Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where Does It End?!?

Well, you know that claim that says 80% of all secondary market memorabilia is fake? I am starting to buy in. I used to think that if an item is up for auction with a place like heritage and other top houses, it should be researched beyond comprehension. Most of the time, the items come with massive provenance, but that doesn’t always mean they are real.

I started looking around gameuseduniverse.com lately because I am always interested in parts of the hobby I know nothing about. What I found there was shocking, disheartening, and very educational to say the least. On multiple occasions, people have posted threads on the site showing how a certain item cannot, under any circumstances, be real - despite any history described in the auction.

Recently, a Mastro Michael Jordan item was proven to be not real, and drew the attention of the national media. What they missed were two items, described in this thread, that should have had the same kind of coverage. There are other items listed, but I took these two as the most important due to the players and the claims of the auction.

The first was supposed to be a game used helmet worn by Joe Namath in SBIII. The auction lists miles of history and even has a quote from the house's president about how this is the one item that should be tops on everyone's list. The problem is, that one of the members on the forum knew more about football helmets than any single other person who worked for the house.

According to photographs from the auction, the Namath helmet was relatively unrestored, but the major "gaff" was that there was only one drill hole below the earpiece. From other photos in the thread, Namath's helmet had two drill holes, done haphazardly to replace the two bar facemask with a three bar. When it was removed, the drill holes remained throughout the season. As you can see from the pictures, the helmets are similar, but not the same. Wow.

Secondly, there was an easier gaff spotted in a Unitas gamer, that brought 50,000+ on three occasions at auction. The issue? The helmet was made by a manufacturer that Unitas never wore in a game. Fucking crazy.

Of course all the claims were immediately refuted by the houses in pretty conspicuous fashions. The person on the forums said that if the claims by the auctions were true, it would be pretty crazy to think that they wouldn’t show up in any of the photos and extra photos provided to him personally.

So, if Heritage, Mastro and all the other houses can make mistakes like this, how many mistakes are there with Upper Deck, DLP, and *gasp* Topps? Im guessing quite a few.

If you havent checked out gameuseduniverse.com, do yourself a favor and check it out. Even if you don’t care about gamers, its still cool to see the collections on the site.


  1. "Mistakes"? It's fraud, plain and simple.

    These companies and auction houses do what they do for money and if they can make more money passing something off that's not quite true, then they'll do that.

    This shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody with half a brain in their head.

  2. It's been this way for a very long time, it's the dirty little secret of sports memorabilia. Well, that and 90% of the autographs that you see are faked.

  3. There are similar sites out there that deal in movie memorabilia too and those guys that prove them to be fakes are fanatical about doing it. Fun stuff.

  4. After reading 'The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card,' we started to become aware that there's a good bit of shady practice in the world of sports collectibles. What's interesting is the extent to which collectors--including high-end collectors--don't want to believe this or look into it further.

  5. Cards, for sure, tons of shady business. Autographs, even moreso than cards. Gamers authenticated by Heritage auctions - well that is quite a different story.

  6. You have to wonder if cases like that are the tip of the iceberg, or is just a few cases that is staining the entire hobby?

    I'd like to get into the game used items, but the more I read, the more it seems fakes are being found.

    This is why I love getting the autograph myself. You get the meet the player, get a photo, and get your item signed. Sure it cost $$ and sometimes the player is a real ass, but a lot of times you walk away with a great experience.

  7. It's odd, sports memorabilia collecting has ALWAYS had sort of a carnival feeling to it, in that the dealers are for the most part, scumbags, and the merchandise is almost always fake. Most of the time the only way to ensure authenticity is as many have stated, get the auto yourself (which I've done on so many occasions I forget how many players I've met).

    OR buy the memorabilia from the team themselves. Believe it or not most teams WILL sell their used stuff. Some more than others.

    Example: At a game several years ago I purchased a Kings practice jersey from the Gretzky era. I don't know who wore it because there were no player tags, BUT I do know it was used in practice because it had telltale signs of use, plus the sleeves were cut for gloves AND it has a fighting strap.