1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF revisited...introduction to my theory

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  • craig44craig44 Posts: 1,891 ✭✭✭

    1000 posts on the greatest thread ever on CU

    Collecting Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited December 25, 2016 12:43PM

    Cracked open two boxes of '90 Topps today with my brother. Behold Blackless Chris Speier (#753):

    Other, less obviously affected cards include #534 Louie Meadows (Name obscured), #651 Rafael Santana (white streak on top border) and #649 Dan Murphy (Topps logo and lower right border). I cannot find an image of an uncut green sheet of '90 Topps and if someone could provide one that would be greatly appreciated. I think if you were to view an uncut green sheet you would find all these cards next to each other.



    All of the green sheet cards that I pulled were affected in the same way, in other words, they all came from the same sheet. To me this indicates that my packs came from production run before the error was discovered. Because as we have seen, that in other NNOF pulls from the same case, there were both normal and error cards, indicating that either A. different production runs were mixed together, or B. quality control had discovered the error and workers were actively removing affected cards from the production line.

    It was a pretty messy print run, as I found some dinged up cards straight out of the packs. For instance, there were two blue sheet cards wrinkled in the exact same place, indicated that the uncut sheets were handled roughly ( or roughly stacked on top of each other, wrinkling the same card in the same place).

    Also, I found very interesting that the #224 Delino DeShields had the diagonal red line running down the length of it, exactly like the red line the Rookiewax found in his pull. What kind of printing flaw could possibly link diagonal red lines with blackless areas? I would love for a printing expert to speculate on this. Again, if I had an uncut green sheet image, I could probably find DeShields neighbors above and below with similar red lines. I saved all my green sheet cards out of these boxes but could not find another one with an obvious red line.

    Other perspectives? Seems as though these blackless problems were a recurring problem throughout the entire production process, as I sincerely doubt that these boxes from this case were from an early print run.

  • Now that I have Rafael Santana's card blown up in front of me on the screen, I see a red line right through the first "A" in "Rafael", extending vertically passing through the first "E" in "Yankees". So that red line went right through the print run.

  • RookieWaxRookieWax Posts: 1,038 ✭✭✭

    Nice Christmas surprise there! During my pulls, I actually do recall similar faint slanted lines on other sheets. It may have been black lines on the blue sheet cards though. It was only a few cards, so it would take me quite a while to find them. I didn't notice any missing black at the time, but I will have to take another look if I find them.

  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited December 25, 2016 8:42PM

    A closer look at the green sheet cards revealed a very small border break in the Sandy Alomar and a Charlie Liebrandt with two border breaks. I also found normal versions of the Liebrandt and the Dan Murphy so correct print runs did get mixed in.

    However what piqued my interest was when I finally found an uncut green sheet image on an Ebay completed sale. I made a quick Photoshop paint outline of the affected areas on the green sheet and then contrasted it with the NNOF blackless streak on the orange sheet. What I found was that similarly positioned cards are affected in a blackless line that mirrors the direction of the original orange sheet blackless streak, albeit with much less blackless area on the green sheet. The Chris Speier card is in the same position on the green sheet as the Kevin Tapani is on the orange sheet. The Charlie Liebrandt occupies the position of the Julio Franco All Star card. Louie Meadows and Marcus Lawton are in the same spot, and both have error streaks through the name plate area. Dan Murphy sits in the location north of the Frank Thomas, and Sandy Alomar is in Darrin Jackson's spot.

    Images:

    I am not a printing expert, but I believe these patterns are too closely located to be coincidental. This may mean that Ross' final theory involving the dirty rubber blanket - and NOT a damaged or dirty black printing plate - is most likely the cause of the blackless error streak. I believe that - as Ross posited - a dirty rubber blanket was cleaned with a solvent during the printing process and the solvent was not properly removed from the rubber blanket. This caused the ink to not adhere to the printing plate. The only way that this error could appear in a similar pattern on the green sheet is if the rubber blanket was reused to print the black ink onto the green sheet. This rubber blanket theory could also explain why there were similar looking diagonal lines on the both the NNOF error sheet and the green sheet errors I have just found.

