30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

IMO: a COA is only as good as the company's reputation

Let's face it... these days there are more autograph forgeries, than there are sticker autographs... which means it's hard to trust any signature that you don't get signed in person. Which is why I'll only buy autographs from my buddy Mike... and of course autographs from the major players in the market: PSA/DNA, Steiner Sports, and UDA.

Simply put... a COA is only as good as the company's reputation.

I've been friends with Mike for over ten years and have gone autograph hunting with him on numerous occasions. He sells autographs for a living and understands that his reputation is EVERYTHING. But honestly... if he wasn't my friend, I wouldn't consider purchasing from him... because there are just too many people out there trying to make a quick buck. But since I have no intention of reselling the autographs I purchase from him, the only thing that matters is that I know they're real.

Every now and then, I'll also pick up a PSA/DNA certified autograph. But I'm not foolish. I realize that there's no guarantee that their certified autographs are real. PSA/DNA's job is to look at an autograph and using their expert's opinion... they decide if they think the signature is real or fake. The key to that statement is that it's an "expert's opinion". Unless they actually watch the guy sign (which I'm pretty sure they sometimes do at major card shows), then it's up to their employees to give an opinion... an opinion that some of us choose to trust. I'm sure a fake slips by them, every now and then, but overall they have a pretty good reputation... so I trust them.

Finally, there are companies who have contracts with athletes that sign autographs for them. Upper Deck has Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Ironclad Authentics has Cal Ripken Jr. and Joe Mauer. And Steiner Sports has Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, and Martin Brodeur. Each of these companies provide COA's when you purchase autographs from them... but once again... a COA is only as good as the company that stands behind that autograph.

So when you buy an autographed photo from these companies, you technically have no guarantee that they're real. It's an industry based on trust and you hope that a company won't jeopardize their reputation by selling forgeries.

Personally, I'm pretty confident the autographs I purchase from these companies are real. It's impossible for me to be 100% confident, because I wasn't there when the athletes signed the items... but, I trust them enough to spend money on their products.

On Saturday, I received this email from Steiner Sports:

They were offering replica New Jersey Devils mini goalie helmets signed by one of the greatest goalies of all-time... Martin Brodeur... for only $79.99. Whether or not this is a good price depends on your personal perspective. I'm sure if you live in New Jersey, you can find these mini helmets for around $20. And if you're fortunate enough to cross paths with Martin, then the autograph would be free. So from this perspective, I overpaid by sixty or so dollars.

However, I don't live in New Jersey... which means that I have to try to get him to sign when the Devils come to San Jose. But the fact is... I work Monday through Friday, and don't always have the luxury to go out and grab graphs during the weekends. In short... the odds of me crossing paths with Brodeur are slim.

Instead I choose to trust Steiner. At one point, they had an exclusive contract with Brodeur. Sure it cost me $88.98 ($79.99 + $8.99 shipping), but the autograph comes with "peace of mind"... because I'm not worried about the autograph's authenticity.

In fact... this isn't even my first Martin Brodeur purchase from Steiner. Back in April, I picked up this New Jersey Devil's signed puck for $49.99 (+ shipping & handling).

What do I want two of his autographs?

I guess it's because he became popular right around the same time I started collecting hockey cards... in the 90's. Plus it doesn't hurt that he's won more games than any other goalie in the history of the NHL. He's also the 1993/94 Calder Trophy Winner (NHL's ROY), a five time winner of the William M. Jennings Trophy (given to the goalie(s) who've allowed the fewest goals that season), and of course you can't forget his four Vezina Trophies (given to the top goalie each season).

It's debatable whether or not, he's the greatest goalie of all-time. But there's no debating that he's one of the greatest... which is why I love collecting his cards and autographed memorabilia.
But this post has dragged on for too long... so I'll save the cards for another post.

Today's questions...

When it comes to certified autographs, which companies do you trust?


Who's your favorite NHL goalie... past or present?

Damn... it's already way past my bedtime. Happy hump day... good night... and sayonara!

