October 12, 2017

That “COA” Ain’t Worth the Paper It’s Written On in my humble opinion! Want a really nice looking Certificate of Authenticity (COA)? Something very polished and professional looking? I know our own Dave, Jason, or Madge could whip one up for you–no problem, no problem at all.

That "COA" Ain't Worth the Paper It's Written OnOver the years, I’ve seen lots of ‘homemade’ COAs from different comic shops attesting to the authenticity of a signature on a comic. Usually, I tell the owner that that doesn’t hold much significance to us as they are so easy to create–only those from a well-recognized organization with a reputation to maintain holds any weight. Now, with my first hand observation at a recent show, that confidence has been shattered.

The weekend of the Baltimore ComicCon, I went to the Philly Sports Card Show at the Valley Forge Casino Center. My son had purchased a ticket to get an autograph from future Hall of Famer Roy Halladay. A small ‘flat’ or a signature on a baseball ran $99 each. Of course, you could pay more for inscriptions, larger pieces, bats and/or picture opportunities.

That "COA" Ain't Worth the Paper It's Written OnLike the Baltimore Show, it was a three day event with loads of sports personalities scheduled with the prices being asked for autographs varying considerably! There was a posted schedule with 3 to 4 guests appearing at a time along the back wall of the center. Way to the right, around a corner, sat a gentleman from one of the major grading/authentication companies who for a mere 8 bucks per item would affix a small, serial-numbered hologram oval to you collectible. In addition, he gave you a small piece of paper, with a matching number to that oval, that stated the following: “This item has been fully examined by (I’m withholding the name of the company) and it is our considered opinion that the item is genuine.”

Now here’s the problem: Not only is he sitting no where near the actual signings, they aren’t even within his view. People just walk up to him, plunk down their money and he puts the sticky-backed oval on the item. Got more than one? 8 bucks a pop! Easy Peasy, just a little sleazy!

That "COA" Ain't Worth the Paper It's Written OnIf you have ever attended one of these large shows, even smaller ones, I’m sure you’ve seen collectors who drag along a suitcase on wheels full of treasures to get signed. What would prevent an unscrupulous vendor of autographs from bringing along a bunch of his homemade signatures and getting them “authenticated” for an 8 dollar fee? Nothing, not at this show anyway. The people at the far left table getting their autographs were well over a 100 feet from the table, but it did not matter anyway, the agent didn’t bother looking or inspecting the signature, he just made sure you had the cash.

From what I understand, there ARE shows where an agent of an authenticating firm sits right next to the celebrity and verifies the signature immediately. But not always! If I understood one of our customers correctly, at the Baltimore Con, one could get their Frank Miller autographed comic slabbed and noted as authentic for $85! But, no, that agent did not personally observe him signing the piece. Were most of those asking/paying for that service bringing up legit stuff at the shows? I’d say yes, BUT… according to a number of articles I have read, the majority of celebrity and sports-related autographs out there are fake. EBay has a list of names of ‘dealers’ in autographs that are banned from being posted on their site.

As a post-script, Roy Halladay was a very gracious guest. He smiled and talked to people, even posed for camera phone pictures. I don’t think he needs the money, just actually enjoys meeting the fans. I have it from a inside source that they will have Rhys Hoskins at the December show.

That "COA" Ain't Worth the Paper It's Written OnAlong the comic book acquisitions line, things have been a little slow. Several months ago, I was contacted by a family member of a former good customer. Unfortunately he passed away years ago and the family member, who wasn’t a collector, had inherited them. Not sure of what to do with them, he went to the trouble of individually listing about half of the collection on an online comic book spread sheet. Not knowing how to grade, he allowed the program to reveal a retail value based upon a default condition of 9.4. Fortunately, he didn’t get around to going to that trouble for the entire group, as SO many weren’t worth bothering to list–there is NO market for them. However, as you can guess, the sheer bulk of the over 4,000 comics listed produced an extremely high number–especially with an assumed stated 9.4 grade! Of that total, over one-third of it was represented by one comic alone. Yes, it was an early key Silver Age comic, decent shape but it certainly wasn’t a 9.4!

I was forwarded the site and password to his account and checked out the 4000+ comics already listed. He asked if he should continue listing the rest. I advised against doing it as it was too much work, especially if the remaining issues were of the same ilk. I’m glad I saved him the time and effort, for when I did make a visit, and saw the rest, they were. Around 30 boxes of comics, only two 12 centers in the bunch (but they were good ones! and still had my price tags on them!) with 90+% being ’80-’90s material. Of course there were a copper age keys in there. Still…

Two weeks after waiting for a number that would satisfy the owner, I finally made an offer that I knew was fair, but naturally way, way, way below the “retail” value that the online site spit out. He decided to sit on them. I understood as he had them up and out of the way on a shelving unit and this was his first effort into trying to move them. But the search goes on.

That "COA" Ain't Worth the Paper It's Written OnI dropped off 19 boxes of comics at an auction house recently. They will go off sometime next month. I included some of the odd-ball items I had been hossing back and forth to the flea markets we’ve had–such as the box of Heroclix (the auctioneer didn’t know what they were), the box of Pez dispensers, the comic book-related tapes, the group of Beatles memorabilia, and tried to give him the Norman Rockwell “collector” plates I had. He passed on them and when I asked what he thought I should do with them, he replied, “Ever heard of skeet shooting?” Damn, and they all had COAs, too!

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