Since the company was founded, I have been a fan of, collector of, buyer of, seller of, and for almost a year from 1998 to 1999, the Autographed Product Manager of Upper Deck Authenticated. So I almost have to laugh when people try to lecture me about UDA hologram numbers.
This typically happens when a prospective buyer tries to look up an old UDA hologram number on the Upper Deck website. In the vast majority of cases, the result is a very unsatisfying, "We are unable to locate AUE31237 in our hologram database. Older hologram numbers and hologram numbers from shows have not been transferred over to our on-line database as of yet. Please contact our Customer Service Department at (800)551-8220 or via e-mail at email@example.com to confirm the authenticity of your item. Note: Items that were produced prior to 2002 are not included in the online database." And calling or e-mailing UDA doesn't help sometimes. Often they STILL can't verify the hologram number. A few years ago I e-mailed them about 20 old hologram numbers and about half were unverifiable, including several on items valued at thousands of dollars.
Does this mean the autograph and/or hologram is fake? No, of course not. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of hologram numbers are apparently unverifiable on the UDA website or via phone. Regardless, I would still say that the likelihood of any autographed item with a numbered UDA hologram on it being fake is way, way less than 1%, and I can't say the same about any other manufacturer's hologram or sticker.
Now, if I were in charge of UDA, would I be concerned about this database problem? Sure -- it doesn't inspire confidence in your current products when older products can't be verified. UDA's widely promoted patented five-step process includes Step 2: "A record of the autograph session is signed by both the athlete and the UDA official and is stored in a secure permanent file." Step 3 is "An Upper Deck Authenticated serial numbered hologram is affixed to each signed piece of memorabilia." Step 4 is "A certificate of authenticity is assigned to every piece of memorabilia and includes a matching hologram to the one affixed to the item."
To a current UDA product owner or prospective buyer, these steps represent the three "legs" that support UDA's well-earned reputation for authenticity: the numbered hologram on the item; the matching numbered hologram on the COA; and being able to verify this hologram number with UDA. Well, UDA COAs get lost frequently -- I know, because I've lost a couple myself over the years. In these cases, the ability to verify the number obviously becomes critical, otherwise you're down to standing on one leg.
There's a serious disconnect in UDA's five-step process if the company is unable or unwilling to verify ALL hologram numbers by matching them with the record of the autograph session it claims is permanently stored. Not being able to verify the hologram number definitely is an issue in an industry that suffers from rampant fraud. It's unfortunate that the industry leader in sports autograph authentication technology has an incomplete database. It's a source of frustration for both buyers and sellers -- over the years, I've lost many sales due to this problem. Let's hope that eventually UDA sees the light and fixes the problem for its own benefit and ours too.