How CGC Trading Cards Handles Production Defects

Posted on 7/7/2020

Error cards can be more desirable than their perfectly produced counterparts.

CGC Trading Cards grades cards with errors, misprints and other production defects a little differently depending on the type of flaw. Read on for more information about printer’s hickeys, roller lines, rough edges, corner flipping and other abnormalities that, in some cases, can actually increase the value of your cards.

The first printing facility to produce trading card games on a massive scale was Carta Mundi with the release of Magic: The Gathering in 1993. Since that time, countless printers have been commissioned to create these coveted pieces of cardboard.

From the beginning, collectors have extensively documented several sets and even specific cards with known printing defects. Some of these printing abnormalities affect the entirety of certain print runs. For example, the Limited Edition set of Magic, particularly the Alpha print run, are notorious for having them.

For both Magic and Pokémon cards, these production flaws come in many forms, from simple printer's hickeys (spots caused by dust, lint or bits of ink skin on the printing plate) to machine roller lines. Other factory defects include rough edges, with the Pokémon Jungle set being a big offender. This was simply a result of the cutting blades being dull for the production process.

Examples of a printer's hickey, Alpha Taiga print dot and a dull cutting blade.
Click images to enlarge.

Collectors have given these cards with set-wide production flaws the benefit of a slight curve when it comes to evaluating their condition. CGC Trading Cards is creating a production defect database that we will provide to the collecting community once enough information is accumulated. We will then continue to update the database as we, collectors and dealers learn more.

Depending on the severity and prevalence of a production defect, CGC Trading Cards will grade the respective card with this in mind. A comparison would be grading a pack-fresh Alpha Magic card and a Japanese-printed Magic card from a recent set. The Alpha card will show with significant "corner flipping," a positive trait for that series, while the Japanese-produced card will show little to zero production flaws. The aforementioned corner flip may look detrimental to a novice, but is actually a feature that is greatly appreciated by experienced collectors.

The Alpha corner flip.
Click images to enlarge.

Some defects affect a large portion of the print run but not the entirety, such as Magic Unlimited Edition cards with heavy roller lines, which will be scrutinized more than a defect that affects every card from the run. Defects that affect the whole print run but vary in severity will also be evaluated based on the severity of the defect. A good example of this is holo roller lines on earlier Pokémon cards. Some cards show with more than one, and some have heavier lines than others.

A heavy roller line and a light roller line.
Click images to enlarge.

Production defects are simply a constant in any collectible field, and sometimes, when they are dramatic enough, bring great premiums over perfectly produced items. Cards of this nature are called errors or misprints, which CGC Trading Cards will attribute on our certification labels when appropriate.

A Pokémon Gastly card from 2016 with a double printing error.
Click image to enlarge.

CGC Trading Cards provides expert and impartial authentication, grading and encapsulation services for virtually all Pokémon TCG and Magic: The Gathering cards. Its graders use a highly accurate, industry-standard 10-point grading scale and evaluate cards using advanced equipment, including devices that perform ultra-microscopic inspections and precisely calculate centering. After cards have been authenticated and graded, they are encapsulated in the CGC Trading Cards holder, which combines crystal-clear optics and advanced archival materials for the best in display and protection. Learn more at CGCcards.com


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