Why am I writing this blog today? Yesterday my friend and client Patrick Cullinan send me several links to a charity who was hosting an event. While looking both at the video of the autographed auction items displayed and then further investigating the provider of the items, it was clearly obvious that the autographed items were 100% counterfeit autographs. Patrick is very familiar with the autograph industry and after showing him the obvious clues, he said and I quote “Now I see why you are so irritated with the charity fundraising counterfeiters out there who scam charities.” How could I tell they were counterfeit (aka Fake)?
When I see charities across the United States being scammed or stolen from, it irritates me to the highest degree mainly due to my background after spending (20) years as a Maryland State Trooper. However, I must say, after spending (12) years trying to educate charities on the “Reality of the Authentic Autograph World”, charities absolutely must educate themselves before they partner with an charity autograph provider.
Ask yourself this question – Would you or your charity like to be featured on your local or national news about being scammed or stolen from by a Charity Fundraising autograph counterfeiter? Would you like your guest to take the item to an authenticator and after finding out the autographs are FAKE, they demand their money back? If you don’t mind this, stop reading. But if you do care, read on and share this to all of your friends.
Here are some easy tips for the uneducated eye to use:
#1 – “Who Authenticated the items” - Are the autographed items authenticated by an “Authentic Authenticator” or accepted autograph authenticator? (FACT: There are only a hand full of accepted authenticators in the world. These authenticators are – JSA James Spence Authentication (https://www.spenceloa.com/) PSA/DNA (https://www.psacard.com/) or Beckett (https://www.beckett-authentication.com/).
#2 – “Availability” – Are the items available in the real world and if they are not, why not? The autograph industry is available to anyone, in fact, when someone is conducting an autograph signing, the entire autograph memorabilia industry is notified. Also, how easy is it to get in contact with Musicians or Celebrities? Most “A” Celebrities and Musicians (mainly the iconic or well know musicians) must be “chased.” What does “chased” mean? Someone must find out where they are or going to be and go there and wait till they come outside then ask for their autograph. Iconic Musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffet, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Eric Clapton etc. live all around the world. It is nearly impossible to get them all at once – then to get them to sign a large amount of autographs.
#3 – “Price” – Plain and Simple, authentic autographs are EXPENSIVE. As an example, a well known Charity Fundraising autograph provider provides Rolling Stones full band signed items to charities for under $3,000.00. However, I know of only several authentic band signed Rolling Stones autographed items which are proven to be 100% authentic that are slightly under $10,000.00 and a guitar, well that’s nearly $17,000.00. These items are authentic. Bruce Springsteen rarely autographs anything, when you find an autographed item from him and it’s authentic, it’s going to be very expensive.
#4 – “Certificate of Authenticity” – I hear this from many different charities “Well it has a Certificate of Authenticity”, which means absolutely nothing!!! Anyone can make their own Certificate of Authenticity. Think about it, if the autograph is fake, won’t the Certificate of Authenticity be fake as well? They must realize that the Thief or Charity Fundraising counterfeiter is going to provide a Certificate of Authenticity just to make the item or items appear legitimate. Again, going back to #1, it’s all about WHO AUTHENTICATED the autograph.
#5 – “All that Glitters isn’t gold” – Charities get caught up in the “Glitz & Glamour” and don’t look passed it. Like a large mouth bass who are routinely caught by a shiny object flowing through the water, charities see an “autographed Cowboy Hat” or a “Band Signed Guitar” and think “Wow, that’s really cool” and just move forward. Do you want to be the charity who is responsible for selling a counterfeit item to your supporters? One provider is actually showing on their website a Robert Plant & Jimmy Page autographed photo which is as real as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus rolled into one. These items just simply DO NOT EXIST.
#6 – “Proof Positive” – This is really easy? Before accepting anything for your Live or Silent Auctions, ask them who authenticated the items. But then, there is a well known term in the auction industry called “Provenance.” The definition of this is “Provenance - This term refers to the history of ownership of the item being sold. An interesting or unusual provenance can add to the value of a piece, such as when an item was previously owned by a famous (or notorious) person, a popular celebrity, or an important historical figure. Proof of provenance is critically important. Hearsay, or family legend does not meet the criteria for provenance.” The provider should know where it was autographed, when it was autographed and if they are REAL authentic autograph item provider, they will have either a photo or a video showing it being autographed. Anyone real will have this to verify that they are not thieves or counterfeiters.
Charities, please for your own protection – learn what an authentic item looks like and the simple methods any layman can use to ensure the items are real. Remember, the #1 way to protect yourself and your charity is – Who authenticated it?
Just ask these simple questions?
Are the autographed items authenticated by JSA, PSA/DNA or Beckett? If they say no – RUN
What are the prices of these fantastic items? If they aren’t very expensive – RUN
What date and where were the items autographed? If they don’t know – RUN
Do you have exact proof such as a photo or video of the items being autographed? If they don’t – RUN!!!
If you follow this simple advice, your guests will be protected and so will your charity.
Whether you get items from BW Unlimited Charity Fundraising or someone else, first and foremost, we want you to be protected 100% of the time. If you have questions or concerns about your items or if you would like to learn more about the “Reality of the Autograph World” – call us at 443.206.6121 or email us through our website at www.BWUnlimited.com – we would love to help you.