How to Know You're Buying Authentic Autographed Sports Memorabilia

How to Know You’re Buying Authentic Autographed Sports Memorabilia

When it comes to buying authentic autographed sports memorabilia, the Internet has numerous options. Too many. As a result, there are countless fraudulent items being sold and, unfortunately, purchased every day. The FBI has estimated that anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of all autographed sports memorabilia in the marketplace today is bogus. This statistic was recently collaborated on a 60 Minutes Sports segment in which Brandon Steiner, CEO and founder of Steiner Sports said that, in his estimation, collectors have a 35 percent chance of purchasing an authentic piece of autographed sports memorabilia online.

With so many pitfalls in the marketplace, how can collectors be assured that the autographed sports memorabilia they are purchasing is legitimate?

For starters, when shopping for autographed sports memorabilia, one of the first things collectors should do is narrow their search to items that have been authenticated by one of the leading third-party authentication services. Another option is to buy pieces that originated from signing events held by reliable show promoters.

With regards to third-party authentication of autographed sports memorabilia, the hobby utilizes two primary resources, PSA/DNA (Professional Sports Authenticator) and JSA (James Spence Authentication). Authenticating autographed sports memorabilia is far from a perfect science. While both companies have made their fair share of mistakes, they do provide money back guarantees. Just as important, both have been reputable service providers within the industry for several years.

In terms of purchasing authentic autographed sports memorabilia from dealers or individuals who have gotten their items from shows, some of the larger promoters are Mounted Memories, Fanatic Authentics and Tristar. They hold several sports collectibles shows every year and organize the show’s autograph pavilion and its roster of athlete’s and celebrities.

These companies provide a service allowing show patrons to have their own items autographed as well as providing onsite autograph authentication of those pieces. They also sell items theat have been autographed by the show guests to sell on their own websites or wholesale to other dealers.

Very few companies outside of Mounted Memories, Fanatic Authentics and Tristar have the resources to oversee the authentication of autographed sports memorabilia to the degree these companies do. The notable exception is Steiner Sports.

Steiner specializes in authentic sports memorabilia, including autographed memorabilia and even game-used memorabilia. The company is primarily focused on teams in the northeast, with a particular emphasis on the New York Yankees and other New York-area teams. Steiner Sports provides guaranteed, ironclad authentication services for all of their sports memorabilia.

Additionally, as the popularity of authentic autographed sports memorabilia has grown and the proliferation of fraudulent goods has increased, many athletes now provide their own authentication services. These athletes provide guaranteed authentic autographed sports memorabilia direct through their websites and/or wholesale these items to other dealers. One of the most notable of such athletes is Cal Ripken Jr. whose company Ironclad Authentics is the leading provider of authentic Cal Ripken Jr. and Joe Mauer autographed sports memorabilia in the marketplace today.

Other companies whose reputations for completely legitimate autographed sports memorabilia include ONYX Authenticated. Founded by Lance Fischer, a longtime recruiting scout for Florida State University, ONYX has several exclusive player deals for game-used and autographed memorabilia. These include such baseball prospects and young stars as Gerrit Cole, Miguel Sano, Michael Pineda, Julio Teheran and Byron Buxton.

Upper Deck Authentic and Panini Authenic are autographed memorabilia arms of the large trading card companies. Each has their own set of exclusives. For Upper Deck, the list includes Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James and Tiger Woods. Among the Panini exclusives are Kobe Bryant, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel and Kevin Durant.

In recent years, online retailers like have emerged as a major supplier of authentic autographed sports memorabilia. Initial reaction to the company's seemingly endless supply of memorabilia items was met with raised eyebrows. However, a closer look today shows the site has become more reputable. has partnered with many reputable companies, like Steiner, to authenticate most of the items the site now carries.

When looking to purchase autographed sports memorabilia, the most important weapon to arm yourself against fake autographed sports memorabilia is knowledge. By being better educated about a player's signing habits and handwriting analysis, coupled with only purchasing from reputable dealers and authenticators, collectors have a much higher chance of buying authentic autographed sports memorabilia that will be treasured collection cornerstones for years to come.

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Rob Bertrand

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Rob Bertrand is an avid collector with over 20 years of active experience in the hobby. He is one of the site's most accomplished writers, as well as the co-host of Cardboard Connection Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @VOTC.

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