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An Open Letter to Mounted, Schwartz, Steiner, TriStar, UDA and Other Autographed Memorabilia Companies

Posted 8/28/13 | Filed under General

Operation Bullpen


Selling autographed sports memorabilia is your primary business and mine too. When anyone buys a fake autograph, that's money that in some cases could be coming out of your pocket, my pocket or both of our pockets.

In case you didn't notice, the problem with forged autographs on Amazon and eBay is out of control. The situation is as bad as it was before the FBI's Operation Bullpen and Foul Ball operations many years ago, when both Amazon and eBay were small Internet companies. Yet for some reason, you don't seem to care about this problem, and I do.

Which is funny because you stock hundreds of different items signed by dozens of different players; I stock thousands of different items signed by hundreds of different players. You deal mainly in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL autographs. So do I, but I also deal heavily in "minor" sports like boxing, golf, soccer and tennis.

Therefore, the fact that Amazon and eBay are flooded with forgeries of Troy Aikman, Larry Bird, John Elway, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Albert Pujols and Lawrence Taylor -- just to name some of the most commonly forged sports autographs -- affects me only a little. But companies like yours are paying these players to sign, or trying to get customers to pay them to sign at shows. It affects you a whole lot more.

When you call or e-mail me about upcoming signings, I look at your prices and usually laugh. Because you're asking me to pay more WHOLESALE for autographs that are being sold for less on Amazon or eBay at RETAIL. Yeah, they're fake sports autographs, but guess what -- people are buying them.

I've been an authentic autograph dealer full time for more than 13 years. My business is booming. Maybe yours is too, but from what I'm hearing, it's probably not. Regardless, we all have room for improvement, and doing something about all the fakes on the market would represent a win-win-win for wholesale companies, retail companies and end consumers.

In case you haven't noticed, the FBI is too busy with terrorism and other national security issues to concern itself with the relatively trivial crime of forging fake autographs. I have voicemail and e-mail messages dating back to 2010 from FBI agents who knew what was going on and how bad the problem was, and promised to investigate. I'm still waiting. So forget the FBI, it may be a decade before they bother busting anyone, if then.

The media? They are either too naive or too worried about being sued to blow the lid off this issue on their own. Yes, if companies like yours would be proactive about just how bad the problem was, the media would gladly help you spread the word.

Amazon or eBay? Don't be silly. Both companies are happily collecting sales commissions from all the fakes that are being sold on their websites. If confronted with enough evidence from player agents, they might actually take action in an effort to avoid being sued themselves. But until then, they'll just look the other way.

So I understand that you are all relatively small companies, and you compete with each other. Maybe you're understaffed already. Maybe you tried in the past to raise the red flags and nothing happened. Maybe you're worried about being sued. Honestly none of these concerns should stop you from getting involved immediately.

I have spent countless hours trying to publicize this problem in the media, get law enforcement involved and alert Amazon and eBay. But there's only so much I can do by myself. Your companies arrange signings with players via their agents. I don't. If you want to take action, I am eager and willing to help start cleaning up this mess. Call me or e-mail me and I'll give you all the information and contacts I have, which is substantial.

If you want to continue doing nothing and watch this industry sink deeper and deeper, go right ahead. Either way, I'll still be here selling authentic autographs no matter what.