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Authenticity: Collectors Must Exercise Care

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
June 12, 2005

Dear Babe: With all the autographed memorabilia out there and the fact that we are only curators of those items, the buyer and seller need authenticity. I for one would not purchase an item unless it has a COA from a well-known company. When I attend sport autograph events, I take pictures and keep newspaper articles and whatever else is available to support that item. When I get ready to sell, I will have this as proof of authenticity. There are horror stories of buyers purchasing an item and finding out that the signatures are imitations. What do you recommend for collectors and what companies do you recommend to have our items authenticated?
Mark Tylkowski, Grand Island, Neb.

Certainly if you can get the signature yourself, you are way ahead of the game. A certificate of authenticity is only as good as the company that issued it. As always, Da Babe doesn't make recommendations but can offer some advice in regard to folks who help with values for this column. One note of caution, just because someone has a photo of a star signing an item does not guarantee that the item you're getting is authentic. It's easy for someone to get a photo of one item being signed. Let's say it's a litho. A photo guarantees the athlete signed one litho. It doesn't mean anything when it comes to the signatures - sometimes hundreds - crafted on the same litho by a forger.

In today's world, most major shows that feature autograph guests have point-of-sale authentications right after the autograph is signed. These are well respected and reliable.

As for authentication, PSA/DNA in Newport Beach (800 325-1121), Global Authentication, Inc. in Irvine (949 474-1557), and SCD in Milwaukee, Wisc., (414 828-9990) are all respected. Dave Bushing (847 816-6847), Mike Gutierrez (480 991-8060) and Jim Spence, owner of Spenceloa.com, who offer expert opinions for Da Babe, authenticate items. Gutierrez only handles baseballs, while Spence only does autographs. Major auctions houses would authenticate an item if it were consigned to them before going up for sale. A number of folks who do auctions are used as sources in the column. They include Mike Heffner at Lelands.com in New York (516 409-9700); Brian Marren, MastroNet.com in Chicago (630 472-1200); David Kohler, SportscardsPlus.com in Southern California (800 350-2773); Dean Zindler, Norcross, Ga. (770 448-2797); Robert Lifson, RobertEdwardsAuctions.com in New Jersey (908-226-9920) and Said Phil Castinetti owner of Sportsworld-usa.com in Everett, Mass., a suburb of Boston. (617-387-7220).

When it comes to purchasing items, all you can do is go by the company's reputation. Certainly Upper Deck Authenticated, Steiner Sports and Tristar Productions are tops.

These certainly aren't the only ones around, but they're all major players and/or sources for Da Babe.

Dear Babe: My dad has a program from the 1950 World Series between the Yankees and the Phillies. The inside pages are all in good condition. The cover is in fair condition with a few tiny rips on the cover and the spine, but all the pages are still intact.
Elaine Halesey, Hanover Township, Pa.

Condition is the key. Since you're in Pennsylvania, I'm assuming you have the Philadelphia version of the Series program. Those should be worth more than the Yankee Stadium version since thousands more were produced for the two games in New York than were made for the two games played at Shibe Park. More than twice as many fans - 132,000-plus - watched in New York as the Yankees finished off a four-game sweep of the Phillies than the 53,000-plus that saw the first two games of the Series in Philadelphia. The rips and tears make your program worth around $50, said Brian Marren, vice president of acquisitions for the MastroNet Auctions in Chicago.

Dear Babe: I have a Bulova watch from the 1954 Sugar Bowl. It is still working. It has a blue face and each number is represented by a letter that spells out Sugar Bowl. I have a close family friend that was the captain of that 1953-1954 West Virginia football team that played in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia Tech. He gave it to me as a gift.
Ty Huffer, Atlanta

Maybe it's just me, but there are only nine letters in "Sugar Bowl" and there are 12 numbers on a watch face. That aside, it's a sweet item. The estimate on the watch is around $1,000, said Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York. For the record, Georgia Tech hammered West Virginia, 42-19.

BABE NOTE: Classic cards featuring five baseball greats are the focus of this year's Sunkist-Little League baseball promotion. Specially marked bags of Sunkist citrus include cellophane packs with an Upper Deck card of Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial or Roger Maris. The cards include player stats and healthy snacking tips from Produce for Better Health Foundation and 5 A Day The Color Way. The cards are available at grocery stores across the nation that carry Sunkist fruit. The cards should be available through July.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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