Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Autograph Authentication, Frauds, and Scams

Due to the popularity of the MILF television show, Real Houswives of Orange County, a recent article has been making the rounds in the sports collectibles industry. One of the best sources for up-to-date, FREE TTM addresses, Autograph Magazine , published an article written by renowned author of Operation Bullpen, Kevin Nelson, detailing one of the husbands on the show, Jim Bellino. Whose former company, Forensic Document Services, provided many of the COA's for millions of dollars worth of fraudulent memorabilia made famous by the aforementioned book that took down the Greg Marino "crime family".

Just looking at this picture of confiscated Babe Ruth baseballs, a picture really does speak a thousand words, as the sheer number and various signature styles, clearly illustrates the challenges collectors face in an industry dominated by greed, corruption, and unethical business practices.

Now "retired" from autograph authentication, The Hobby is far from safe. In another article, published just yesterday, columnist Steve Cyrkin calls Christopher Morales: The Autograph Forger’s Best Friend. Both articles provide a chilling account of the plethora of forged material on the market, causing even the most sophisticated and savviest collector to question the authenticity of their own items.

When I started my own collection of single signed balls from members of the original (pre-steroid era) 500 Home Run Club, I contacted an acquaintance of mine, Brian Marren, the former VP of acquisitions, for the now defunct MastroNet Auctions about the reliability of dealers I was looking at. I settled on one and asked him his opinion of the dealer's reputation and he assured me that the dealer was "above board". fast forward several years later and MastroNet auctions is the focus of an FBI investigation centering around the fraudulent auction activities of shill bidding and card doctoring and even I'm left wondering about the authenticity of my own collection.

For those of you who purchase autographs through a dealer, who do you trust and why?


mfw13 said...

This is why buying autographs and game-used memorabilia is a fools errand...probably 90% of the stuff out there is fake.

The only way to be certain that an autograph is authentic is to get it yourself in person. Period.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

A great quote from the owner of “First assume an autograph is a forgery, and then let its provenance, your study and opinions from experts prove it is not.”

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