013

Baseball Card Forensics (1)

Baseball cards are simple things, right? Right.

Only, you're wrong. 

Much of what I read in the card blogospheroid is trades, product reviews, player collections, team collection, unique collecting challenges. This is great. I really enjoy reading everyone's posts. Most of the time. 

With the revamping of this blog not so long ago, I wanted to do something different. And it seems this time around, others wanted to to the same, too. Analysis of the hobby is a bit more ripe this time around. The collectors are antsy. With the regurgitation of old ideas, fake relics and overprinting cards, bloggers are looking for something new to write about. Digging deeper.

Completely on accident last night, I fell into one of those dig deeper situations. I recently won an auction for JP Arencibia's relic from this year's Mothership Series 1. It's a nice card. I like the design of these, unlike everyone else it seems, and when you twist them landscape-wise and throw a plain swatch of jersey on them, they look pretty damn good.

One thing I like to do with cards is to observe where the picture was taken. Sometimes with players changing teams so often and Topps photoshopping every damn card, I wonder how accurate the pictures are. On any player who's in a new uniform, or a changed one, I look to see if it's 'shopped.

While JPA wasn't traded this winter (as so many thought he would be), I was curious as to whether they'd use a 2012 uniform picture - and based on the image in this card, they did. I do not see any evidence of photoshopping:

So that's nice. As an appreciator of fine photography, I also look into the time of day in which the shot was taken. Anyone can take a photograph of a ballplayer in the bright sun of August, but well-executed photographs at night and during twilight are where talent truly shows.

Looking closer at this card, there are some clues. 

Let's look a little closer.

The uniform shows very little shadowing (a clue that this isn't a mid-day shot), and the glow atop the skullcap is telling that there is some natural light is still reaching the playing field.

The reflections in the helmet will give it away.

Excellent. You'll notice in the helmet reflections two distinct areas. Area 1 is dark, with a light line atop the shadowed area.

Area 2 is lighter. There's no dominant sun reflection, no glaring beacon of afternoon baseball and beer and hot dogs. From the lack of shadows on the catcher's gear, the light reflections atop the helmet, the darker shadows and the light streak in between (which, of course it the stadium lights), we can ascertain that this was taken at twilight. The Skydome is open, the Blue Jays are in town. All is right with the world. Right?

Not so fast. Like I mentioned earlier, I do not trust Topps. I am always expecting something shady from them. Thankfully, they didn't, this time.

But Roy, how do you know?

Well, friends and loyal readers, look even closer.

See that little spire there? What the hell is that?

Well, if you've ever been to the wondourful city of Toronto, Ontario, you'll know that just outside the Skydome is something just as iconic and mandatory on any tourist trip to the GTA, the CN Tower:

Appreciate your baseball cards.


  1. Knowing Topps uses Getty images, a search for the image leads to this:


    1. Ahh, excellent. I was unaware that Topps uses GettyImages.

      There goes my dream job as full-time baseball card photographer.

  2. Forgot CSI... You just started CBI. Card Board Investigation. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Fuji. I plan to write up more of these, but they require unique cards and some research. SO they won't be tooooo common.