    Again, amateur opinion here, but from what I've read on the subject, I believe that the Frank Thomas NNOF could not have been created using a defective orange sheet printing plate if a similarly located pattern appeared on the green sheet. The green and orange sheet plates were created by chemically etching their own unique photonegatives onto the printing plates. There is very little chance of the same pattern being etched onto two different printing plates when they were derived from two different photonegatives. If there is a printing expert out there who has additional insight, please chime in.

    Of note - I was not able to pull a Mike Smith, Mike Stanton or John Franco, three cards in the middle of the streak. I did pull a normal Steve Bedrosian, John Wetteland, and Daryl Boston.

  • saucywombatsaucywombat Posts: 982 ✭✭✭

    @West22 said:

    I am not a printing expert, but I believe these patterns are too closely located to be coincidental. This may mean that Ross' final theory involving the dirty rubber blanket - and NOT a damaged or dirty black printing plate - is most likely the cause of the blackless error streak. I believe that - as Ross posited - a dirty rubber blanket was cleaned with a solvent during the printing process and the solvent was not properly removed from the rubber blanket. This caused the ink to not adhere to the printing plate. The only way that this error could appear in a similar pattern on the green sheet is if the rubber blanket was reused to print the black ink onto the green sheet. This rubber blanket theory could also explain why there were similar looking diagonal lines on the both the NNOF error sheet and the green sheet errors I have just found.

    Again, amateur opinion here, but from what I've read on the subject, I believe that the Frank Thomas NNOF could not have been created using a defective orange sheet printing plate if a similarly located pattern appeared on the green sheet. The green and orange sheet plates were created by chemically etching their own unique photonegatives onto the printing plates. There is very little chance of the same pattern being etched onto two different printing plates when they were derived from two different photonegatives. If there is a printing expert out there who has additional insight, please chime in.

    I appreciate the insight into the possible similarities between the orange and green sheet blackless areas. Though I find it interesting that folks are enamored with the idea of a dirty blanket or chemical spill having caused the error vs. a defective print plate having caused the variation. I realize that this is a considerably long thread but there is a clear preponderance of evidence that it was a defective plate. Especially when you consider that similar blackless type cards can be found in many Topps issues, good examples in 1989, 1985 Jerry Royster (cataloged No Topps Logo variation)- being a great example. The exact duplication of the error in quantity is not possible without the plate being the issue. The slight variations in the blackless 1990 cards are easily explained by the normal degradation of the plate as it wears through the printing process. Many different black plates had to be made and used by Topps in 1990 because they wore out.

    The similarities between the green and orange plates above, which could also may merely be coincidental, could also easily point out simply that same problem that Topps had with producing the orange plate occurred with this green plate.

    Always looking for 1993-1999 Baseball Finest Refractors and1994 Football Finest Refractors.
    [email protected]
  • RookieWaxRookieWax Posts: 1,038 ✭✭✭

    I thought Ross' "final" conclusion was that it was not a bad plate after all...but something temporary that happened during the printing process. He had posted that on his website I believe...but not here.

  • dennis07dennis07 Posts: 1,660 ✭✭✭

    That is some great detective work West22. To make a discovery 26 years after the fact is pretty cool.

    Collecting 1970 Topps baseball
  • saucywombatsaucywombat Posts: 982 ✭✭✭

    @RookieWax said:
    I thought Ross' "final" conclusion was that it was not a bad plate after all...but something temporary that happened during the printing process. He had posted that on his website I believe...but not here.

    I suppose we disagree on this point in that case

    Always looking for 1993-1999 Baseball Finest Refractors and1994 Football Finest Refractors.
    [email protected]
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited December 30, 2016 12:10PM

    @saucywombat said:

    @RookieWax said:
    I thought Ross' "final" conclusion was that it was not a bad plate after all...but something temporary that happened during the printing process. He had posted that on his website I believe...but not here.

    I suppose we disagree on this point in that case

    First I'd like to say that Saucywombat's contributions to this thread are huge, they were instrumental in uncovering related errors almost immediately and I thank you for that. I have a great deal of respect for your opinion and would like to hear more about why you think it was a printing plate error, because I haven't heard talk of a printing plate error since around page 13 when Joe first discovered his error box.
    I'd like Ross to come on here and weigh in at some point, and I don't want to speak for him. But just going off his blog, when Joe mentions "something temporary" he is specifically talking about a dirty rubber blanket theory that I thought was the general consensus based on posts here and the blog. Link - http://www.bighurthof.com/1990-topps-variations

    As I've mentioned, the only knowledge I have of offset lithography printing process is what I have gleaned from this thread and Ross' blog. However, the following is **my opinion ** of what I believe occurred, and why the errors I have found on the green sheet are reinforcement of the initial rubber blanket theory.

