Who want's to pay alot of money for a forged autograph? This guide is written by someone who is a collector, and also the owner of a sports memorabilia business. I have seen things in this industry that are cause for concern, and thought I would share my lessons.
My first piece of advice, is to look at a seller's feedback. Any seller that has been around for awhile will have some negative's. Read what the negative feedback comments say. If you see alot of the same complaints (i.e. never got my purchase) then the complaints are probably legit. If only one person says something, then you are probably safe. Also look at the feedback percentage. Anyone below 98% is cause for concern. This is especially true if they have a high feedback number and all of those negatives. When looking at a seller's feedback, only look at feedback from buyers. I know of at least one seller on ebay that is only above 98% because of his purchases. He receives ALOT of negatives as a seller. If you are still unsure of the seller, look at the feedback he leaves for buyers. If all he leaves is negatives, and they are foul in language, do you really want to deal with this person?
If you have any other questions about the authenticity of an item, try putting the seller's screen name into Google... see if anything comes up.
Look at how many feedback a seller has "MUTUALLY WITHDRAWN." If it is only one or two, that is no big deal.... but if you see 98% feedback rating with as many negatives as withdrawn comments, (I just saw one seller had 150+ withdrawn) then you have to wonder. To have a feedback withdrawn, you have to pay a $20 fee for each comment and have BOTH parties agree to it. Anyone can get into a dispute, but if it takes that level with that many people before a seller is willing to fix a problem... do you really want to deal with that seller?
Look how long the seller has been selling on Ebay. If they have only been on Ebay for a few months, wonder where they get their product. It is always best to deal with someone who has been around the block at least for a year. That gives Ebay time to catch up with the bad sellers. Also, beware of sellers who say they have been around for awhile, but have a new or second screen name. That may mean they were doing something they should not have been with the first one. There are perfectly legit sellers with more than one screen name, but make sure you look into each one before you place your bid.
Be extremely cautious of any seller who does not take Paypal, even if you want to use another method. Paypal has greater protections to get your money back, so shady sellers tend to stay away from Paypal. Ebay also says that listings that accept Paypal usually sell for more... so why would a reputable seller not take Paypal?
There may be other reasons why a seller doesn't take Paypal, but why take a chance. If your patient, you will find the item again from another seller with more protections. Most items are not exclusve to one seller, even if everyone else is out at that time, the athlete will do more signings. Make sure your item is also covered under the Paypal Buyer's Protection Program. It will say so near the Paypal logo in the listing. I cannot stress these protections enough.
Remember, anything priced to good to be true, more than likely is. If an athlete charges $175.00 for his autograph, you are not going to buy it for $24.99
If your dealing with autographed memorabilia, make sure it says who the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) is from (and don't accept just initials i.e. COA from ABC).... Find out the actual name of the company. This is actually an Ebay requirement. If the COA is from Joe Blow's card shop, find out how Joe Blow got the item signed. Find out where Joe Blow is located, is he still in business?? Can Joe Blow prove the piece was signed? Lots of local stores have in house signings. It is a great way to get a good price on a smaller athlete. A majority of them will list the signing on Signingshotline. It will also be very rare for them to have a superstars. It will be even more rare for them to have ALOT of superstars. If they only have a couple of stores, they will not be able to afford that many signing fees of the bigger athletes.
Google the name of the company that issued the COA....
While as I write this, I am talking about one particular company, I am sure there are many that fit this profile. They have autographed items on every major star I can dream off. Their COA's only say the item was signed in their presence. It does not give you any information about the signing. What is really bad, is it does not tell you how to contact the company that is guaranteed the autograph. If you google their name, nothing comes up. I can tell you any company that deals in this type of volume, would have some sort of presence on the internet... almost every company does anymore. I know that at least some of their pieces have been pulled from Ebay for failing the PSA quick opinion service.
Be careful of someone who says things to the effect of we use runners at award banquets, golf tournaments etc. Also, be careful of dealers who say your item was signed at a "Private Signing" but won't tell you when and where it was. Most private signings are listed on Signingshotline. You can go on that website and check with the original promoter to see if your dealer purchased items from them.
If a seller has a picture of the athlete signing, is the athlete actually signing the item for sale? If it is a picture of an athlete signing for a crowd, would a seller really get 5 of the same item signed? Then why do they use the same picture of the player for each item? In a wholesale environment, we lay a stack of jerseys, pictures etc down and the athlete signs them. You can clearly see in the picture many of the same item. If they are signing for a crowd, very few will sign 3 footballs for 1 person.
Also ask if a player was paid to sign a piece. Most older athletes did not play when they got a big payday. A majority of their income comes from the signing fee. When they meet someone on the street, they try to be nice and sign a piece. Is it right for that person to make a living selling the item and not to pay the athlete? The more people who make money doing this, the less likely that athlete will be to sign an autograph next time.
If your signing is not listed on signingshotline, how can the dealer prove they got the item signed. Here at LeaderInSports we use a photo COA. Within the photo, you can see our LeaderInSports logo at the signing, just to prove we were there. You can also see a photo of the athlete signing the item. We also list the date and location of every signing on the COA. We then put a matching hologram on the actual piece of memorabilia.
Make sure you find out if your authenticator actually saw the athlete sign the piece. Both PSA/DNA and GAI will witness the signings, or they will simply look at the autograph, check a few things and then basically say, Yup, looks good, here is our hologram. This is a great service. Especially if you want an autograph from someone like Babe Ruth or Jim Thorpe that passed away long before you could really have some authentication. If an athlete is an active signer at shows, why would you use a third party who did not witness the signing? Remember, all of these services are giving an expert opinion (unless they actually witnessed the signature). There are stories around the industry how one prominent authenticator will say it is a good signature, and another will say the opposite.
If your interested in a particular athlete, find out if he has an exclusive autograph contract with a particular company. For example, Michael Jordan has an exclusive contract with Upper Deck. Franco Harris has an exclusive contract with Steiner. Johnny Unitas was exclusive with Mounted Memories. Barry Sanders has an exclusive contract with Schwartz Sports. People like Earl Campbell, Gayle Sayers, Troy Aikman etc have an exclusive contract with GTSM. If your looking at a piece signed by an athlete with an exclusive contract and it does not come with the hologram from the agent, ask questions. There are times athletes are brought to other dealers. For example, GTSM brings their athletes to alot of TriStar shows. TriStar will use their own holograms on the pieces they sell.
If your item comes with a serial number, make sure you go on the appropriate website and verify the autograph. If it does not, make sure you check to learn where and when your item was signed. Do whatever cross checking you can. Without doing a scientific study, I can assure you that alot of fake autographs are sold everyday. I certainly would not want to pay alot of money only to later learn something was not real.
Want to help spread the word? The more people that select the "yes" button for this guide being helpful, the higher up on the 'Guide List' it gets, thus getting more exposure for eBayers to read and learn. It is our goal to completely eliminate these scam practices on eBay. Possible? Perhaps not, but the more people we educate about this scam, the more money they save, and the less sellers are apt to try and rip people off.