No Conflict Of Interest Should Mean No Sale

by Seth Boyd


It is no secret that the internet is flooded with forged autographs. There are those sellers who post one or two bad items a month, and then there are the full time crooks that seemingly make their living off of bogus material. While the former group is certainly a problem, their forgeries are often so bad that even the most casual collector will sense a problem. The latter group, on the other hand, is slightly more sophisticated (for lack of a better word) in its deception. These are the people, who search the flea markets for vintage baseballs and paper to affix their latest work to, or purchase their material from others who have done this part of the job for them. The autographs that these individuals sell are obvious fakes to a trained eye, but in many cases end up deceiving the inexperienced collector. To make matters even worse, it seems as though they are constantly coming up with new ways to make their forgeries more appealing. Prior to the FBI raids, most of the items they sold were accompanied by letters from so called forensic handwriting experts. These “experts” had supposedly examined the signatures and opined them as genuine. Now that most of these forensics have been banned from the most popular internet auction site, the items are being accompanied by certificates from new “experts” with “years of experience”, whom no experienced dealer or collector has ever heard of. To make these certificates appealing to the unsuspecting, the sellers have cooked up a new scam where they tout the certificates as coming from a non-dealer, who therefore has “no conflict of interest”. According to the sellers of the questionable items, the authenticator does not buy, sell, or collect autographs and therefore has no reason to issue a biased opinion. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. It is in the best interest of anyone who does nothing but authenticate to pass EVERY item they see. The more items they pass, the more business they will do with the unscrupulous sellers. Having a reputation for being less than discriminating does not hurt these “no conflict of interest” authenticators; it helps them. Furthermore, if they are ever questioned about an item they’ve authenticated, or if it is somehow proven that they passed a bad item, there are no consequences. They merely say, “Oops, I made a mistake” and move on to the next item.

Autograph dealers who authenticate, but also buy and sell autographs, CANNOT do this. They are held responsible for the items they pass, and the certificates they put their names on. Authentications are only a part of their business, with most of their money being made through sales. If these dealers get a reputation for being incompetent, or passing questionable items for any reason whatsoever, there will be a huge price to pay. No one will buy from them! Think about it. Would any collector, in their right mind, buy from a dealer that had a reputation for authenticating every item they looked at, or whose name was typically associated with questionable items? What would this say about the autographs that might be in this dealer’s inventory?

The “no conflict of interest” theory is total B.S. It is nothing more than the latest scam put forth by the only people who use these non-dealer authenticators, sellers of questionable items that would be rejected if sent to a legitimate autograph dealer.