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babe ruth signatureThe sports memorabilia market is one of the trickiest markets for private collectors. Very subtle differences from one collectable to another can drastically alter the overall value of the item, and the market is frequently flooded with forged pieces – especially during the resurgence of teams or individuals. If sports memorabilia is your game, keeping an eye out for some of the common scams listed below can help you avoid becoming a victim of collectables fraud.
Bloated Quality Rankings
Nearly all collectables are ranked on some sort of scale, be it 1 to 10, A through F, or any other combination. Some ranking authorities are always above board and lend an equally critical eye to each piece that collectors submit, but some rating agencies are softer than others. Depending on the type of collectables you’re shopping for, learn the rating agencies of repute and those that may hand out liberal top scores. Sadly, it’s not always a case of apples to apples.
Trade Show Only Vendors
Memorabilia shows travel the country constantly. Most of the vendors at these shows are above board, but there are always sharks among the guppies. Some of these vendors are really collectors in disguise. In addition to their attempts to low ball any potential purchases, these vendors will often have no ties to the real world. So, if you are able to discern that you’ve purchased a fake item from one of these show vendors there’s no possible way for you to follow up or track them down. The best place for any serious collector to shop is a trusted and established brick and mortar collector’s storefront.
Straight Up Fakes and Forgeries
These are the most common scams that any collectors will come across. Faked signatures, artificially aged baseballs and mitts, forged championship rings – there’s always a scammer looking to take advantage of rabid fans. The easiest way to protect again these types of scams are to have an established expert in your corner. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to learning all the ins and outs of what constitutes a forgery find someone who already has that knowledge at the ready.
Protect Your Funds Upfront
If you’re buying online through an auction or classifieds site, you should also be using online escrow. Online escrow companies work to the benefit of both the buyer and seller by holding funds as a neutral third party. Buyers are protected as funds are held until there’s proof that the item has shipped, or it has even arrived and you’ve had the chance verify it’s condition. Sellers are protected as well as all funds are verified and held upfront – completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card chargebacks.
While it’s impossible to know the mind and reputation of every buyer or seller on the web, keeping an eye out for the common scams listed above can help you head off any bad deals at the pass.
For more tips on buying and selling collectables be sure to see our other posts about safely buying and selling collectables online, 9 ways to protect yourself from internet fraud, and what do you if you’ve been scammed.

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