    Saucy mentions "slight variations in the blackless 1990 cards are easily explained by the normal degradation of the plate as it wears through the printing process." However I classify the variations on the orange sheet into two distinct events, events that I believe are not supported by the "normal degradation of the plates" theory. I don't know which event came first, but I believe "Event 1" is the slight variations of blackless on the orange sheet, aka "partial blackless Thomas" as well as partial blackless Tapani, Lawton and Hart. Examples:

    Event 2, in theory, came after an attempt to repair what happened in event 1, and resulted in an even more drastic error, the NNOF and related examples. I see very little variation or "degradation" in the errors of event 1 or event 2, simply, a short print run of each that was later corrected.

    Now onto the green sheet errors. Let me show a scan of the previously shown Liebrandt error, side by side with a normal Liebrandt I pulled from the same box.

    Notice that both Liebrandt's have a black smudge above the "B" in his name, but only one has the blackless border break. Wouldn't that imply that the same printing plate was used to create both Liebrandt cards (hence the black smudge on both cards), but that a different element/piece of equipment used in the printing process created the blackless error? Here is a later Liebrandt from Ebay that presumably was created with a different printing plate which bears no smudge:

    Examples such as this are why I would support the rubber blanket theory until we see more evidence suggesting otherwise.

    On a related subject, I went back through the green sheet cards and came across some very interesting finds. There is a blue stripe, perfectly identical to Joe's (RookieWax) orange sheet errors, running vertically on the same angle from Paul Coleman (at bottom of green sheet) to Harold Baines at the top of the green sheet. Some of the examples in the middle have a very faded blue line that is not very visible on my scanner so I'll just include the Coleman and Baines below (edit - Baines error is not quite visible unless image blown up):

    This would **seem to ** suggest that my errors are related to the NNOF errors. Additionally, I found a very interesting Jim Leyland error, similar to the Jeff King and exactly like Saucywombat's John Wathan error. I would point out, and I think that Saucywombat (what is your first name? haha) would agree, that he had a good chunk of orange error sheet cards among his collection so it's not out of the realm of possibility that the John Wathan and the Jim Leyland error are from related print runs (i.e. more NNOF connections).

    Leyland error:

    Saucywombat's Wathan error:

    Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading the long winded post and comments/additional theories welcome.

  • Opened up another box, more blackless green sheet errors. Pulled copies of all the errors I got in the first box besides the Leyland. All orange sheet cards normal, and they were thoroughly scrutinized. I think I found the end of the streak. #39 Curt Ford and #686 Carmelo Martinez, neighbors of the Chris Speier that I first pulled, showed good blackless chunks in the lower right and left borders. Unfortunately both the Curt Ford and and Carmelo Martinez cards got clipped by something in the printing process and tore up the left side of the card border. A lot of cards from both the blue and green sheets were clipped in this manner. Here are the cards as they would appear on an uncut sheet:

  • Ford scan:

    Melo scan:

    I believe I have one more box to open that contains green sheet errors. The other boxes I got from the seller were from a different case and so far contain no errors.

  • Great stuff! Congrats!

    fka jacksoncoupage, comc.com: junkwaxgems, ebay: junkwaxgems
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 5, 2017 7:30PM

    I have to say that I do not find it to be a coincidence that these error sheets featured heavily scuffed cards, in some cases (such as the Curt Ford), in the exact location as the blackless area. While these errors are in nearly the exact location on the printing sheet as the NNOF error streak, I have yet to find an orange sheet error or any of the "earmarks" of an orange sheet error that RookieWax found, so at this point, while it may be possibly that they were created around the same time as the NNOF error, I do not think they are directly related.

