How do you determine if a card is sun-damaged vs a printing variation?

I purchased this card from a respected Australian collector a while back. When it arrived I was a little surprised by how light the card was in comparison to the PSA 8 copy that I already owned. Just curious to know what’s up with it. Sun damage? Low printer ink? Australian print run?

After examining both cards under a jeweller’s loop, it turns out that the darker card has a higher concentration of magenta dots, which tells me that it’s a different print run. Perhaps a regional variant?

it’s barely lighter. I would never consider this “damaged”.

it’s a normal card brah


I don’t have experience with sun-damaged cards but you may find the answers you’re looking for by looking at the card under a loupe or microscope.

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This specific example is normal variability in ink saturation.

Do you have other XY era cards to compare to these copies? It may be that the darker card is the unusual one and the lighter one is the typical saturation.

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I promise that if you find a card that is sun damaged, you will know it.

For example every color will be faded. Not just some while the text is still dark black.

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There’s misalignment with one of the cards (look at the energy symbols on the left card, top picture. They look fuzzy). This may make the ink overlay appear darker if it isn’t just a darker print run. I doubt it’s sun damage.

The thing is you will never know if it is variability in ink saturation during print or sun damage.

The seller could have displayed the psa 9 for maybe 1 - 2 weeks near indirect sunlight and you won’t know it, because the sun damage will be minimal.

Who knows if the cards we bought from others have some sort of sun damage that we cannot see because the previous owner displayed it out near sunlight/UV light sources.


This appears to be a natural variation in card coloring- there is variation within print runs. Sun damage usually makes the entire card look faded and bleached, drastically so when compared with others.

Best thing is to use a loop / jeweler’s lens like @JoshsOddCollection suggested to look for a difference in vibrance between the colors of ink.

I’ve experimented with sun fading, and what I can tell you is that the red and yellow will fade quickly, the blue will fade slowest, but it’s very clearly obvious when it happens. I do NOT find that the colors fade equally, by nature, blue will survive the longest because it reflects more blue light.(?) I think that’s how it works. Regardless, the vibrancy of the color is lost, not the brightness/lightness.

See an example below of faded and not. Also note that the gradient is lost somewhat. If a card is simply lighter or a color is missing, the gradient will be preserved in some way.

Also on this card,
This was left top half under a brick outside for 3 weeks, and then the entire card for 1.


wow 3 weeks and it faded like that

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well, 4, but in direct SoCal sunshine. Yup. It’ll fry most things. Added a shaded awning to that roof last year, and it dropped the afternoon surface temp 60 degrees!

I’m going to try a new experiment with blue and purple cards. I’ll post the results then. just for reference if anyone ever wants to see… I’m curious too.


Sun damage is not lighter tone, which is due to printer ink running low.

Sun damage is when the color changes completely, eg; red turns yellowish orange.

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I managed to find 5 more. One of them is a bit lighter than the other 4.

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I dug out my loop as you suggested and the results are interesting. The lighter copy looks like it has been printed in a different shade of yellow, as shown by the lower concentration of magenta.

I think this answers my question. It’s a different print run.

EDIT: Yes I need to polish / wipe the lens of my jewellers loop before anyone says anything lol


This is interesting, thanks for sharing!

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This IS interesting. Thank you for sharing. I guess it makes sense that the tone of the color will change if the dots of one color are slightly off. This is not the same as vibrancy being lost, as the UV light waves will “bleach” the color out of the pigment. So…

I had originally posted this:

I re-created the test with some cards that had more varying colors.
Test subjects on day 1. I used a mix of modern and vintage. Holo and not:

This is what I found after just 3 weeks in direct, harsh So Cal Summer sun, UV Index 9-11:

And a pic taken inside under a neutral white light:

Remember, pigments fade because of chemical changes to the compounds in the ink or die. UV light (high frequency blue/violet light has more energy) is a big source of these changes.

  • The bottoms of the cards we covered to help preserve the color there for comparison.
  • You can see that yellow and red seem to fade first, then blue. Can’t decided if yellow or red fades first, but…
  • If you know about how cards are printed, in the old days, the yellow border was double stamped, which might explain why it survived longer on the lapras border card than on lapras’s belly. Apparently, new cards don’t double stamp the border(?). Gastly’s border is bleached.
  • The foil layer on the V, seems to help preserve some of the color, whic also makes sense since it’s reflecting some UV away from the sun.

Ultimately, when you have a sun bleached card, we should expect to see the blue survive relatively more than the other colors. BUT this does not speak to cards simply exposed to the air, and oxidation over time… but that change will happen much MUCH more slowly. on order of decades? IDK

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