“The Hobby” as we’ve so loving coined it as if it’s the only hobby in existence worth having, is gaining broad and mass appeal. When mainstream media starts reporting on trading cards selling for what you could buy a house (or few for), you know things have blown up.
For years I struggled to explain what I did for a living. “So you guys grade trading cards based on condition, why does that matter, and do people even buy trading cards? Are they worth anything?” “Autograph Authentication, but I got it myself. Why do I need that?” People outside the hobby just couldn’t grasp what it was that I did and why it was so important. They weren’t looking at memorabilia as an investment; it was just a hobby for old guys.
But slowly it started to change. Suddenly a show called Pawn Stars was on cable tv, and my company, Beckett Authentication Services, was featured as the autograph authentication expert for the show. Family and friends started to take notice and kinda understood but mainly thought, “that’s pretty cool, wow interesting”.
It wasn’t until this year that things really shifted and exploded. My pool guy knows about my company, friends who recalled my husband and I working with trading cards and autographs are calling on the regular to ask about the items they have and if they are worth anything. And it’s not just the average person taking notice, celebrities also have been bitten by this collecting bug.
Drake posted a Tupac autograph he bought on his Instagram.
Image Source: Drake Instagram Account
Mark Wahlberg can be seen on his Instagram ripping packs with his kids who now are into collecting.
Image Source: Mark Wahlberg Instagram Account
The hobby has gone mainstream, which means there’s a lot of new people collecting trading cards and autographs. It’s not just an old guy's hobby anymore, but instead, people are looking at it as an investment, just like they would art or stocks and bonds.
But as with anything you are going to invest in, there’s a little bit of research that you have to do first to make sure you aren’t wasting your hard-earned money. Hobby veterans can attest, things used to be like the wild west, and it’s easy to get burned by counterfeits and forgeries. While 3rd party authentication and grading companies have made the hobby safer, there are a few guidelines to follow in collecting trading cards and autographed memorabilia.
1. Certification, Certification, Certification
Need I say it again? CERTIFICATION! For years collectors have had the mentality when getting autographs in person, “I got it signed myself, I know it is authentic, I don’t need a company to tell me it’s authentic." But the flaw with that thinking is those autographs will eventually get sold, and if they aren’t certified, you will have a hard time selling them.
Taking advantage of autograph authentication now can save you money in the future. For instance, Michael Jordan had an authentication fee of $100 at Beckett a few years ago; given the recent surge in value for his autograph, the fee was raised to $200. By choosing to wait, you cost yourself money in the long run when fees get adjusted (and fees often get adjusted.)
But more than just saving money, getting items certified early means when the market is right you are positioned to jump right in without delay. It’s an unfortunate situation that happens but happens frequently, when someone suddenly passes away, values start to spike. So you can either be ready to go with the item already certified and get the best money or, you can be waiting on the sidelines with an item that could sell for a lot but needs to be certified, risking that the market cools off by the time you get the item back.
Do yourself a favor, take advantage of authentication and grading right away, be ready for when investors want to invest.
2. Certification Matters, But Not All Certification is Created Equal
Most people in 2020 realize they should buy something that has a certificate with it, but most don’t realize just any certification will not do. The avid collector understands the importance of a nationally recognized authentication company but, people just dipping their toes into the world of collecting or selling autographed items don’t realize what a big deal it is to have the right company certify their items.
Autograph authentication involves individual judgment and opinion, it is not an exact science and there is no test to conclusively say with 100% certainty that an autograph is genuine. Instead, the experts form their opinion based on their experience and knowledge of the autographs.
Just like you wouldn’t choose a doctor who has no experience in a rare condition to give you treatment, or pick a lawyer who just graduated law school with no trial experience to represent you, you should think about the qualifications of the experts before having your item certified.
Ask yourself a few questions. How long have they been professionally authenticating? How many years of experience do they have? Have they authenticated that signature in the past? Do they possess the knowledge to accurately assess your item? When notable items are being sold who certified them?
Make sure when you are investing in certification you are investing with the right experts.
3. If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
I say this all the time, but it’s worth repeating, sure there are some good deals out there, but be wary of where you are obtaining your items from. There isn’t a shortage of reputable dealers and auction houses in our industry, but there also isn’t a shortage of people trying to make a quick buck either.
Last month at a birthday party, a friend recounted a story to me about some guy living down the street from him that is printing photos by the hundred and scribbling some sort of autograph on them and selling them on eBay for $50-$100 each. Because there is this newfound interest in collecting autographs, there is also going to be that person trying to make some quick cash off of people who may not know better. If my friend knows of a guy in his neighborhood doing this, just imagine how much more rampant of an issue it is. The big forgery rings get caught, but these guys selling a handful of lower value items often get away with it.
Don’t get cheated, buy certified items or if it is not already certified get a quick review of the autograph by the experts to tell you if it is likely to pass authentication or not before you buy it.
2020 is an exciting time for card and autograph collectors. Whether you are someone who collected before in the 90s making your way back to the hobby, a first timer just starting off, or someone just looking to buy a few investment pieces, Beckett Authentication Services and Beckett Grading Services are here to help with all your collecting needs.