    I do think that the scuffs on these cards could represent new evidence as to the cause of the blackless errors and should be brought into consideration when discussing different theories. I'd love to hear from some of the regular commentators on this thread but they all seem to have vanished from the boards or have little interest in these new discoveries. And @saucywombat I hope I didn't turn you off of this thread with the way I presented my opinions. I've researched the offset lithography process quite a bit more in the last few weeks and I really don't feel as strongly one way or the other about the cause of these errors, be it rubber blanket or printing plate or obstruction... It has been fun uncovering more evidence and integrating that into this thread but I really do need others' help to reach any conclusions on this, and I would still love to hear more detail about why you think it is a printing press error.

    Also of note, I found some blue sheet cards with scuffs exactly like the ones you see on the Carmelo Martinez and the Curt Ford.

    Finally, there is still one more green sheet error box to open that I am saving for my brother. I am also working on something else that I have to keep under wraps for the time being.

  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 5, 2017 7:34PM

    A quote from Ross on page 10 which appears to be what saucy was getting at in the first place:

    "This is how it has been explained to me:
    The amount of repetition that occurred to create the NNOF Thomas in mass quantity can hypothetically only be created by a faulty plate. If the obstruction were on the blanket, black ink from the plate would still transfer to a solid obstruction and the ink would then transfer to the sheet. If a chemical obstruction appeared on the blanket, you would see pooling of ink around the perimeter of the obstruction and possibly randomly through the obstruction itself. If the obstruction were directly on the sheet, only one run would be affected.

    Beyond that, the shape of the error is organic, not fixed as would be expected by a physical obstruction. I do now think they were potentially created by the same plate, and if not the same plate, plates that were side by side in production."

    Should be noted that Ross' blog draws a different conclusion.

  • addicted2ebayaddicted2ebay Posts: 1,685 ✭✭✭
    edited January 6, 2017 1:36PM

    It was a damaged blanket no doubt. The black boarder around the name and the Topps logo are partly missing. The printer probably did not notice until several sheets were ran then stopped to change the blanket.

    -My 2 cents.

    ebay mobile sucks
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 7, 2017 12:32PM

    First off, I found this youtube video helpful in explaining the offset lithographic printing process.

    And this diagram showing the path of the printing material (cardstock for the purpose of our discussion) through the 4 different CMYK printing plates:

    The video likely depicts far more technologically advanced printing apparatus than was used in '89/90 but I think it is still accurate of the process.

    Now, relevant to the blanket vs. printing plate/bad neg. discussion is this thread I found on Net54 forums. Steve Birmingham posts regarding the Thomas NNOF:

    "The 90 Thomas and the Wiggins/Flanagan pair shown are entirely unrelated errors.

    The Wiggins/Flanagan is from water or solvent dripping onto the plate or blanket in the press. It's a fairly common error for the era, but finding a matched pair is very cool. It's also the sort of error that is probably unique or nearly so.

    The Thomas is from some debris, probably tape blocking some of the black plate from being exposed when it was being made. A printing error, but a recurring one. Probably uncommon since the plate would have been replaced pretty quickly. I'd call it a variation, since it's the result of a different plate. Others might not because of the unintentional nature of the error."

    "It's possible that it recurred over a few sheets, but no more than a few.

    When the operator adds water sometimes it drips onto either the plate or the offset blanket. If it drips on the plate it would probably only be on one sheet since the plate is wet and inked each rotation, and the pressure should squeeze out enough water to keep it to one sheet. I can see water getting on the rubber blanket maybe lasting a couple rotations under the right conditions.

    If it was solvent, which is used occasionally to remove ink buildup on the rollers, then it might last a bit longer on the blanket. But again probably only one or two turns on the plate since the water would float it off and the pressure would push it out.

    I do have one card showing where the ink floated on a very overwatered plate. Pretty odd effect.

    Steve B"

    And a response to a poster's comment later:

    " I didn't explain that very well.

    The group of 90T related to the Thomas are from something causing the plate to be made incorrectly.

    The plates are made from a set of large negatives called the mask. It's usually a bunch of negatives taped to an opaque paper or plastic sheet. The plate is exposed much like a photograph would be, then developed. If something like a hunk of tape or strip of paper was between the mask and the plate that part wouldn't get exposed and that portion of that color wouldn't print.

    I think the 90T and the Seaver/Clemens were both caused that way. The 90T is the most extreme example I've seen. Very sloppy work by the platemaker.

