A History Of PSA “Flips” (And How To Detect Fakes)

Updated Oct 04, 2023

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PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) transformed card collecting by introducing a standardized grading system.

The PSA slab, a sealed plastic case, presents the card's grade and provides protection.

With tools like the PSA card pricing and PSA pop report, collectors can determine real-time values and card populations.

However, the market's growth spawned fake PSA slabs, prompting collectors to be vigilant.  

Over the years, PSA has made various changes to the labels on its PSA holders (or 'flips' as most in the hobby call them) and the actual plastic 'slabs' themselves.

 Some variations are not as noticeable as others, but it's important to know the difference when buying graded cards.

This guide will help you distinguish the different PSA 'labels' and 'slabs' to help identify fake holders and labels.  

I haven't encountered many fake PSA slabs, but they exist and can usually be spotted if you know some telltale signs

We hope this guide on PSA holders is a useful resource.

PSA Flip Type #1 - The OG, issued from 1991 to 1992

This is the first holder issued by PSA. The first ever card graded by PSA with the Cert# 00000001 was the famed Gretzky T206 Wagner card.

And that one got PSA in a lot of hot water.

These initial PSA holders were only issued for two years and look quite different from modern PSA labels.

First, the font on these 'flips' (or labels) completely differs from those used in later labels. Also, the zeros have a distinct line, and the serial number bar code is much longer than in later versions.


First ever PSA Flip - Ronnie Lott 1982 Topps Card - Image Courtesy Heritage Auctions

Here's the back of the Type One PSA holder.  Note there is a PSA hologram on the back of the flip, with the PSA logo on the left side of the flip.  

PSA-graded cards in these holders were only issued for a few years and thus rarely come up for sale compared to later PSA holders


Type One Flip rear - Image Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

PSA Flip Type #2 - New Font, Smaller Barcode, PSA 'Stamp'

The second holder issued by PSA had a completely new font that would remain (mostly) until today.  Note also the slashes removed from the zeros.  The 'flip' still has rounded white corners, but the bar code is much smaller in width.   Note that PSA also started stamping 'PSA' on the bottom right of the holder.  These holders were issued from 1992 to 1999.


The rear of the PSA flip is mostly the same. 

PSA Flip Type #3 - New Hologram on Rear of Flip

The third holder issued by PSA has a similar front label but a minor change to the rear of the flip.


The most significant change on the back of the slab is the hologram on the flip which changed to a Collector's Universe logo (from the PSA logo on the previous flip).  


PSA Flip Type #4 - Font Change, Bar Code Aligned Left, No Changes to Back

PSA took an odd step back by changing the font to one that was like the first issued flip, yet without the slashes in the zeros.  Notably, the barcode was shifted to align with the left side of the label.  Also, the grade of the card was pushed to the left.

The rear of the label wasn't changed and still has the Collector's Universe hologram.  Issued for an unknown period of time in the early 2000s.  


PSA Flip Type #5 - Fonts Changed Again,  Rear Label Changed

Fonts on the Type 5 flip were reverted back to the style on the Type 2 and Type 3 flips. Also the white container on the label is changed to square corners.  One other noticeable change is with the 'PSA' lettering in red on top of the flip.  This is actually a tougher to find holder.


On the rear of the flip, the hologram is removed and the paper is a light blue.


PSA Flip Type #6 - Front Label Unchanged, Rear Label is Changed

The font and borders are identical to the Type 5 flip.  


The PSA logo on the back of the flip is identical to the Type 5, yet the paper is a darker royal blue, and the right hand wording is changed to 'A Division Of Collectors Universe' from 'A Collectors Universe Company'.


PSA Flip Type #7 - Grade Number Moved To Next Line

Only significant change is that PSA moved the card's numerical grade to the line below the condition descriptor (NM-MT in case of Dr J below).  


Rear of flip is unchanged.


PSA Flip Type #8- New Hologram On Front Label and Back Flip Lettering is New Hologram

As shown there is a small 'PSA' hologram added the bottom middle of the front label.  Otherwise the rest of the card is identical to the previous flip.  This new hologrammed flip was introduced in 2015 by PSA.  


The back wording and lettering are identical to the previous generation flip, yet as shown below there is a hologramming of the lettering.  


