I suspect this article and topic will be met with a certain mixed response. Fact of the matter is, I have mixed feelings writing both it and the supporting policy for MEARS. Not all that long ago, “authenticators” or people offering opinions on items were by and large some of the earliest collectors and dealers in the game used hobby/industry. People sought them out in many cases to find out what they had or might have. This was especially true with bats and was largely in a time before “Bats” by Vince Malta, Ronald Fox, Bill Riddell, and Michael Specht. Dave Bushing and Joe Phillips helped educate the collecting public as well with various guides on bats, gloves, and balls. Dave Miedema and Phil Wood produced newsletters dealing with uniforms as well as writing for trade publications like SCD.
About the same time as all of this was unfolding, the dynamic and importance of what people above did and were doing began to shift to identifying problematic items. This was compounded by both the individual and industry realization in the value of game used items. By the late 1980s, manufacturers were producing uniforms in far greater supply and in virtually the same quality as those used by players. Anaconda & Kaye bats, Scoreboard baseball jerseys, Champion basketball uniforms are just a few examples. Players also began to realize this and some began managing and marketing their own inventories of items as well.
MEARS saw some this, and as a result, developed a grading concept for post 1987 jerseys in the form of the “A5”. We continue to evaluate the environment in which we operate and do so with the understanding that we have a shared responsibility for many things with many people. Part of this sense of responsibility has manifested itself in our policies for disclosure and buyer protection. Other times it has been reflected in the way we interact with various auction houses and the expectations for responsibility we have for them such as only being able to the list the names of individuals who actually looked at an item. I personally have attempted to provide a larger framework for a hobby/industry association that has yet to get any serious interest or involvement from others.
This brings me to the point and subject of the article, the shared responsibility that collectors and consigners have in what appears to be an ever growing problem…I refer it as the “Silence is Consent” issue and it is a direct outgrowth of what I have described above. The scenario is becoming all too familiar. A person lists or sells an item as one thing such as a team issued product with no use; a blank stock jersey, cap or jacket etc…and then it shows up at auction or re-sale with use or now somehow has become “game used” either through application of use or wear or by an opinion.
Some have offered that it is the authenticator’s or person offering an opinion on the item responsibility to catch this and weed it out. Still others say the responsibility lies with the auction house who has the final decision to run the item. I don’t disagree with either of these two hobby/industry entities sharing some of the responsibility. But what about the person who bought the item as one thing and is looking for someone else to underwrite their criminal act. Here is where the concept of “Silence is Consent” comes into play.
A person who knowingly buys an item and remains silent about what they bought and what they now have someone else offering on their behalf is in my opinion, committing fraud. Clearly this is the case if they have manufactured wear or use.
I would like nothing more than to say that MEARS will catch this 100% of time but 100% would be unrealistic. If we felt we were above error, we would not have created the Buyer Protection program or spent thousands of dollars buying reference materials. This is our responsibility within the hobby/industry and reflects our role in this enterprise. I feel we also have a responsibility to openly discourage this problem for the benefit of the larger enterprise we serve. As I have stated on numerous occasions, there are no industry standards of conduct that would fall from a professional association that compel MEARS to do things we have done; and this will be another example.
As part of our evaluation process and data base efforts, it will now be a requirement to do a search for items on E-Bay matching the description of the item we are asked to evaluate. Of course there are limitations with this based on how long those records as kept available by E-Bay, but we will add this to the process none the less.
In cases when we suspect that an item has “become a gamer,” we will make every attempt to contact the seller, inform him or her of what our concerns are and why. We may request that he or she tell us who the item was sold to. If we suspect the item has been “gamed,” a number of things may happen depending on how sure we are of our information. Not engaging in “Witch Hunts” is also a responsibility we have. The options include but may not be limited to:
1. A notice that MEARS will no longer accept items from this person or business with the names of those companies and individuals listed on the MEARS web site. Recently we had a dealer who made the claim that he guaranteed his items would pass a MEARS inspection, only to find that a number of his items where problematic. It is not fair to collectors to permit these people to use MEARS as a marketing ploy.
2. The item will be evaluated and listed within the appropriate census as “Unable to Authenticate” detailing the problems and history of the item.
3. The item and information we have will be turned over to either:
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service
606 E Juneau Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
330 E Kilbourn Ave # 600
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Additionally, the submission form both on-line and in print will carry the following language. This will also apply to those who wish to consign items for sale with Troy and Dave. The web site will be updated in a matter of days to reflect this.
I am submitting this item with full disclosure of its origin, history and condition with respect to use, wear, or alterations. I am not knowingly offering or representing something as game used that I purchased as game issued, team issued, or a retail/promotional offering. I understand that through the course of the evaluation performed by MEARS, I may be asked about the source of the item and history of ownership. MEARS reserves the right to no longer accept items from me or those that I have a business association with based on the submission of problematic items. In certain cases, MEARS reserves the right to turn the item and any and all information pertaining to it over to a law enforcement agency that has proper jurisdiction.
Ideally, auction houses would require similar language on their consignment forms as well, but MEARS does not control the operational decisions made by them.
I am sure that some will say that all of this is a bit Draconian or that we should have been doing this all along. Still others will have no problem with it as they will never be part of the circumstances that have given rise to this issue. Some may ask who is my target audience for this message and policy. The target audience is the same one who has the responsibility for this, the person who desires to create the “gamer” through manufactured or contrived use/wear or silence. MEARS’ sense of responsibility is demonstrated in that we are not willing to be a party to this nor remain silent about it.
MEARS Auth, LLC