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5 Tips For Buying Authentic Sports Memorabilia Online
Autographed sports memorabilia is a multi-billion dollar industry. Unfortunately, the size of the fraudulent sports memorabilia market is not far behind. An FBI report estimated that more than 50% of autographed items sold are fraudulent, and the industry’s leading autograph authenticator, PSA-DNA, claims that only 33% of the more than 10,000 autographs of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan that he examined were real.
The volume of sports memorabilia bought and sold online certainly represents a growing share of the market and, unfortunately, has facilitated the ability of criminals to sell fake balls, bats, photos, shirts, etc. dedicated to the involuntary consumer. For the casual sports fan or the professional collector, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that the sports memorabilia you buy online are authentic.
– Understand benefits, limitations of Certificate of Authenticity – Certificates of Authenticity can accompany an item purchased from eBay or other online sites or, alternatively, fans and collectors can submit autographs, photos, etc. . to an authentication service such as PSA|DNA. These services employ signature and authentication experts who will, for a fee, review submitted items and provide letters of authenticity if the autograph is found to be genuine.
Services like PSA|DNA ensure that major auction houses (Christie’s, Mastro Fine Sport, Gray Flannel, Hunt Auctions, etc.) will accept items with their Letters of Authenticity or issue a refund. A word of caution though with certificates and letters of authenticity: they can provide an extra layer of validity and assurance for the buyer, but unscrupulous sellers can produce fake certificates. At the same time, it’s important to note that authenticity services usually don’t guarantee autographs and collectors simply pay for the opinion of industry experts using advanced authentication tools.
– Bargain Buyers Beware… – While it may seem counter-intuitive to the quality-seeking sports memorabilia collector, authentic memorabilia at an unusually low price compared to the rest of the market can be a red flag. Fraudulent souvenir sellers want to move their inventory quickly, and setting a low price will surely generate interest. A buyer should eliminate the emotional element of marking up a lot and be guided by their common sense instincts as to whether a price seems too good to be true.
– Search, search, search – In some ways, the Internet is akin to a queue at a retail store, tempting shoppers with piles of impulse items they may not actually need or that they don’t want. With millions of souvenir items at their fingertips via the web, consumers need to avoid instant and impulse purchases. Fraudulent souvenir sellers can certainly be warned, but buyers are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t take even the simplest of precautions. For example, if you’re buying an autographed item, find available images of that athlete’s autograph and compare them to the one you’re considering buying. Suspicious deviations from verified autographs are a clear warning sign.
– Collect feedback from collectors – Buyers considering items on eBay or other sites should not underestimate feedback provided about the seller by other users. While it’s certainly not uncommon for sellers to rack up their reviews with favorable ratings, the reviews are, for the most part, legit. Collectors take authenticity very seriously and will not hesitate to post concerns about items sold so that other buyers are not fooled.
– Consider league auction sites – For the sports memorabilia collector, there is always a trade-off between price and certainty of sports memorabilia authenticity. CBSSports.com now has an official online auction network that allows fans to bid on a range of memorabilia, experience and apparel items. While the minimum bid price may not promise the same bargain as other less official item sources, there is certainly a level of validity and assurance when it comes to items sold on a site. professional league sports.
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