The Printing Plate Perplexity

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Chrome Printing Plates Black #26, Carlos Ruiz; 2010 Bowman Printing Plates Cyan #24, Raúl Ibañez

2013 Topps Chrome Plate B Ruiz2010 Bowman Print Plate C Ibanez

I’ve never understood this particular problem: printing plates are supposed to be mirror images in order to properly apply the ink to the printed surface — the Carlos Ruiz plate is a perfect example. Given that this is that case, why is it that so many of the ones issued by Topps over the years are not actually mirror images? Based on my understanding of how these things work, you can’t actually create properly oriented cards from plates as the Raúl Ibañez one on the right. Instead you’d get a reverse image, such as the infamous 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy error. I’d love to hear the explanation.

Update, Jan. 16: The original entry was off-the-cuff and posted in a hurry. If I first hunted around on the web, I would’ve gotten an answer to my question: there are two different types of printing and the type of plate you see dictates the type of printing used. Plates that are not mirror image are used in “offset printing,” which does not apply ink directly to the printed surface. Instead, the plates apply it to rubber sheet which is then used to apply it to the printed surface. I’m not sure what advantages an intermediate step provides, but I’m sure a little more hunting around will get my answer.

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