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Winning the autograph game
Autograph hunting at the Great American Ball Park ...
Steve Koschal a wanted man; his website spouts contempt for his own industry, but ADN has learned he is in contempt of court as well...
Click to view his warrent for immediate arrest from the state of New Jersey.
The George and Helen Sanders Autograph Dealer of the Year
award goes to Larry Meredith who owns Sterncastle Collectibles in California.
Bonds target of perjury investigation
Barry Bonds could be facing bigger problems than baseball's probe into his alleged past steroid use.
ALL EYES are on Barry Bonds.
Major League Baseball's investigators are watching him. Congress is watching him.
"...we have not made a mistake yet..." -- a bold claim that does not begin hold water
ET phone home, but can you sign my book first......
The iada-cc, is it a case of multiple personalities?
A Badge of Honor?
"Follow the Money"
The ink is still drying on a freshly forged signature...
This is a $6,000 baseball now
If the price is too good to be true....
it is probably a fake.

Operation Bullpen

Reprinted from the
FBI's public awareness campaign

Perhaps the most important objective of this investigation is to increase public awareness regarding the substantial memorabilia fraud problem which may account for upwards of $500,000,000 in losses annually. While there are legitimate and reputable companies selling authentic memorabilia, the industry has been plagued with high-quality forgeries making it difficult for legitimate companies to compete. It also defrauds thousands of unsuspecting consumers each year.

While the only way to absolutely guarantee that the autographed memorabilia is authentic is to personally witness the autograph, there are several ways to avoid becoming a memorabilia fraud victim. These recommendations include:

If the price is too good to be true, it is probably a fake. If a company offers an autographed item well below competitors prices and market value, then consumers should be wary. An example would include Michael Jordan basketballs, which some companies sell for as low as $150.00. Given Jordan's current exclusive contract with Upper Deck and difficulties associated with obtaining his autograph, the Tuff Stuff Magazine market value of an autographed Jordan Basketball is $500, while Upper Deck Michael Jordan autographed basketballs retail for up to $1,500. (Caution - a high price does not by any means suggest authenticity either.)

Certificates of authenticity are not guarantees of authenticity. Individuals and companies involved with selling forged memorabilia often include a Certificate of Authenticity, allegedly from a third party expert. Often, the authenticator is either a knowing or unknowing, but incompetent, participant in the fraud. Carefully read the Certificate of Authenticity, looking for the authentication "language", an address, telephone number and name of the authenticators. Do not accept copies of Certificates of Authenticity.

The method of selling the memorabilia should not affect skepticism about the items authenticity. The investigation revealed that forged memorabilia traffickers sell their forgeries through a variety of methods which may lend credibility to the forgeries. One such sales method is through charity auctions in which the trafficker splits the profits with the charity. At charity auctions, buyers often overpay for items and do not question the authenticity of the memorabilia. Traffickers also sell forged items through trade publications, television shopping networks, trade shows, retail businesses, and the Internet.

Before purchasing autographed memorabilia, especially "vintage" or deceased athlete/celebrity memorabilia, ask questions about the history and circumstances relating to the autograph. Be wary of far-fetched or elaborate stories which are difficult, if not impossible to verify. Common false stories suggest connections to an athlete, or "runners" employed to get autographs. Whenever possible, attempt to verify the history and circumstances of the autographed items before making the purchase.

If an individual is seeking an autograph of a current player, send a request for an autograph directly to the athlete's team. Include a letter requesting that the enclosed item be autographed along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope or container. Only send photographs, cards or baseballs. Large items such as bats and jerseys should not be sent directly to the athlete. In the letter requesting an autograph, request information relating to where you can purchase authentic autographed items if the athlete does not sign autographs through mailed requests. The athlete or the team may direct the buyer to a company which has an autograph contract with the athlete.

To counter the forged memorabilia problem, many athletes and celebrities are either creating their own autograph company or are signing exclusive contracts with specific sports memorabilia companies.  Dealing directly with the athlete's company or with an exclusive contract company will greatly reduce the likelihood of purchasing forged memorabilia.

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