Collector’s Corner: Guide To Smart Sports Memorabilia Collecting


For many including yours truly collecting sports memorabilia of your hero’s gives you a sense of being closer to the game and allows you to display your team pride 24/7/365.  But what if you don’t live in or near your favorite team’s city?  This makes obtaining autographs in person very difficult.   So how can Joe avg. income go about building a collection he or she can be proud of and ensured of its authenticity at the same time?  It’s easier than you think actually, memorabilia specifically autographs has become a closely monitored, multibillion dollar industry for quite some time now.

my 2009 UNC championship jersey signed by Tyler Hansbrough, in the case is also a Hansbrough signed pic commemorating the game

You can find almost anything on the internet and there are many ways to spot a fake and safeguard yourself and ensure your purchases are authentic.  A few things to keep in mind:

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is: Michael Jordan/Babe Ruth/Muhammad Ali autographs especially large pieces are always expensive when authentic for example if you see one for $20 it’s a fake or a reprint.

Certificates and Letters of Authenticity (COA):  Anyone can print a COA, most items will come with some sort of COA unfortunately a lot of them are not worth the paper they are printed on.  The source of the COA is the most important thing when obtaining an autograph.  There are several companies with outstanding reputations that employ handwriting experts which compare signatures presented to them for authentication to ones known to be 100% authentic.   Avoid COA’s from sellers on auction sites or lower budget websites issued directly from their company bearing their name only.  Trust only reputable companies, I have provided a list at the bottom of the article.  Most reputable COA’s have a matching hologram with matching serial #’s somewhere on the item and the COA.

Signed Trading Cards: Trading card companies started inserting signature cards about a decade ago, in most cases the autograph is on a piece of foil that the athlete signed in mass in the presence of a representative of the trading card company.  Those foil pieces are then added to the cards. Be wary of any card that doesn’t say anything about the card being signed on the back of the card.  Usually it will say something like “Congratulations you have received an authentic autograph from player X” at the very least the front of the card will say something like “Signature Series” or “Topps Authentic Rookie Autograph” you get the idea.  If you’re not sure, simply enter the cards # found on the back of the card along with the year and card manufacturer into a search engine and you will find the information you need.

Don’t get discouraged or over anxious to buy!  The worst thing you can do in collecting is get over anxious and over bid on an item or pay too much because you really like something you come across in a sports store or a website.  Always keep this in mind, very few items are one of a kind if they are they are clearly labeled 1/1 and will cost you thousands of dollars more times than not.  If you find something you like take a picture of it, look it up online, keep looking at other sports stores chances are you will not only find 1 more but many more maybe thousands more.  Some of my favorite pieces were had for under $100 like a Jerry Rice authentic signed jersey with a COA from Jerry Rice and PSA/DNA for $80, Dean Smith signed pic for $70 or a Joe Montana HOF inscribed full size real 49er helmet for $225.  It can be done and a collector should never rush, if you truly want a piece research it and get it for the best price.  The worst feeling you can have as a collector is paying for an item and coming across it over and over for a lower price.  In the end don’t get caught paying more than you feel the item is worth or more than you want to pay.

Below is a list of companies that authenticate all types of sports memorabilia for autographs as well as card grading and are very reputable.  All of these companies offer online verification, each authentic item has a serial # that you can verify and register the product under your name when you purchase them.


JSA (James Spence Authentication)

Steiner Sports

UDA (Upper Deck)

Legends Autographs

GA (Gridiron Authentics)

Rich Altman

BC Sports