Stretching the Truth
This topic has been covered before but, since it has been on my mind as of late, I thought I would cover it again. When it comes to memorabilia, we are all familiar with the issue of outright forgeries and counterfeits. Part of the reason companies like PSA exist is because of this problem in the marketplace. Third party authentication services may not be the police and may not be perfect but they certainly help make the industry a safer place to buy.
In addition to the issue of forgeries that plague all collectibles markets, there is another problem that is rarely discussed but equally as sinister. It is the seller's intent to stretch the truth when it comes to a piece that is actually authentic to begin with. I know you are probably wondering why anyone would do that. It is very simple. There can be a huge difference in value between one type of authentic item and another based on the story behind it. Greed has been, and always will be; the downfall of many in this world and our hobby is certainly not immune to it.
You could argue that this act is equally as disturbing as the act of forging something because you are tainting a collectible that was already authentic in the first place. Here's an example, let's say you have an authentic game-used glove. It can be of any player you choose. Let's assume the glove is 100% authentic for the purposes of this hypothetical. The glove changes hands and is now in the possession of another hobby figure.
The new owner tries to sell the glove, not only as an authentic game-used glove, but one that was used to catch the final out in a historic game, perhaps a World Series clincher or perfect game. If that is in fact true, it is a wonderful piece but what I am finding is that more and more stories are being told about the items without the evidence to support the claim. In some cases, the sellers are stretching the truth about a piece that was fine as is but they do it so you will stretch your wallet.
Here's another example. There is a ball signed by Babe Ruth and it is inscribed "To Joe" on the side panel. It is sold, originally, for $7,500 as a personalized Babe Ruth ball. The next seller puts it up for auction and claims the "To Joe" actually refers to Joe DiMaggio. He concocts an elaborate story and the same ball sells for $50,000 to a buyer who bought not only the ball but, more importantly, the story. There is no question that buyers need to do their homework and due diligence before spending their money but, if the truth has been stretched, it is still wrong nonetheless.
Keep in mind that there are great items that are wonderful on their own merit AND they come with great provenance or significance. They do exist but, since they are rare, the greed factor is pushing some sellers into misrepresentation. They want to make a great item even better and more appealing than it already is. Sometimes, when things get tough, people get desperate. Is the tough economy possibly playing a role? It certainly isn't helping matters but I am sure there may be a lot of factors at work.
As a lifelong hobbyist, it is frustrating to see this occur. It not only helps devalue the truly great items in the marketplace but it also may scare off new people from collecting altogether. The reality is that there are plenty of incredible and completely authentic items to buy if you are interested in starting a collection. Sure, some items are incredibly scarce but that is no excuse for sellers to stretch the truth and ruin a good thing.
Never get cheated,
Editor In Chief