A New Scam
By Karine Hains, Editor-In-Chief
The world being what it is, there will always be dishonest people around looking for new ways to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, this is also true in the hobby world and collectors must beware. In the past, I have written an article about fake patches being sold on eBay but it now seems that memorabilia is no longer the scammers’ favorite tool. As we all know, the market has become somewhat saturated with game-used cards and many collectors have now lost their enthusiasm for such item. However, the collecting community is still very found of autographed cards and this is all too well known by con artists.
Many of us are not fans of sticker autographs and it seems that we now have one more reason not to like them. Indeed, they are the ones used to produce the new fakes. How you say? Well, it is quite simple, and rather well explained by a great blog online: The Voice of the Collector. If you follow this link http://www.voiceofthecollector.com/2009/06/fake-sticker-autos-video-response-to.html you can see a video demonstrating how the fake autographs are produced.
Watching the video is almost disturbing as it makes this looks so very easy. Simply put, it seems that anyone with rubbing alcohol, a Q-tip, a razor blade and the right amount of dishonesty can manufacture their own fake autograph. There are four simple steps; first: they must find one a real card with a sticker auto. Then, it’s time to dip the Q-tip in the rubbing alcohol and start taking the auto off by rubbing the said Q-tip on it. Almost as if by magic, the autograph will shortly disappear. Once the sticker is blank, a thin razor blade can be used to raise the sticker off the card. Of course, this is likely to damage the card but this isn’t an issue for the scammer as he has already ruined it by “erasing” the autograph. Finally, all that’s left to do for our scam artist is to find any card of a much more popular athlete and affix the sticker to that card before signing it themselves. Of course, they will sell it on as a real autograph card and likely make good money on it.
Easy as 1,2,3 isn’t it? What this means for the collecting masses is that once again, we must be weary of any deal, which seems too good to be true. Before you buy or trade for a sticker autograph card, you might want to do two things. Firstly, use the tools at your disposal and look-up the desired card on the checklist produced by the card manufacturer. For instance, if I wanted to know if a Patrick Roy UD Ultimate Collection autographed base parallel was produced, all I would need to do would be to consult the checklist on Upper Deck’s website. This only takes a few minutes but is well worth it if it prevents you from spending money on a fake card. Go to the card company’s website, find the right product and (in Upper Deck’s case) click on the product home.
You will be taken to a new page, and on the right-hand side of the page, you will see the list of different sets included in the product. If you cannot see a base parallel autograph checklist set, chances are, there is no such thing and the card you are considering buying is a fake.
Secondly, ask the seller/trader to provide you with a scan of the back of the card, as there is always a message along the lines of: “Congratulations! You have just received a card autographed by _________. The card was either signed in the presence of an Upper Deck representative or sent in to us and certified as to being authentic by ________”. While this method is safe, it also presupposes that the seller/trader will be happy to oblige. If they aren’t, alarm bells should be going in your head by now and it is time to walk away from the table.
I believe it is fairly easy not to be fooled by this latest scam if you are an informed collector, if you lack the knowledge however it’s another story. Speaking from experience, when a friend decides to buy you a present and all they know is that you collect a certain player, they often resort to eBay and search for the said player looking for the best card for the best price. Chances are, if they see one of those cards which informed collectors have dismissed as fake and elected not to bid on, they very might well be tempted to bid. No one could blame them really as they are definitely not in a position to make an informed decision.
If ever there was a good reason for the card companies to re-think, the use of sticker autographs this is it. Never mind the fact that most collectors prefer hard signed offerings in any event, at least with on-card autographs customers wouldn’t have to worry about things like these. Yes, I know, sticker autographs allow to reduce the amount of redemptions inserted in boxes but think about it, which would you prefer; waiting a few months for your autograph or getting one which was signed by a clever scam-artist? I think the best option is pretty obvious.
In any case, when you next consider buying or trading for a sticker autograph, please do take your time and make sure that what you are getting is the real deal…
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