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1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ranking third in difficulty to obtain is the 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings set. Produced by Steve Kozel, a college student to pay for his last year of college who would go on to work with the USA Baseball Team, this set sold through Steve and the Red Wings' front office for $3.95 a set or 3 for $10. The sets were printed one set to an uncut sheet. In all, only 1,800 sets/sheets were printed with 50 of the original 1,800 sheets left uncut. The sets, which cost $.79 per set to produce, were sold to people in over 30 states with no advertising.

Counterfeit copies of the Cal Ripken, Jr. 1981 WTF card have been confirmed to be in existence, even some which have been slabbed as authentic by reputable third party grading services. For more information on how to spot a counterfeit, be sure to visit our "Spotting Counterfeits" page. To read our exclusive interview with Steve Kozel about the set, please visit the following:  

The Checklist

The checklist for the 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings set (25 cards). As with the TCMA Rochester set, the cards in this set are numbered.:

1. Cal Ripken Jr.

2. Dallas Williams

3. Chris Bourjos

4. Mark Corey

5. Doc Edwards

6. Tom Rowe

7. Jeff Schneider

8. Jim Umbarger

9. Don Welchel

10. Larry Jones

11. Dan Logan

12. Steve Luebber

13. Ed Putnam

14. Floyd Rayford

15. Dave Huppert

16. Drungo Hazewood

17. James Hart

18. John Hale

19. Tom Eaton

20. Team Photo

21. Bob Bonner

22. Brooks Carey

23. Mike Boddicker

24. Thomas Chism

25. Silver Stadium

1981 Rochester Red Wings Card Gallery

To see the cards of the 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings set, visit our 1981 WTF Rochester Album at

1981 Kodak Doc Edwards

When Steve Kozel received permission to print the 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings set is came with a condition. The condition was that Steve would provide 3,000 cards of Doc Edwards for an Eastman Kodak Underprivileged Day during the 1981 season. The quote included a quote on the back from Edwards. In reality, Doc did not want to be bothered so the quote was attributed to him but chosen by Steve and then Co-General Manager Bill Terlecky. It was the first time the Kodak logo was ever put on a trading card and the people at Kodak were not happy. For whatever reason, possibly rain, the cards were never handed out. In March 2011 a copy surfaced at auction. Kevin Johnston of Clubhouse in Rochester sold the card. Kevin was Clubhouse Manager for the Wings in 1981 and had no clue how he received the card. The card was printed on the same sheets as the 1981 WTF set but has a picture cropped different from its WTF counterpart.

PSA Slabs Counterfeit WTF Issues

In 2001, Beckett Grading Services revealed information on how to spot a 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings card #1 of Cal Ripken, Jr. In the article, Beckett revealed how to spot a genuine WTF Ripken issue from a fraud on their website at

The genuine card is printed on an off-white card stock, nearly yellowed, or ‘dirty-white,’ whereas the fake/reprint is on vivid bright white stock

The original weighs much more than the fake (1.73 grams compared to 1.49 grams on the fake) although both cards feel fairly thin to the touch.

The dot pattern is a mild giveaway, but it is very close to the original. Primarily, the fake will have more specks of white scattered about the front photo, and will have more areas of lightly broken text on the back.

The key area to examine is over Ripken's right shoulder, atop the roof. There should be a box shape -- a flag-like image or something similar -- on the very edge of the card. On the fake, most of this box has been obliterated.

Such early detection of this counterfeit by one of the big three third party grading services certainly provided collectors with a sense of security. In fact, in a February 2, 2007, article written by Doug Koztoski for Sports Collectors Digest, I stated that collectors should purchase copies of Cal’s minor league cards that have been graded by the most reputable professional card grading companies.

I’m sorry. In an auction that ended on May 1, 2007, I won an auction for a PSA 9 (cert 31796188) 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings Cal Ripken, Jr (Ebay 220106272908). Considering that a PSA 9 copy had sold for $1,924.00 on March 18, 2007 (Ebay 110102273191), I was especially thrilled.

Then the card arrived. It was a counterfeit.

Unfortunately I had not taken some of my other advice offered on my website,, when I suggested that collectors only purchase Ripken minor league issues when they came with the rest of the set. In addition, I did not ask for a larger scan of the card during the duration of the auction. I simply trusted in the PSA slab saying the card was authentic. Bill Haelig is the owner of the most comprehensive Cal Ripken, Jr. card & memorabilia collection as well as the Authenticity Coordinator at Ironclad Authentics, Cal's own memorabilia company. Bill is not surprised that a fake was slabbed. “I'm not surprised that PSA graded these cards as authentic. My reasoning is that they couldn't have handled enough of them relative to their ‘normal’ influx of cards to have any real expertise. Again, out of all the WTF cards they have graded, how many were of Cal vs. how many were of Bob Bonner, Drungo Hazewood, etc. The majority of what they saw was Cal obviously. This particular manufacturer was a ‘one issue’ one that they had little to compare it to. To back up his point, the current population report reflects 115 graded 1981 WTF cards, with card #1 of Cal making up 77.4% of the total. The checklist card #20 that includes Ripken ranks second with 20%. Only three other non-Ripken WTF cards (Brooks Carey, Drungo Hazewood, Steve Luebber) have ever been submitted and were certified in the spring of 2007, making the non-Ripken population under 3%. Haelig is less than impressed. So 97% of EVERY WTF card was either Cal or the checklist card (with Cal)? How could they establish any kind of expertise in this issue? Did they garner knowledge in the 1955 Bowman set by examining the Mickey Mantle cards or the Billy Loes cards of the world? Did they obtain expertise in the 1975 set by examining George Brett or Enos Cabell? It reeks of provincial incompetence if you ask me; I wouldn't consider changing my opinion until they initiate a public recall of the cards they graded.

