TEAM SALES + CHARITY AUCTIONS = RELIABILITY?
Many sports organizations in all three major leagues regularly sell game-used items to fans and collectors via multiple means. Stadium sales, souvenir stands, off-season conventions, and the like give people a chance to take home the jersey, bat, cap, helmet, or whatever of teams and players they enjoy.
Unfortunately, the reliability of the LOAs and even the identification of these items varies as much as the routes by which they are made available. Some teams, such as the Colorado Rockies, offer relatively detailed LOAs with their items, and other equipment collectibles are marked with MLB holograms that can verify the nature of a given bat, ball, jersey, etc.
The flip side, however, are vague and generic certificates and letters that are ripe for abuse if obtained by the wrong parties. A few teams, such as the Cleveland indians and Indianapolis Colts, have nice notices stating that an item was obtained from team auspices, but fail to indicate just WHAT that item was. One could conceivably buy a Colts jersey of their punter, take the generic Colts certificate, and pair it with a bogus Peyton Manning jersey. Or, a Tribe enthusiast with a crooked streak could buy a jersey of bullpen catcher Dan Williams, and match the generic Indians cert up with a Travis Hafner jersey they bought off the rack at a sporting good store and altered accordingly.
Even full-fledged LOAs from teams aren’t without potential problems. For years, the Chicago Cubs offered “fill-in-the-blank” LOAs with jerseys sold at the year-end ballpark sales and the winter Cubs Convention. The filling in, however, was done by ballpark sales clerks, many of whom didn’t know much about baseball, and some of whom rushed through their duties because of long lines waiting to make purchases. It was not unheard of for Cubs sales clerks to give buyers they were familiar with blank LOAs and tell the buyer to fill them out themselves, again done in an effort to “keep the line moving”. All it would take would be one crook to get this type of treatment, and who knows where it could lead.
With the advent of NNOB home jerseys being worn by the Cubs in 2005-06, identifications of these nameless tops seems to be done exclusively with spring rosters, and ignoring the numbers/jerseys being reissued during the regular season, especially with the roster turnover the Cubs had in ’06. One dealer, Zeb Fowler of Oregon’s Sports Warehouse, acquired two 2006 #40 Cubs jerseys indirectly via the 2006 September tent sale, both of which were ID’d in the collar-attached sale tag as being Todd Wellemeyer’s…despite the fact that Phil Nevin also wore #40 in ’06 and that the two shirts were decidedly different sizes (one was a 48, the other a 54).
The Cubs have also issued “game-used’ LOAs of this nature for styles sold that were ordered by the team, but never actually worn, such as the 1994 blue alternate mesh jerseys and the 1995 road replacement player tops written about earlier. It sounds bad, but, realistically, how many team sales clerks would actually know the true nature of these items, especially when they are sold in the same sales as game-used items they could relate to?
Basically, the team LOA is not infallible…your own due diligence, as well as third party evaluations, should not automatically be discarded in these instances.
AS FOR CHARITIES…
Same thing, unfortunately. Items offered in fundraisers may be what is described…or they may not.
It seems that some charities, for example, have gotten properly sized, properly tagged Yankees jerseys, signed, that have been described to these charities as either “game-used’ or “game-issued”, but with one notable problem. The charity auction jerseys carry the Russell or Majestic sleeve logos…something not seen on actual game worn or game-intended items such as what are sold by Steiner Sports. A recent eBay auction featured a 2005 Derek Jeter jersey won from the charitable foundation of a major league player, but with the Twin Peaks logo on the sleeve. Despite the proper sizing and tagging, it was NOT a true “game-issued” jersey due to this (the charity labelled it as such). The eBay seller, after being advised of these problems by other collectors, painfully added the newfound information to his listing, and asked buyers NOT to bid.
This was, sad to say, NOT a unique situation. A charity fundraiser I attended religiously for a decade found Roger Clemens, then a Yankee, participating one autumn, and the Rocket came bearing gifts…properly sized, properly tagged, autographed 2003 Yankees jerseys of himself and other Yankee stars…all with the Russell “R” on the sleeve. The charity offered them up as being “game used”, even after I pointed out the sleeve inconsistency to the auction director…since Clemens handed them to him, that overruled this obvious flaw, in his mind.
The worst example of misleading terminology, however, came to my attention in the 1990s when I performed my own third-party authentications. A Texas collector sent me a Houston Oilers home jersey of quarterback Warren Moon for examination. The jersey was clearly NOT an NFL gamer…no NOB, no evidence of one having been there, retail store tagging, and, except for a smudge of dirt at the front of the collar, no wear to speak of. Upon hearing my findings, the collector returned the Moon replica to the charity, a Houston-based organization, expecting a refund.
He never got it.
The charity responded with the insistence that the store jersey was, indeed, game-used. However, they pointed out that the “game” wasn’t a NFL contest, but rather a celebrity touch football game that Moon wore the shirt in. Therefore, it WAS game-used, according to the charity, and the refund was denied. So much for accuracy in advertising!
Most mistakes by charities aren’t as blatantly deceptive as this, but most charity auction coordinators aren’t game-used experts or veteran collectors, either, and, even when shown potential problems, may, as my charity auction-managing friend did, overlook the obvious for fear of offending the donor, especially if that donor is a future Hall of Famer or an otherwise influential type. Considering that, be willing to draw upon authenticator and/or collector expertise to confirm or refute any doubts you may have.
NEXT TIME: Score Board “authentic” jerseys…how to spot them.