30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Public Service Announcement

I'm going to preface this post by stating that I support and have faith in companies like Upper Deck, Tristar, Topps, and Steiner.  They're all companies who stake their reputation on their products that includes autographed memorabilia.

In fact five days ago... I purchased this Eric Chavez signed baseball off of eBay for $6.05 (+ $5.95 shipping):

It's one of those Tristar Hidden Treasure balls that come out of those mystery bags you see at card shops and card shows.  Each bag contains an autographed ball, a card with the player's name, and a certificate of authenticity.

And each ball has a tamper proof hologram that has a unique number, so collector's can verify the authenticity of the ball.

If you go to their website and plug in the code, they'll tell you who signed it, along with where and when the signing occurred:

Not bad, right?  Sure... maybe they could add a Polaroid of the athlete signing the specific ball too.  But in general... all of these measures along with a solid reputation was enough to earn my trust.

Well... at least until I learned about some shady stuff last night while hanging out with two of my buddies.

One of them is a guy who makes a living off obtaining autographs at team practices, golf tournaments, and games.  While the other is a sports card dealer that sets up at shows in our area.  Both are veteran dealers who have set up at the annual Tristar Show at The Cow Palace for many years.  And both are acquaintances of a guy who now has me questioning if some of my Tristar autographs are actually authentic.

Let's give this guy an alias and call him Mr. Scam.  He's a guy who lives in the Bay Area and regularly sets up at the Tristar and GTSM card shows selling his autographs.

For years, he's used Autograph Certification Experts (ACE Authentic), which is a local autograph authentication company that doesn't have a very good reputation in our hobby (ex. not allowed on eBay).

However... Mr. Scam has found an even better way to authenticate his fake signatures.  And believe it or not, it's actually something that any of us could do and get away with... which is very, very scary... especially for guys like me who has spent a lot of money on Tristar certified autographs in the past.

So here's the deal...

Step 1:  Mr. Scam buys multiple autograph tickets for a specific player.  We'll go ahead and use Buster Posey as an example, since he was one of the players involved in the scam a few months ago.

Step 2:  Mr. Scam also purchases the Tristar COA's to go along with each of his paid autographs.

Step 3:  Mr. Scam stands in line and gets his items signed by the player in front of a Tristar representative and hundreds of other fans waiting in line.  Let's say that he had Mr. Posey sign two photographs.

Step 4:  After he gets his autographs, Mr. Scam gets into another line and waits to get his items certified.  THIS IS WHERE THE SCAM TAKES PLACE.  While in line waiting, he puts the two signed photographs in his bag, and pulls out two Buster Posey jerseys signed by Mr Scam.

Step 5:  When it's his turn, he hands them the two Mr. Scam signed Buster Posey jerseys which get Tristar holograms attached to them.

Step 6:  Later on, he takes the two photos that Buster Posey signed earlier in the day to PSA/DNA and has them authenticate the real signatures.

In the end... Mr. Scam walks away with two signed Buster Posey photos (PSA/DNA authenticated) and two forged Buster Posey jerseys (Tristar authenticated).

Here's an example of what I'm talking about...

This jersey actually has an authentic signature of Buster Posey that was obtained at Pebble Beach in February.  However since it contains Posey's short signature, JSA didn't authenticate it.  So the owner went to Tristar and pulled off the same "switch-a-roo" trick that Mr. Scam uses and received the Tristar hologram.  With Tristar backing up the signature, the guy turned around and had it authenticated by PSA/DNA too.

Now like I said... this is actually a jersey that Posey held and signed (my buddy was at the same golf tournament and knows the guy who obtained it), so the autograph isn't in question.

It's the authentication process that I'm questioning.

Do you need a little more evidence?  Well here's the thing.  Buster Posey charged $200 to sign jerseys at the Tristar show.  Do you really think that he's going to give his fans the short signature for that price?

Here's what it should look like:

That's the signature fans received when they paid full price at Tristar.  But there's one more thing that's shady about this jersey...

The inscriptions were added by someone other than Buster.  The Sharpie used is obviously different, plus Mr. Posey wasn't standing around adding inscriptions at Pebble Beach.

Now there's actually a fairly simple solution to stopping guys like Mr. Scam and the guy who once owned the Posey short signature.  Tristar needs to attach the tamper proof hologram immediately after the athlete signs the item.  This prevents shady people from switching out their items.

Just in case you're wondering if I've notified Tristar, I sent them a message on their site that includes the same details in this post.  If and when I hear back from them, I'll definitely let all of you know what they say.

At the end of the day... I still have faith in the products I receive directly from Tristar, like stuff I purchase off of their site or things I pull out of their products.  However... this is a huge flaw that needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible... otherwise supporters of their products are going to be dealt a major blow in the long run.

Happy Saturday and sayonara!


  1. I have as much faith in Tristar as I have in any of these organizations. That's not a lot. I'm a cynic, though, and stories like this one about the scamming going on are ones that keep me cynical.

    To be fair, it's a big reason why I just don't care about autographs. I'd rather get them myself -- if I'm going to get them at all.

  2. I gave up on Tristar long ago. I hear stories like this and it makes me feel a lot better about the decision.

  3. I don't really buy "authenticated" autographs. Hauls of Shame and several other parties have brought up countless instances where the authenticators are pretty unreliable and have let unauthentic pieces pass.

    Then again, it's usually just dollar with the big names like your example, Buster Posey. Hence why I steer clear of the notable all stars and prolific players and lean towards the spare parts on the roster who not even diehard fans can recall three years later.

  4. I wish I could say I was surprised, but this hobby seems to attract those looking to make a quick buck by scamming others. Of course the issue of collectors blindly trusting COA's that aren't worth the paper they're printed on is something that goes back at least to the early 90's.

  5. Believe me, I've noticed the same exact thing. I just got back from the Tristar National show and even had a conversation in line with a man about this exact topic. The sad thing is that it's not just Tristar, events with PSA and JSA do the same thing. You actually don't even need to bring the "real" items to a different authenticator. These companies don't require you to show an autograph ticket so you could hypothetically get all 4 items authenticated at once even if you only bought 2 autograph tickets. It's a shame.

  6. Good for you for reporting it to Tristar Fuji!

  7. Thanks for sharing Fuji! That is crazy!

  8. Tony L. - It's such a shame, because I love collecting autographs. I was so disappointed when I heard this story.

    Snorting Bull - Hopefully Tristar will bounce back and fix this issue. I just saw a video on Hauls of Shame and the problem is definitely not isolated to Tristar. A very similar situation occurred with JSA at a show.

    Zippy - Great site. Every autograph collector should check it out.

    unclemoe/shoeboxlegends/Daniel Wilson - You're welcome. Thought it needed to be shared with other autograph collectors.

    Matt - It's a shame, because I honestly felt like the autograph industry was bouncing back from the whole "Operation Bullpen" case.

    Mark - Like I told my friend... I'm surprised that these people are able to sleep at night.