Over the years, I have participated in a number of charitable causes, from fundraising dinners and sporting events to simple donations. As many people do, I try to support great causes when I can. Of course, many of us wish we could do more. There are plenty of groups that really need your help and many of those groups do wonderful work around the globe.
Recently, I participated in another fundraiser. There was a dinner, an exhibit and a charity auction to cap the night. It was fairly typical and positive by most fundraising event standards but, unfortunately, it was just as typical in a negative way. I am sure that many of you are curious. How can any charitable cause be a problem?
Well, some of you are probably thinking that the donations were not appropriately allocated. In other words, the money went to a few individuals instead of the cause itself. While that is a concern with some charities, that definitely wasn't the case here. The money was going to the cause; it was the auction items that were problematic.
It was bad enough that nearly 50% of the items on exhibit were either counterfeit or not what they were claimed to be. For instance, a collector who donated a supposed Mickey Mantle game-used bat and autographed team sheet from the 1927 Yankees was displaying nothing of the sort. The Mantle bat was a show bat made in the 1980s and the 1927 Yankees team sheet was literally a photocopy. He had no idea about the truth of his items and I did not have the heart to tell him.
The exhibit items were bothersome but what can you do? A lot of collectors think they own one thing and it turns out to be an entirely different thing. Do you know how many calls I get from people who think they own an authentic T206 Honus Wagner card because it was handed down from a relative? On this night, the biggest problem centered on the auction.
After viewing the lots for a few minutes, I started to feel sick. I have seen this before but the feeling I get never seems to change. Several of the items were just flat out fake. This is fairly commonplace and I am sure I will see it again. Some dealers or collectors use charity auctions as a dumping ground for "bad stuff" so they will at least be able to move the items as a tax write-off. It's absolutely disgusting.,p>Please, do not get me wrong, many charities provide items acquired directly from players or teams and charity auctions can be a wonderful place to acquire great items while, at the same time, doing something nice for a great cause. One such charity is Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). Most of the items are acquired straight from the players and it's a great cause. Even when it comes to collector or dealer donations, many authentic items are provided but that fact doesn't prevent some others from unloading their garbage on unsuspecting bidders who just want to help.
So, in the end, here's the message to the bidders out there. Just because you bought something from a charity auction does not mean that it's real. The message to the charities is to please seek expert advice so the auction material is free from authenticity problems. The message to the people who use charity auctions as their personal dumping ground is, when you get to Hell, tell them PSA sent you.