Mark Murphy was the unopened pack specialist before Steve Hart, and the Baseball Card Exchange took over that part of the hobby. He released an Unopened Pack, Wrapper & Display Box Guide in 1996 after about ten years of almost exclusive hobby dealing in the unopened space. He published the guide to share information with collectors from his recollections, notes, deals, and conversations with other people active in the unopened market.
He then updated his guide with a 2nd edition that was printed and released in 2002. The guides have incredible photographs of over 400 unopened boxes and packs that the major card producers released from the four major sports. Just after the introduction, he shares some advice, giving a brief description of how to check wax packs for legitimacy, so I thought I would share some of that info here.
He starts by explaining that his expertise comes from experience. He mentions having handled over a million packs in developing an eye for legitimacy. How did he handle so many packs? When he bought an open case of cards, he would check every single pack of cards in it. Based on that experience, he says his best advice is to only buy unopened material from dealers you are familiar with, who have good reputations, and who know how to inspect packs.
Mark then talks about the basics of pack inspection. First, he emphasized it’s about the corner folds. Each should be neatly preset.
Second, he checks the factory roller seal on the back of the pack. Card producers used a hot metal roller that was about 1.75 inches wide to seal the pack across the back, so you should see a dulled-out finish where the seal is.
His experience comes into play with things like gum consistency, card count, miswraps, etc., and that’s how he was able to find a lot of fakes. He gives a few examples and then talks about cello miswraps, which I detailed in a post about 1957-61 Topps Cello packs, and how he had seen fakes that looked factory closed but had incorrect cellophane sealing and feel.
The most helpful tool in his bag was having almost every Topps baseball wax and cello pack from 1951-1989 inside his own collection to use for comparisons.
I’ve read many stories about why Mark Murphy left the hobby (including his warehouse burning down) and whether he knowingly released a ton of fake Christmas rack packs into the market. But I really have no idea what is and isn’t true. I know that his advice on checking for fakes is accurate, and his guides are full of great pictures, insights, and advice for unopened sports card collectors. If you can track down a copy, it’s worth picking up.