    Other cards missing areas of color may be similar, but it's just one way of having missing color in an area.
    Incorrect original
    Incorrect mask
    Bad plate
    Solvent/water drips
    Debris in the press.
    Too much wetting of the plate
    Underinking
    Damaged/stained paper stock
    Misfeed of a sheet
    Partial print of the sheet - Impression cylinder not engaged for the whole rotation
    Sheet not fed through at all

    I think that's it, there could be others I missed.

    And some of those have related errors.

    Debris in the press can sometimes wrap around the plate, get inked and print what looks like faded solid color.

    If there's too little water instead of too little the entire plate can get inked to varying degrees and will also print a light solid layer.

    All are pretty cool, but the only one I'd call a variation is the incorrectly made plate.

    Steve B "

    Link:
    http://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=187722&page=8

    To summarize, it sounds like Steve B - who seems to have some printing experience - came to the conclusion that the cause of the NNOF was likely a physical object (tape or the like) that blocked the negative from properly exposing onto the black plate during platemaking process. This would result in the error being reproduced exactly the same way for a series of press runs. At this time the only thing linking my green sheet errors to the NNOF errors is the diagonal blue lines running up and down the sheet. The blackless areas in similar locations on the printing sheets could be a coincidence (in other words, the same platemaking error happening twice) and linking them together might have been wishful thinking on my part. While they do have the same physical characteristics (i.e., caused by the same phenomenon), they have different overall shapes, indicating two separate events.

    At this point, unless I find anything else linking my findings to the NNOF, I am going to take the discussion of green sheet errors elsewhere as I don't want to distract the conversation away from the purpose of the thread - Ross' (BoB) saucywombat, Rookiewax and others' discoveries of the NNOF and related errors. Thanks to all who were patient with my ramblings on the subject. West

    Edited to elaborate.

  • saucywombatsaucywombat Posts: 982 ✭✭✭

    Well first let me say that the four color printing process, a variation of gravure printing, that produces baseball cards, most commercial cardboard packaging and newspaper, is a process that an immense amount of variables play in to. A quick web search will reveal a great deal of scholarly (include complex physics) energy is devoted to perfecting the process. Think fluid dynamics, capillary actions, heat, pressure, static electricity, viscosity, paper quality, ideal chemical properties, speed of rollers, thickness or rollers, tension between rollers, etc.

    It defies a short explanation so if anyone is so inclined, check out printwiki.org/Gravure
    Pretty interesting

    Another good site which shows common defects in the 4 color process (and basic catalog of every PD in the history of Topps) see www.offsetprintingtechnology.com/sub-categories/on-press-troubleshooting

    Gravure printing involves at its heart the engraving of an image onto a printing plate. in the mid-19th century processes were developed to allow for the chemical etching of photographic images into metal. This allowed for the first time for photographic images to be accurately reproduced through press printing (as it was not possible to perfectly reproduce by hand on to the plate). Interestingly today it is possible to physically etch an image with digital technology which can eliminate the chemical process but not possible in 1990.

    So at some point Topps photographed and developed the the "F" plate black image. This is when the most likely error occurred that produced the blackless area on the F sheet.

    Undeveloped patches are a known problem in developing photographic prints, which would be loosely defined as an area of the negative that has been unaffected by processing solutions. This may have gone unnoticed and the image transferred to the plate.

    Also a possibility is that a chemical process is used to etch the photographic negative into the plate. So a perfectly good image can be distorted if the chemical etching process does not go well. I think this is probably what we are looking at with the "F" plate. In this example of the process you can easily see how bubbling or streaking of the sort present on the "F" sheet are easily made during the application of the image to the roller plate.

    The image in the video is known as a "resist". Problems that occur in rotogravure printing can include the resist not being properly applied. The video above shows a simplified process (usually the resist stays adhered longer to the plate for the image to be properly transferred). The resist usually requires a more involved process for stripping it away from the plate. Sometimes the resist (or parts there of) remain adhered to the plate. This is a very plausible explanation for the errors. To me it seems clear from the type of blackless areas produced and the quantity in which they were produced point clearly to an issue created by the production of the photographic image that produced the resist or its application or removal from the black "F" plate.

    This is my position. I always appreciate interest in this matter but it would be nice if this thread was powered by people excitedly finding more of the blackless errors discovered in this thread. We need a cable show to pick up this "Valuable" error and get people looking for them (BTW - whatever happened to History Detectives?). The only press has been the one Beckett blurb more than 5 years ago. Not sure that our very academic discourse in gravure printing will help this cause.

