The only Upper Deck baseball card with autographs from Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner might not be so rare after all. The card was pulled from a 2005 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts package and features four of the five members of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame class. A big jerk, if it were real.
This card (shown here) first attracted attention in November 2005 when collector Barry Scott of Guntown, Mississippi put it up for auction and sold it for $ 85,000. But then (this article appeared recently. It appears that Kevin Demitros, the 50-year-old Milwaukee airport planner who bought the card, was watching an HBO special on sports memorabilia fraud and surprisingly saw the authenticity of his card – he had imagined it to be a “retirement investment.” And why wouldn’t he? The Upper Deck ERA Card. Upper Deck!
Below is an excerpt from the article:
Demitros watched an HBO special on fraud in the sports memorabilia industry and saw a scan of his card being examined by someone convicted in connection with a federal counterfeiting investigation. The man claimed that two of the autographs on the card were fake
Demitros is now involved in a dispute with the card’s maker, Carlsbad-based Upper Deck Co., which stands behind its products, but said it is willing to have an independent third party review the card to determine its authenticity.
Three authentication companies that studied a scan said they believed Ruth and Johnson’s autographs might not be genuine.
“It’s a great question. It’s an opinion,” Fitzsimmons said of trying to verify such old autographs.
First of all, I hope the signatures are real. Any fake memorabilia is bad for the fans. It certainly looks like Upper Deck will do the right thing here and take care of Kevin if the signatures turn out to be fake (it’s better or they’ll have a PR nightmare and probably a lawsuit). However, there is an important lesson to be learned from all this: No one can say with 100% certainty that an autograph is real.
Hopefully, Kevin’s story will draw more attention to the subject. Upper Deck, the leading card maker, a company that has its own authentication service that industry savvy employees may still have overlooked a counterfeit … on one of their most valuable cards!
On the Upper Deck site they state:
Autograph forgeries victimize unsuspecting fans. Upper Deck Authenticated ® became the first company to find an answer to the problem of counterfeiting by creating a hermetic five-step authentication system that ensures fans get genuine autographs. Today, the company has autograph relationships with the biggest stars in the game and produces some of the best souvenirs on the market.
And yet his most important card, one that sold for $ 85,000, arguably included 2 alleged counterfeits!
This isn’t something new – I was exposed firsthand (on a much lower level, of course) to this last year when a friend of mine got an autograph from Mike Vick at the Pro Bowl only to be accused by the buyer of the item that PSA said it was a fake, costing it a sale and damaging its reputation. It illustrated me firsthand that you are never going to know for sure, that the best thing to do is pay for an opinion. I went on to make an argument about the damage that autograph authentication is doing to the industry, not because experts are giving their opinion on the authenticity of an autograph, but because people were being led to believe that they should treat that opinion as a FACT , raising autograph prices to unreasonable levels for the average collector.
This story only adds to the argument presented in that piece – the only way to really know if an autograph in your collection is real is to obtain it yourself. Anything else, a certificate of authenticity or even a PSA / DNA certification, does not guarantee the authenticity of an autograph, it simply increases the probability that it is real.