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Collector's Corner

How to Buy Sports Memorabilia

Collecting sports memorabilia can be an enjoyable and profitable hobby. Here are a few tips, definitions, and examples to help you understand the world of collecting sports memorabilia.

What is an Officially Licensed Product?

An item is officially licensed when the professional athletic association such as the NBA®, MLB® NCAA® NFL®, NASCAR®, and NHL® grants a company permission to display team names, logos, and trademarks on their products. Officially licensed items usually have a sticker or tag indicating that a particular professional athletic association officially licenses that item.

Limited Editions

Owning a limited edition collectible indicates that only a certain number of a particular item was produced or autographed. You will usually see two numbers displayed on a limited edition collectible, a high number and a lower number.

  • The high number indicates the total number produced.
  • The lower number indicates the number you have out of the total.
  • The only way the number would be the same number is if you received the last one produced out of the total.
  • A certificate of authenticity is often included even if the item is not autographed.
  • A limited edition item is worth more when the total amount created is low because less people will be able to own that collectible.

What is Collectible Sports Memorabilia?

The certified signature of a professional athlete identifies a piece of collectible sports memorabilia. The signature may appear on a picture, card, jersey, ball, or any other piece of related equipment, but the signature must be certified by a limited number of distributors for that item to be considered memorabilia.

  • Signed replica and authentic sports products sold without signatures or certification are classified as "collectibles."
  • Because of the stringent standards applied to certification, collecting memorabilia is not only an enjoyable hobby, but may also be a good investment.
  • The potential for a piece of memorabilia's value to increase with time is much greater with an autographed item than it is with a limited edition collectible.

Here are some examples of factors that determine an items' value:

  • The popularity and talent of the athlete
  • If the item is a limited edition
  • The number of a particular item that is available to the public
  • If a registration card or certificate of authenticity is included
  • If there is a hologram affixed to the item
  • If there was a company representative present at the signing
  • The amount of time that has elapsed since purchasing the item
  • The condition of the item
  • If the items is from a special event like the Super Bowl or World Series
  • If a player is inducted into the Hall of Fame

Obtaining Authentic Athlete Signatures

There are two ways to obtain an authentic autograph from an athlete. The first method, which can be difficult and time consuming, is to obtain the autograph in person. The second way is to purchase an autographed item from a well-known, reputable company.

There are a number of companies that sign exclusive contracts with high-profile professional athletes stating that a particular athlete will be paid to sign for that company exclusively. It is very important to find out what company your favorite athlete has a contract with. Knowing this information can help you avoid purchasing forged autographs. Well known, reputable companies usually provide some type of certification so you can be sure the signature is authentic. This is often accomplished through company witnesses or publicly held company sponsored signings events.

Here are some examples of different methods used to authenticate autographs.

  • A certification card or certificate of authenticity for added protection and to verify the authenticity of the item
  • Serial number and or tamper proof hologram affixed to the item
  • Company representative witnesses the signing
  • A notarized affidavit or some type of record of the autograph session with the professional athlete that is usually signed by the athlete and the representative then stored in a secure file or location at the company
  • Many companies have a web site you can go to and register your item
  • Some companies have web sites that allow you to register the item as well as verify the authenticity of the signature
  • The PenCam(TM) is a new authentication device that captures video of signatures as they are being created to give the customer a visual authentication and provide a complete chain of documentation from the time the autograph is signed to the point of purchase.

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