    Always looking for 1993-1999 Baseball Finest Refractors and1994 Football Finest Refractors.
    [email protected]
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 15, 2017 7:41PM

    So having Frank scribble in the name box apparently adds $28,800 of value. Yeah...I'm set. Figured someone would do this someday. I always liked this card better unsigned.

    www.ebay.com/itm/182423206068

  • RipublicaninMassRipublicaninMass Posts: 10,058 ✭✭✭

    I'd love to have a signed one, ut adding his name looks awful

    Picking on my username is much like picking your nose, everyone does it, but it is STILL kind of childish.
    Cu member Robb took coins in trade and never responded or sent his portion
  • addicted2ebayaddicted2ebay Posts: 1,685 ✭✭✭
    edited January 16, 2017 11:57AM

    @RipublicaninMass said:
    I'd love to have a signed one, ut adding his name looks awful

    Agree ... bad idea

    They go for about $1,500. Like his name in the box is gonna make it worth 25k

    ebay mobile sucks
  • miwlvrnmiwlvrn Posts: 2,878 ✭✭✭

    That's quite a shirt Frank had on while he was signing the card though.

  • RipublicaninMassRipublicaninMass Posts: 10,058 ✭✭✭

    Not to derail...but I'd also like a signed bonds opening day error!

    Picking on my username is much like picking your nose, everyone does it, but it is STILL kind of childish.
    Cu member Robb took coins in trade and never responded or sent his portion
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 23, 2017 3:31PM

    Brief update - I opened two more boxes that came from the same case I got the earlier green sheet errors. I did not pull a single green sheet error and all orange sheet cards were normal.

    Next up is a half of a supermarket case. I will probably open these cards over the course of the next two weeks, unless I stumble on something exciting...

  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 21, 2017 6:32PM

    I'd like to add another quote from Steve B over on the Net54 boards. I PM'd him on that site and he responded with some valuable information on printing which I find pertinent to this discussion. What follows is Steve's writing:

    "Those green sheet errors are interesting. The location isn't exactly the location of the orange sheet ones, but is really similar. I'll have to think a bit about whether I think they're related technically, or just coincidentally. Right now I'm leaning towards them being related technically. Perhaps if the orange sheet was in fact tape they may have done a poor job of cleaning off the adhesive, leaving some in almost the same spot but a bit higher and to the left. Some plate exposure frames have extra room, so it might just be where the plate was located under the glass.

    A couple of the more major ones are consistent enough to be a bad plate, the minor ones, especially the one with the frame break at the right may just be transient problems that happened along with the bad plate. Or, if you're lucky, someone noticed the massive frame break and fixed it by scratching the missing border into the black plate. I might be able to tell, but I'd have to see a high res scan -something around 600+dpi. Flaws repaired like that are really unusual on baseball cards. None come to mind right off. The 81 fleer pointing fingers may have been scratched in as a joke.

    The other cards shown, are also interesting, but somewhat unrelated.
    The ones with extra yellow on the backs are fairly straightforward overinking. Not at all uncommon, and a somewhat transient error. Overinking sticks around until you limit the ink supply and a few rotations after too.

    The thin lines, both the red and the blue are either plate scratches or drag marks. A bit of debris could have scratched the plate for that color, and once scratched the line of the scratch would print. It's possible to fix it in unprinted areas like the border of a card with a white border. But it's not always caught, and often being later in the use of the plate it isn't usually fixed. I don't think I have or have seen an example of a repaired one.
    Many presses use a strip of tinsel like material to help reduce static electricity buildup. Conditions need to be right for the buildup, and it's more of an issue on higher speed presses. If the ink is wet enough the anti static strip can drag through the ink and carry some of it across the surface of the sheet as it passes. Drag marks can be consistent, but usually aren't. So they'll be differing thicknesses and often not always in the same spot.

    Plate scratches on blue and red would be unrelated to flaws on the black plate, with the exception that the plates would be used at about the same time.
    I'm not sure if Topps was using presses that printed more than one color at a time, or if they were sheet fed or web fed web meaning running a continuous roll of paper/cardstock instead of individual sheets. Considering the production levels I'd have to think they were likely done on a 5-6 color web fed press. (For the basic CMYK plus clearcoat and maybe something else like solid colors in a few spots instead of CMYK halftones. ) If that's correct, the plates would have been used together, and probably changed as a set. So the scratches will always coincide with the flawed black plates, except for cards done early in the print run before the scratches happened.