November Total: 829 words


  1. As you say, companies like Steiner who have signing deals with players are ones I can trust. PSA/DNA and JSA are somewhat trustworthy, but I've heard plenty of stories of them getting it wrong. I also know Lefty's Sports does signings with Giants players, so I could trust them in that area. That said, most of my autographs come certified by Topps, etc. or in-person. I just don't buy a lot of displayable autographs (like helmets, balls, and bats), though that may change eventually.

  2. I don't trust any of them. Unless I see the guy signing....

    I had a buddy at a show where PSA/DNA would certify the autograph of the show's guest signer.
    My buddy signed his own picture and PSA/DNA authenticated it without a second glance.

    Favourite goalie is the best to ever play.
    Ken Dryden

  3. Canuck: I've heard about things like that, which is what I alluded to above.

  4. Ryan - Never heard of Lefty's Sports... but I'll definitely look into them. I have a few people in my life that collect SF Giants and Xmas is just around the corner.

    Captain - Wow... that's insane. I've heard horror stories with JSA... but figured PSA/DNA was more reliable. That's sucks. I agree... the only way you can truly know for sure is if you see the guy sign it him/herself. It's plausible to think that even card companies insert forgeries into their packs. I have a bad feeling that one of these days, we're going to wake up and face a real nightmare.

  5. I don't get into autographs for reasons like this. There's too much shadiness and "not knowing." I don't need that in what is supposed to be a fun hobby for me.

    Favorite goalie:

    Dominik Hasek. What he did was CRAZY.

  6. With relics being similar too, there's just a whole lot of trust needed as a collector of cards/memorabilia right now. I generally trust the pack pulled stuff in terms of autographs, but outside of that you never know. I've heard of fakes being called real, reals being called fake (autos do change over time after all), and even ttm autos not being signed by the player at that residence (Hank Aaron anyone?). Like you said, unless you personally witnessed the signing, it's too hard to tell.

    Favorite Goalie: Growing up it was Patrick Roy, Sean Burke, and/or Brent Johnson. Now Timmy Thomas!

  7. I'll trust Steiner and the other major companies that get players to sign for them, but I'm not that keen on any of the companies that just offer their opinion of authenticity.

    My favorite hockey goalie is Mike Richter.

  8. And you're doing NaBlo WriMo. That's awesome.

    The odd thing is, I think that a person can be their own autograph expert. Seriously, I can look at a Nicolas Batum autograph and know right away if it's his or not. I think a person can pretty reasonably do the same if they put the time in.

    Also, even though I hate sticker autos, at least they're typically signed in front of employees of card companies. But for a guy like Brodeur who signs a lot, you're probably safe. Typically it's the dead players and new hot rookies that have the most rampant forgeries.

    Oh, Fleury. What can I say, I'm becoming a Pens' honk.

  9. night owl - hasek was an animal... i loved collecting goalies in the 90's... roy, hasek, beezer, richter, brodeur, irbe... the list goes on and on and on.

    spastik - it's totally the same thing with relics and the issues we're facing with those cards right now. i think it's a self defense mechanism in my head that makes me want to believe all of those jersey swatches and autographs are real.

    paul - yeah, i definitely trust steiner, uda, and even tristar more than authenticity companies, due to the fact that they have contracts with these athletes.

    and after reading the captain's comments, that's even more true than before.

    g moses - lol... yeah i jumped on your bandwagon... you're a natural "leader" and i've always been a "follower".

    as for being your own autograph expert... i think there's some truth to that. but, i knew a guy back when uda was selling gretzky autographed photos and pucks, who could copy his signature perfectly. the guy had a gift "in a sense"... he could copy your signature (maybe not perfectly, but it was pretty good) within a few tries. however, he definitely "perfected" the gretzky. you could hold up his "graph" next to a uda and they were identical. pretty scary.

  10. UDA is who I trust the most, especially in basketball and the exclusive contracts with Jordan and Lebron.