PSA did issue a reimbursement for the final sale price of the WTF counterfeit card plus the amount for shipping and insurance once they confirmed it was a fake. However, the refund does not erase the disappointment of not upgrading my PSA 8 to a PSA 9. The reimbursement also does not ease any concerns about a possible market impact on a market already plagued with counterfeits. Haelig added the following: I think there is great impact on this, particularly for those card sets that weren't manufactured by the ‘big boys’ (Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Upper Deck, Bowman, Goudey, etc). Look at all the regional sets (which the majority of minor league sets are). I now look at all of those with a jaded eye. How do we know there aren't any PSA graded bogus Charlotte cards out there? Of course the TCMA card remains a possibility as well.

It wasn’t long after receiving the counterfeit that I warned fellow collectors with a warning about the slabbed WTF counterfeit while giving PSA time to evaluate and confirm that my card was a fake. It was at this time that I received a note of concern from Trevor Dovey, a fellow Ripken minor league card collector, about the authenticity of his PSA 9 (cert 03427907) 1981 WTF Cal Ripken, Jr. After looking at scans of the Dovey PSA 9 WTF Ripken I determined it was also a fake. Once again, PSA offered a full refund for the card once they determined it to be a counterfeit.

Here is Trevor’s recollection on how he received the card:

I bought my WTF PSA 9 for $185.00 Buy It Now off EBay. I bought it on August 13, 2006. I was very excited when I bought it because I hit the By It Now 5 minutes into the auction. I thought I got an amazing deal on a so called authentic PSA 9 Ripken. When I got home later that night I checked completed listings just to see if any PSA 9’s had sold recently and one had sold a few days before I bought mine. It sold for $900.00. I am not sure if it was real or not.

The good news is that PSA is now fully aware of the counterfeit WTF issues. However, how much damage has been done? After all, we do know that it’s been 6 years since someone found out that BGS would not certify a counterfeit. We also know that as late as the spring of 2007 that PSA certified a counterfeit WTF issue. As of May 1, 2007, the population report stated there were 90 1981 WTF cards of Cal graded, with 23 PSA 9’s and 1 PSA 10. Although it’s a small sample size, we do know that 8.6% of that total PSA 9 population report as of May 1, 2007, was counterfeit. It is important to note that since purchasing the fake, PSA has deleted 1 PSA 9 from the registry. Under cert 03427907, now lists the grade of what was once a PSA 9 as Not Holdered, Questionable Authentication.

Where do we go from here? Trevor Dovey suggested the following: I would like to see PSA try to track down the rest of the 90 graded WTF copies. I think they should let it be known that there are fake cards in PSA slabs (have an article in magazines and also on online forums). Hopefully they can buy back all the fakes and reconstruct the population report. This way people will know how rare this card actually is. Bill Haelig also feels that serious steps should be taken by PSA. If PSA was serious about this, they would offer a public ‘recall’ of any WTF Ripken they graded for another inspection.

The minor league cards of Cal Ripken, Jr, provide an often unseen glimpse of one of the great players and individuals of our generation. As collectors, it is our responsibility to uphold the integrity of our great hobby, especially on a market with so many knowingly taking advantage of others. The bad news is that this is a reminder of what is bad with our hobby. The good news is that the opportunity is here to do something about it.

To view a gallery of images of the PSA slabbed counterfeit 1981 WTF issues, please visit the following:  

Questions Answered about the PSA 10 1981 WTF Cal Ripken, Jr

On May 18, 2007, RITM reported that PSA had slabbed a counterfeit 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings card #1 of Cal Ripken, Jr. as authentic. In the process of writing the article, a second counterfeit slabbed authentic by PSA was discovered. Although a small sample size at the time, the discovery confirmed that counterfeits made up 8.6% of the total PSA 9 population of this card as of May 2007. 

Although PSA reimbursed the 2 collectors for the fake Ripken cards, minor league collectors of Cal couldn’t help but wonder how much of the PSA population was polluted. Three months later, new concerns came after RITM interviewed Steve Kozel, who produced the cards in 1981 under the name WTF Company. In the interview, Kozel expressed concerns over the legitimacy of the PSA 10. 

It looked too good. Remember I used shrink wrap on every set. Ripken was the first card in the pack. No way any 10s are going to come from those. The set was printed at a little place with old equipment. By the time someone made me aware of it the auction was over. I never found out who won it. It blows my mind that someone counterfeited my set.