PSA Flip Type #9-  Cert Number and Barcode Added To Back of Flip

Front of the Type 9 Flip is identical to the Type 8, only variations on the back of the label.

mikan rookie

As shown below, the barcode and the cert number for the card are added to the back label.


PSA Flip Type #10- New Lighthouse Flip Introduced

In 2017, PSA really stepped it up by introducing their new 'Lighthouse' holders.  As shown on the front, there is a new PSA hologram that was "upgraded to proprietary Lighthouse ™ technology, creating an “on/off” illumination effect when rotated."

The white paper of the flip was also upgraded. As PSA notes: "instead of mere white behind the label copy, the wave-like brush strokes of “fugitive ink” embellish the background".


The back of the flip was also updated.  As PSA notes:

The company’s trademark blue still spans the back of the label. While, a large, centered PSA Lighthouse logo is flanked by a stylized “PSA” (in lieu of “Professional Sports Authenticator”) and a QR code.  Tamper-evident fugitive ink graces the area below the blue background.

Note that these are the current PSA holders so if you make any submissions today, these are the PSA holders that you would receive.  


Tips For Detecting Tampered PSA Holders and Flips

There are several ways in which scammers will try to tamper with legitimate PSA slabs. 

The most common is when a scammer cracks a legit PSA slab and reinserts the card with a counterfeit or altered card.  

Thus, let's say said scammer buys a PSA 9 card on eBay, they would then 'crack' the holder, removing the card.  

They would likely buy a raw, lower grade card for much less money and trim it to get close to Mint condition. Then, they could sell the newly resealed slab, while resubmitting the initial 'cracked' card back to PSA.

Thankfully, the new Lighthouse holders make this process pretty impossible due to the 'fugitive ink' and new holograms.  

Trying to piece together one of the newer holders is likely a tall task. However, the early holders are the ones that the scammers target, usually the ones without a hologram, as they are easier to split and would easily frost over when the halves were split and the seal was broken

PSA actually has a great security guide on its website discussing some of the things to look out for with cracked holders.   They note some of the key things to look out for with tampered slabs:

Frosting Along The Edges Of The Slab

When purchasing a graded card online, be sure to inspect the PSA slab for a frosted type look around the outside edges.  When scammers break a PSA holder (or 'crack') the holder in half to remove the card, the normal clear edges will become frosted.

From PSA:

One way the PSA holder may show tampering is what is commonly referred to as "frosting" along the edges where the clear plastic starts to exhibit a cloudy appearance. In some cases, you can actually see minor fractures or cracks in the plastic as a result of the violation. This occurs when the sonic weld is broken and can be seen in various degrees. 

Here's a cracked PSA slab,  where we can see significant frosting on the left hand side of the case.  Image courtesy of Collectors forum.


Doubled Up Labels Used To Cover Up Original Flip

Another common scam is cracking a PSA slab and then creating a new label to post over the original flip.  As PSA notes in their security guide:

Sometimes, a forger may attempt to simply add a fake front to a real PSA label. In turn, an extra layer of paper is used. As a result, if you attempt to do what we just described above while using a lamp or strong light, you will not be able to see through it. In essence, the label is now too thick to see the opposing side of the label. By utilizing this technique, you may also be able to see portions of the authentic label underneath, which may now be covered by the fake label on top. This is not always the case with forgeries, but it is an example of what some criminals will attempt to do and another way to avoid fraud. Furthermore, while the embedded hologram technology on the current PSA label acts as a deterrent, some forgers will try this technique by attempting to replicate an older style PSA label.

Fake Flips To Replace Original PSA Label

I've seen a lot of Michael Jordan fake cards in cracked PSA holders that use forged PSA labels. This is when you have to pay very close attention to the style and fonts used by PSA.  Note we also discuss Jordan rookies in fake flips more in detail here.

Here's a fake card in a real PSA holder with a fake label using a legit PSA cert number for a PSA 9 Jordan.  


Here's another thread from Blowout Forums showing a fake PSA 10 Jordan.  

Note, be sure to look up the cert number on any PSA graded cards before buying.   On PSA's website you will also be able to see any recent sales at eBay or at auction houses, so if there is data available, make sure you look at the recent sales and ensure that the card for sale is the same card that was sold at any past auctions.

What To Do If You Have A Fake PSA Holder?

