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How to detect trimmed cards by Kevin Saucier

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How to detect trimmed cards by Kevin Saucier Empty How to detect trimmed cards by Kevin Saucier

Post by sabrjay Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:01 pm

Here is something I started to write some time ago about identifying a
trimmed card. Keep in mind this is a very rough draft. It's a quick hit
and covers just the very basics but it may offer some assistance.


The first test is to see if a card measures-up properly. To find
this out you will first need to know the textbook measurement of the
particular card you are examining. Most modern era cards vary little to
none from the exact manufactures specifications. You can although, have
a pre-war card that is not trimmed but was originally cut short or long
by the manufacturer.

Vintage cards with an emphasis on tobacco era pre-war cards may
require some scrutiny. Since the cutting of cards in the early years of
production was not an exact science, many of these were cut with little
regard to accuracy or consistency, this is very prevalent with the
tobacco series cards. These were cut with various widths and lengths. A
card may be shy of the proper size but still be within the limits of
authentication and grading standards. A card could also have been cut
larger and be "doctored" to precise measurements. This is where knowing
how to identify a trimmed card may come to use.

There are some key indicators to tell if a card is trimmed:

To truly tell if a card has been trimmed, it must be removed from
any holder it is in so the edges can be clearly seen and
studied...edges are the key!

Give the card a visual once-over before subjecting it to an in
depth inspection. Look for obvious signs of trimming or a "hack-job."
This can be wavy or uneven edges or just an overall abnormal
appearance. Some may have a slant cut or corners that are flared in or
out when compared to the same edge. Stand the suspected card edge up on
a flat surface, inspect the card for an uneven cut. It may even rock
back-and-forth from a high middle or parts may be so badly cut a light
can be seen shining between the hard surface and card edge.

The border-edge on a normal card will be slightly rounded and have
somewhat of a smooth edge but not perfectly flat or overly smooth to
the touch. Very gently rub your finger-tip across each edge. Feel for
signs of an abnormally smooth edge left by the sharp instrument. If and
edge has been trimmed it may have a different feel than the others.
While normal edges can have a slightly rough feeling, a trimmed edge
will feel somewhat slick. In time and after some practice the skill of
feeling an edge for alterations will become more developed. If you feel
an edge that is different from the rest, look at it under a 50+ watt
halogen light and a 10x jewelers loupe.

With the same light and loupe look for edge notches. These occur
when a sharp edge is carefully and slowly used to trim a card. Since it
is very difficult to make a clean, fast, one step cut, the card doctor,
not wanting the cutting instrument to slip away or stray from making
that perfect corner and edge, will usually grip the devise tight and
move the blade very slow. This precise and deliberate cut will often
leave behind rather obvious notches, otherwise known as "stall marks."
This is an almost involuntarily movement made when a sharp instrument
is stopped or stalled while trimming. Using your loupe and studying the
edge under a halogen light, look for small notches that usually have a
similar slant. Typically there will be several of these stall marks
located down an entire edge that has been trimmed. Be aware that many
cards have original factory cuts that produce minor slanting cut marks
and are considered to be very normal. Stall marks made by a person who
trimmed a card will be more pronounced and deeper. In cases such as
this it would help to know a little history about the cards you are

A trimmed or sanded card will be flat and/or be "very" smooth in
one or more spots. Since sanding disrupts the individual fibers small
raised fibers or hair-like strands may protrude along the suspected
edge(s). Usually this can only be seen under slight magnification and a

Look at all the edges and corners of the card under a halogen light
and a loupe. A normal vintage card will be slightly toned (light
gray-brown), a trimmed card will magically reveal a very white
appearance compared to a naturally toned edge when held under a halogen
light. It will be surprisingly evident and is the best overall
objective finding in recognizing a trimmed card.

Crimped edges and corners are another thing to look for. Since most
cuts are made with scissors, scalpels or razor blades, a cut card will
almost always show signs of tampering. Often times a card that has been
cut can regain its shape in the middle over time but the corners will
still show the initial pinch point.

Look at all sides from a distance. Some trimmed cards may have a
slant cut or flared corners that are slightly higher than the middle
edge. This is commonly referred to as a bat-ear. When scissors are
used, the hand has an involuntary tendency to start high and go low for
the initial and/or end cut, if ever so slight. If trying to avoid this,
the cut may actually start low at the corner and go higher towards the

Important fact; if the edge or corner of a card has been trimmed
without other enhancements, regardless of the level of sophistication,
it will always display the look of a trimmed card in one way or
another. In essence, a trimmed card will look trimmed. Once again, the
edges are the key in determining if a card has been trimmed.

Hope this helps!


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Post by LucasRiley Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:10 pm

I'm a writer for a living, and I gotta say: This is mighty impressive for a 'very rough draft!' Thank you for providing it. I intend to print it out and do a thorough inspection of my collection.

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