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

Rob is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff and co-host of Cardboard Connection Radio.He is an avid collector with over 20 years of active experience in the hobby.

User Comments

  1. Good afternoon Sir. I’m looking at a 1963 Texas National championship football signed by Daryl Royal and all the players. It’s at an estate sale of a long time UT professor. I understand the price is $2,000. Could I trouble you to appraise it for me? It’s to be sold tomorrow morning. There will be a line for his collectibles. Thanks.


    Austin, TX

  2. Jim Lewis Sorry, the Cardboard Connection is not an appraisal service.

  3. I have a baseball from the 1991 world series Minnesota Twins autographed by all players.
    I need to sell it. I’m unemployed can you guide me or give me information please on where to go

  4. I read your article on “How to Know You’re Buying Authentic Autographed Sports Memorabilia,” and noticed there was no mention of GAI. What is your opinion of them? Thank you!

  5. Robin Joyce The original GAI (Global Authentication Inc) company went bankrupt in 2009 so I would be careful with any GAI items.

  6. Hello,

    I am wondering about the legitamacy
    in buying autographed items, 50 years or older from JSA.

    I know PSA & STEINER are legitimate,
    but what about JSA when authenticating BABE RUTH or LOU GEHRIG items>

    I appreciate any feedback.

    Thank you.

    Bob Baker

  7. I just purchased an 8×10 photograph with Tony Hawk’s signature signed in black sharpie. Comes with a Steiner Certificate of Authenticity. Since I purchased on EBAY from a 100 percent positive feedback seller, my purchase has a 100 percent money back guarantee. But do you think I have any problem with this item not being genuinely signed by Tony Hawk with the certificate of authenticity by Steiner?

  8. Peg Bellard In the autograph world, it is hard to ever have a 100% guarantee on anything unless you personally witnessed the signing. However, Steiner is one of the most credible options available so I would feel confident about it as long as everything matched up on the COA. Be sure to check it in their online database:

  9. Trey, Thank you so much for your prompt response. And once the item gets to me, I will certainly check on this link you offered me. Thank you again for your help.

  10. Hi! My name is makayla! I have a few questions reguarding a baseball from Seattle mariners that my father has had since the 1990s. He doesn’t know who signed it. If anyone knows anything about the mariners and would please help me; just email me and I will send you pictures of it! Thank you!!!

  11. What about the other Sports Cards companies?:

  12. You think TriStar is legit? Iv had some doubts about them in the past. Just wondering your opinion on them.

  13. What about All About The Game Authentices. I’d this a trust worthy authentication

  14. What’s your opinion on cardboard Legends authenticity on there pieces cause ive see some pieces on other sites 5 times higher than what their prices are of the same so called item… I called and talked to a gentleman who works there and his response was that they by a bunch of items at a bulk rate that way they are able to give it to the public at a cheaper way rate then most others

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