Buyer Beware: How To Avoid Buying Fake Sports Memorabilia

Rick Gregg
November 19, 2018 - 6:00 am
Bears QB Mitch Trubisky signs a helmet at the Chicago Sports Spectacular.

Facebook/Chicago Sports Spectacular


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The busiest booths at this past weekend’s Chicago Sports Spectacular in Rosemont weren’t actually selling any cards, posters, bobbleheads, or other pieces of memorabilia.

They were selling expertise. Collectors and dealers made frequent stops to the authentication booths run by PSA/DNA and Beckett Authentication Services, spending a small amount of money to get their already-collected autographs certified.

“Leading up to the holidays, it’s like a two-month rush,” said Steve Grad, chief authenticator for Beckett Authentication Services and an expert on the History Channel program ‘Pawn Stars’. “Dealers want to get stuff certified for it’s easier to sell. The public says ‘Oh, a third party authenticated it? I feel better buying it’.”

Which is the right attitude, according to Grad - who always cautions folks to beware when buying signed merchandise.

“I start with one thing,” he says. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So if it’s too cheap, be careful. And don’t think you know everything. You probably don’t - matter of fact, I don’t know everything.  We learn something new every day.”

With the Bears boasting big names and rising near the top of the NFC standings, there’s been a surge of interest in signed merchandise from players like Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack. One is easier to find than the other.

“The great thing about the Bears players,” said Grad, “is plenty of them have done shows or signings in the area, so you can find authentic merchandise. The one exception is Mack. Mack’s not a great signer. And he hasn’t, as far as I know, signed up to do any signings as a Bear. He did when he was on the Raiders, so you have to find some older product on him.  But Mitch Trubisky...we’ve certified a lot of [his autographs>.”

So Grad said prospective collectors have to be especially wary of anything with Mack’s John Hancock.

“People will forge anything. So if something’s hot, people are gonna forge it," he said. "You have to be careful. And those are the type of dealers out there, and they’re everywhere - they’re on the internet, they’re at shows - they look to take advantage of people.”

You don’t have to go to special show to get an autograph certified or graded. Beckett and PSA/DNA both take submissions by mail.  

“It’s really easy,” says Grad.  “I want people to feel good about submitting stuff.  I don’t like seeing people get burned. Because you know what?  That guy over there, that may be selling a jersey for a little less than someone else that has it certified? He doesn’t care about you.  He just wants to move it and sell it. So be careful.”