One last thing - I noticed something strange about the printing plate. Shouldn't everything on the card face the other way, since when it is pressed down, it would print the backwards image to that? Sorry, I didn't explain that well, but I hope you know what I mean.We know what you mean, my friend! I've been trying to figure this out for years now. Okay, maybe not years, but it has certainly been something I've thought about more than a few times.
Well, I did some digging. And by digging, I mean I googled it. Cardboard Junkie offered up a solution back in 2009 that clears almost everything up.
Essentially, new printing processes created for mass production of high quality images requires a standard image plate, like such:
Behold, the cyan plate for the 2014 Bowman (paper) Luke Jackson. Hat tip to eBay for the image (and all images to follow).
The plate is loaded onto a cylinder, where it is coated in ink. The plate is then placed against a rubber cylinder, leaving behind a reverse image. This rubber cylinder is then placed on the cardstock, leaving a high quality (and normal placed) image.
If that's the case, then why do some plates come in the reverse image, like this one?
This is the cyan plate from 2014 Bowman Chrome. I italicize "Chrome" because I think the answer might lie in the type of card being produced.
If we accept the description of the process above, then the conclusion we must draw here is that the image is printed directly on the card for Chrome cards. I'm not 100% on this one, but I have a "phone a friend" option. My aunt's boyfriend actually works for one of Panini's Dallas-based printers. They, at one time, printed for Topps, too. So he should be able to explain it all to me.
I'll get back to you as soon as I learn something!