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The Certificate of Authenticity Misconception

Posted 2/25/2011 17:45 | Filed under Autograph Collecting Tips | Comments (0)
The most frequent question potential customers ask me is, "Does it come with a certificate of authenticity (COA)?" or some variation. The simple answer is, of course, "yes" and that's good enough most of the time. But I wish I could tell every one of these people, "You are asking the wrong question" and then explain why.

I've been providing the same COA, more or less, for 6 or 7 years. It's not fancy, it's not ugly, it does the job. Last month I briefly considered upgrading the COA to make it more attractive and colorful. I ultimately decided against it mainly because I can't remember the last time a customer complained about it -- so if it isn't broken, why fix it? I also was reluctant to invest more time and energy on an area of the autograph business that is already massively overrated, overemphasized, over-EVERYTHING.

Potential customers are rightly concerned about buying a fake autograph. They believe that receiving a certificate of authenticity is their best defense. Unfortunately, the countless fraudsters selling fake autographs are aware of this common misconception, and make sure their COA looks nice . . . to go along with the bogus autograph they're selling. Any criminal who knowingly sells fake autographs is not going to be deterred by having to include a COA.

Yes, the state of California passed Civil Code Section 1739.7 way back in the 1990s, before I even started AutographsForSale.com. The law's intentions were good, but of course, the COA was the main point of emphasis. In my opinion, the law has had little or no effect on reducing the number of fake autographs on the market. eBay initially tried to attack the problem in the same manner, by requiring autograph sellers to state who issued the COA in their item descriptions. This also failed to do much of anything, and to eBay's credit, their current autograph policy now states that COAs are "only as valuable as the reputation of the issuing party."

And that's the point right there. Potential customers should not be asking whether or not the autographed item comes with a COA. They can ask me or any legitimate or fraudulent autograph dealer the same question and the answer will almost always be "YES."

Potential customers should be asking about the background, business practices, experience, history and reputation of the seller. I am happy to discuss all of these issues with anyone who calls or e-mails me. In fact, I enjoy it, because then I know I am talking to an educated buyer -- not to mention, I enjoy talking about the autograph business and educating people about it. Unfortunately, that happens only rarely. Instead, due to the COA misconception, I get asked the same old question, over and over again.
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