The following article was sponsored by Steiner Sports
Some have likened the characteristics of the Internet to the lawlessness of the Wild West. If this is true, then the sports memorabilia industry is more so. At least Dodge City had a sheriff. There is no regulating force, no single governing body to defend consumers from fraudulent practices, of unscrupulous sellers, of non-authenticated sports memorabilia. While fraudulent practices have prompted federal authorities to investigate illegal activity, it is generally after consumers have already been burned.
For a year prior to the 2015 Super Bowl, federal investigators working with the National Football League confiscated nineteen and a half million dollars in counterfeit sports collectibles. That translates to 326,147 fake memorabilia items seized and 52 individuals arrested.
Online entities, local stores, flea markets and crooks selling “sports memorabilia” on the street, were included in the federal sting. The sweep kept thousands of collectors from being bilked, but the problem is hardly solved. The fake memorabilia ruse is a serious problem, with real monetary implications.
The sports memorabilia industry garners 1 billion dollars per year and scammers are vying to get in on the action. All too often collectors find themselves on the disappointing end of sports collectible scams.
While it is difficult for consumers to definitively authenticate memorabilia, there are ways to protect yourself from unlawful practices, and to distinguish between what is fake and what is authentic sports memorabilia.
1. Do your homework
Study the market and dealers. Only purchase from reputable industry leaders. Steiner Sports for instance, is the “top distributor of authentic sports collectibles” and as such provides an authenticity guarantee. Also, sports paraphernalia sold through the National Football League and Major League Baseball is sold under strict rules and authentication practices.
2. Do it in person
When at all possible, collectors should obtain signed signatures in person. This is obviously the best way to ensure authenticity—standing in the presence of the athlete as he signs.
3. Stay inquisitive
If a dealer refuses to come clean on information regarding the authentication practice, or if it lacks evidence on how long it has been in existence or fails to disclose the city and state in which it is located, then keep moving. The lack of information surrounding the dealer may indicate that the business is fraudulent.
Why wouldn’t a reputable business supply pertinent information on the company and its practices? Dealers at auctions should at the very least supply working telephone numbers, email, and physical addresses.
4. Beware of 2nd party authentication
Determine who actually supports the authentication, the first or second dealer. Both dealers should support authentication. If the certificate bears only the signature of the 1st dealer, then contact him to determine whether the item really did originate from his authenticated inventory.
5. Deal with reputable companies
Purchase hand-signed collectibles from companies that stand behind their autographed pieces. Steiner Sports guarantees that an authorized Steiner Sports representative was present at the time of signing. Additionally, every autographed collectible is marked by a tamper-proof hologram, before being cataloged and inventoried.
You may not have personal access to the professional athlete that signed your collectible. However, companies that ensure your sports memorabilia is authentic do. These companies will offer proof that the athlete signed the product, through an athlete-signed and notarized affidavit.
6. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you
Don’t allow desire to overwhelm sensibility. Don’t be pressured to purchase an item that you have long coveted if there is no proof of authenticity.
7. Stay realistic
If it seems to good to be true, it more than likely is. There is no such thing as a free lunch, especially in this business. Before purchasing an item that is below market value, ask yourself this question. “How is it possible for a dealer to offer a signed item, by a 5 million dollar contract athlete, for so little?” The answer to the questions is, “he can’t.” The item is fraudulent.