    The other theories-
    Damaged blanket - possible but unlikely. The extent of the orange sheet missing area would mean extensive damage to the blanket. Either from a serious bit of debris getting into the press -like a chunk of wood serious- that ripped a lot of surface off the blanket. Possible since the blanket is usually a rubber like substance backed with cloth.
    Or the rubber started coming apart - less likely since there aren't any cards showing the damage as progressive.
    Either way it would have been a pretty noticeable event. In the first case, the blanket would have been changed immediately or nearly so. In the latter it should have been caught before taking out such a large area of the blanket surface. There's just too many of the cards out there for either to make any sense.

    Solvent etc.
    Pretty much already covered. Solvent spills don't look like that (Like 99.9% sure, but outliers happen) And they're very transient events.

    The mechanical damage you mention is almost certainly the result of poor handling in between the press and the cutting. I have a stack of I think 3 of the same card with extensive damage at the upper right that happened before cutting, and they cards were still stacked when cut so they stayed together. Amazingly they went into either a pack or vending box together got unwrapped and ended up in a dealers inventory still stacked and slightly stuck together."

  • A new plot twist.




  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 17, 2018 6:40PM

    Got some scans done up at high resolution. Newest additions, after 5 years of searching:

    GitHub Logo

    GitHub Logo

    Upon receiving the cards, I noticed immediately that the Acker and Hart had very unusual metallic colored scratches. Upon close inspection with a loupe, I observed that the scratches dragged black ink and deposited it at the end of the scratch. You can see this very clearly with the Acker closeups I posted above. This tells me that the scratches occurred on the (NNOF error producing) black color press. After searching through some of the other cards that I acquired along with the Acker and Hart, I was able to find the scratches on #281 Kevin Bass and #314 Donald Harris. The Bass even appears to have a silvery piece of cardstock embedded into the card.

    Bass scan:
    GitHub Logo

    Piece of cardstock or other material embedded in Bass card:
    GitHub Logo

    Harris scan:
    GitHub Logo

    Upon consulting with a couple people familiar with printing, including Steve B on Net54, the consensus is generally that these scratches, while interesting, are unrelated to the cause of the blackless errors. They could be caused by anti-static material on the presses getting into the press.

    The likely cause of the blackless NNOF errors remains, from what I have been told based on the evidence, a faulty printing plate. Not any physical obstruction in the press but a physical obstruction that blocked the negative from being properly exposed to the printing plate. Anyhow, very happy with the additions considering the enormous amount of persistence and legwork that was required to bring them in.

  • BunchOBullBunchOBull Posts: 6,143 ✭✭✭

    I personally think a dirty blanket is a possible explanation for the similarity in the issue between the green sheet and orange sheet; some solvent on a blanket used for more than one press preventing ink transfer in both instances.

    Great hunting!

    Collector of most things Frank Thomas. www.BigHurtHOF.com
  • West22West22 Posts: 43
    edited January 18, 2018 6:36AM

    I would think we could speak to someone who actually worked on developing and printing baseball cards (during the time this technology was used) to show them all the evidence and hear what they have to say. It shouldn't be that hard. However, Topps is proving to be an incredibly secretive company. I can only assume it stems from getting sued by Fleer over anti-trust issues. They had to protect trade secrets and the only way to do that was to keep information from getting out. Any other guesses? Also, we're now 28 years from the creation of the error and it's likely that some former employees have passed away.

    I've also scoured Youtube in an effort to get a better grasp of the offset lithography process, but those videos obviously don't have anything about troubleshooting in them. Definitely interested in any other relevant theories, and we can't realistically rule anything out without talking to the guys who made the plates and ran the presses back then.

    edited to add -
    I would love for the green sheet errors to be related to the NNOF sheet, either because of a improperly exposed printing plate, a shared rubber blanket or other as yet unknown reason. They do share three similarities that I believe are not coincidental: the relative location on the printing sheet (The Speier error occupies the Tapani location), the blackless areas and both blue and red diagonal scratches running vertically down the sheet.

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