Unfortunately, PSA isn't required to reimburse anyone that purchases any fake PSA graded cards. The onus unfortunately lies square on the buyer in this scenario. However, I still would recommend getting in touch with PSA to help ensure the card in question is taken out of circulation or to help track down someone that is creating counterfeit PSA slabs.  The PSA Contact Number is (800) 325-1121. 

All Vintage Cards

About the author

Chris Rogers, is the founder of All Vintage Cards. Launched in 2018, All Vintage Cards is the hobby's leading resource for vintage sports cards. Chris is also the author of 'The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards'. Chris remains an avid collector and can be reached at chris@allvintagecards.com.

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  1. Enjoying reading this article, but after the “PSA Flip Type #10- New Lighthouse Flip Introduced” section header there appears that there were supposed to be photo examples … but there is nothing there visually but text. Please let me know where I can see there images as I’d like to see the examples of the fakes among the “Tips for Detecting Tampered PSA Holders and Flips.”

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Mike sorry about that, sometimes our caching plugins can mess up the images. It should be fixed now, but I just want to thank you for leaving the comment, definitely helps us in keeping our resources up to date for collectors.

  2. Hi, the example of a Type 6 flip (Wilkins) has the grade number on the line below the letter grade but the description for Type 7 states that this practice started with Type 7. Is the Wilkins card actually a Type 7 or was the grade number on a separate line starting with Type 6? If this practice started with Type 6, are there any other differences between Type 6 and Type 7?
    Thanks – enjoyed the article. Tom

  3. Hey everyone, quick question… would a fake flip (barcode) scan correctly when doing a quick add on the registry? I have quite a few cards Psa slabbed and when I scan them with my phone it actually pulls up all the correct info for the cards. Just curious if the barcodes can be fake but scan correctly… any info will be great! Thanks!

    1. The scammers actually go look for legit cards and just copy all the info, like from an ebay auction. So it all looks the same and comes up legit but you didn’t realize they switched the label onto an inferior graded card.

      So yes, barcodes can be faked

  4. Just looking at an 1986 Fleer MJ RC and one was slabbed in a Flip type 1. Everything seemed ok but what struck me as being different was the back of the case.

    The bottom back of the slab seemed like the manufacturers stamped/indented label most likely “UltraPro”? I can send you pictures if you’d like to see.

  5. So I have an issue that maybe you can help me with. I bought a PSA 10 – Kobe Bryant Rookie off Ebay a year ago. I go to check the cert number and see that there were two Ebay listings for this card. The first was the one I bought, and then a second a few days later by a different seller.

    Cert is 08010267.

    I think I got taken for a ride, but would like a second opinion before I message ebay. The flip doesn’t look like anything listed here.

    1. I hope you messaged ebay. Id even call PSA with the amount of money involved. Heck, you both might have been taken for a ride.

  6. I recently bought 2 1996 Topp’s Finest Kobe Bryant #74 with coating. Both are PSA 10 and the cert numbers check out. However one slab says “w/ coating” and the other doesn’t, but you can clearly see that it has the coating on it. When I look both up on PSA the price is different by $1,300. Is there a certain year that PSA started to actually write “w/ coating” on their slabs. I’m really frustrated and confused with this one. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  7. I recently bought 2 1996 Topp’s Finest Kobe Bryant #74 with coating. Both are PSA 10 and the cert numbers check out. However one slab says “w/ coating” and the other doesn’t, but you can clearly see that it has the coating on it. When I look both up on PSA the price is different by $1,300. Is there a certain year that PSA started to actually write the coating distinction on their slabs. I’m really frustrated and confused with this one. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  8. New thing. P5A instead of PSA on a Jordan RC. Its for sale on Ebay right now and you can tell its off, but when I was looking at the case I noticed it had a 5 instead of an S as the center character on the hologram.

  9. Thank you for your efforts to educate collectors. Your article is an amazing resource for myself who was unfamiliar with PSA graded cards. I have a question regarding the “type 2” slabs. I have 4 slabs that fit the type 2 description. On 2 of the 4 slabs the white printed psa logo is thicker and the psa stamp is missing on the rear. But the psa stamp is on the front and the case isnt well aligned. The other 2 has the psa stamp on the front and back and the white psa logo is more refined. Are you aware of differences or are 2 of these fake?

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