Over the weekend of August 22, 2008, Don Allen, Jr., a collector of Ripken memorabilia, contacted RITM with concerns over the legitimacy of a 1981 WTF Rochester Red Wings card #1 of Cal Ripken, Jr. In the process of confirming the authenticity of his card, a discussion took place over the concerns of the possibility of the PSA 10 being a fake. Fortunately for the collecting community, Don has been able to put a year old concern to rest. In the process of archiving past sales of Ripken memorabilia, Don archived the sale and image of the PSA 10 Ripken. In an auction that included 33 bids the card sold at auction (Ebay 1011172701) for $4,025 on October 7, 2001.

Sleep well, PSA (and fellow collectors); the card appears to be authentic.

Exclusive: Rare Uncut WTF Sheet with Doc Edwards Promo

When looking for an adjective to describe Cal's minor league memorabilia, rare is an appropriate choice. However, Bob Shomper has something that goes well beyond "rare". What Bob owns is the only one in the world. Bob is the owner of an uncut sheet of 1981 WTF cards. For those of you who have followed the site you may already know that the sets were printed one to a sheet and that 50 sheets were left uncut.

When the Red Wings agreed to give Steve Kozel permission to print the cards it was on the stipulation that he would provide Doc Edwards promotional cards to be given out during the 1981 season. When the sheets were printed they included three copies of the Doc Edwards promotional card. In all, the sheet measured 17 3/8 by 23 inches. The promotional cards of Edwards were the first cards cut from the sheet. When the sheets were being printed, Steve went to preview a copy and kept a sheet to be given to Tom Huber to display in his local card shop. When Tom moved out of the country, he asked his best customer, Bob Shomper, if he wanted a souvenir as a reward for being a good customer and as a gesture for being a good friend. Bob chose the uncut sheet.Obviously Bob is thrilled, telling RITM the following: "To have in your possession the only true copy of this uncut sheet of cards is an awesome feeling and truly for a fan of Cal Ripken it remains the diamond in my collection. If it didn't contain the Cal Ripken card, then its importance would of course be minimal."

To take a look at the sheet, please visit our gallery at the following: Meets Steve Kozel; Acquires Uncut WTF Sheet

Until the week of July 22, 2007, information on the 1981 WTF set had been next to impossible to find other than random leads from people that sold the cards back in 1981. Although some of the leads and rumors proved to be true, the majority of our comments about the set on included disclaimers. During the week of July 22, 2007, an uncut sheet of 1981 WTF cards appeared for sale with an interesting letter attached with the name of the person who produced the set. After some 10 months of research I had never heard the name of the producer of the set and knew it was an amazing lead. 

With that being said, e-mails were sent to everyone I could find through the search engines with the name of the gentleman on the LOA in the hopes of finding the right person. After 2 days of e-mails, the following entry was signed on the guestbook on

I can not believe this site. I published the 1981 Red Wing set, WTF, and am amazed how you have documented the set. I have sent you an email with some corrections. GREAT site, Steve

p.s. I spent 79 cents per set to produce it as I was a poor college kid. quite a price increase since then!

An interview was immediately scheduled with Steve Kozel, producer of the 1981 WTF Company cards of the Rochester Red Wings. Questions about this set will be answered and documented for current and future fans and collectors of Ripken minor league trading cards.

But what happened to the uncut sheet of WTF cards that initiated the process of finding Steve Kozel? is pleased to announce that we have acquired the uncut sheet of cards. This sheet will be a very valuable resource as we strive to learn and educate others about Cal’s minor league trading cards. When you consider the recent finding of counterfeit WTF cards being slabbed as authentic, the scarcity of the sheet (50 sheets were uncut), and Cal being inducted in the Hall of Fame July 29, we are especially thrilled to announce this acquisition.

Brian Jacobs, who sold the uncut sheet, is happy about what transpired due to his auction. "I'm blown away -- I thought I had something unique to sell, but it never occurred to me when I listed the sheet that all of this was going to happen."

To see scans of the uncut WTF sheet, please visit our gallery at

To read the exclusive interview with Steve Kozel, please visit the following: 

Exclusive: 1981 WTF Production Photos

Steve Kozel, creator of the 1981 WTF set, has been very gracious to share his recollections with RITM. In November of 2011, Steve came across the actual photographs used to create the legendary minor league set. The photographs were given to Steve from the Rochester Red Wings the day before the cards were scheduled to be printed. The pictures were taken by the local newspaper and were for their files. The pictures were not specifically taken for the 1981 WTF set. On the backs of the photographs you can see a % which is a notation from the printer on how far to reduce the picture to make it the correct size for the cards. The biggest issue with the short time available was figuring out what to do with the card for Silver Stadium and what to do about missing/inaccurate pictures. You will notice from the scans that the Silver Stadium card actually features Ken Boyer. The Steve Luebber card used his image from the 1980 TCMA set. The picture of Don Welchel is actually John Hale. The picture was marked incorrectly by the Red Wings.

RITM thanks Steve for his willingness to share this behind the scenes look at the production of the 1981 WTF cards! To take a look at the image gallery for the photos, please visit the gallery at