Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sports Memorabilia and Autographs Industries Saturated with Fraud

An important story for sports fans and memorabilia collectors - from my reporting over on WTSP:
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - The world's largest privately-held autograph collection is now open to the public, the newest addition to the St. Pete Museum of History. But the 10 News Investigators found numerous indications some of the most prized autographs may not be authentic.

"Schrader's Little Cooperstown," named after its owner, Dennis Schrader of Oldsmar, is on loan to the museum for the next 20 years. The exhibit took about a year and $300,000 to construct.

"I think I have more balls than (the Hall of Fame)," Schrader told 10 News. "It's the big one, Guinness Book of Records, certified by them: biggest in the world."

Schrader's collection is 57 years in the making: from the majority of baseball's Hall of Famers to survivors of the Holocaust and Titanic; from Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe to Elvis and Priscilla Presley. More than 4,600 autographed baseballs now cross multiple celebrity genres. Many of the balls were collected over the last 15 years from his regular seats at Tropicana Field.

However, many of the collection's most impressive autographs were not obtained in-person, but purchased online or at auctions.  And Schrader admits memorabilia fraud has been a problem for the industry over the last few decades.

Schrader also admits his collection may very well have some fake autographs. Yet he adamantly rebuffed 10 News questions about specific items' authenticity.

"It's gotten really bad," Schrader said of memorabilia fraud. "I'm glad I built this collection before it got really bad. But there's a lot of fraud out there."

Schrader says his collection is valued somewhere in the $2.5 million range, with the most expensive ball bearing the autographs of both Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. He says he got "a steal" about 25 years ago when he bought the ball for $25,000.

But in 2006, the St. Petersburg Times reported "Schrader would love to find a baseball autographed by the pair of (Monroe and DiMaggio)." Only one was known to exist at the time, and it sold at auction for $191,200.
Read the rest of the story here.


  1. Sounds like something a clever museum could make lemonade out of, over time bringing in experts to authenticate the items and perhaps setting up a separate display of fakes versus the real things. Be educational for all.

    In fact, nothing stopping them from becoming the go to place for memorabilia collectors of all stripes to come and learn something about how to tell the difference. They've got the next twenty years.

  2. If the autograph is real or fake, what difference does it make? What is the intrinsic value of having a famous person's autograph? Is it any more valuable or have more intrinsic value than a famous person's excrement?

    1. Meh. I get your point. But it does seem intrinsically human. I'm not going to scoff at it. Being in the presence of the real Constitution or Declaration signed by the founders versus being in the presence of a copy. Having a signed first edition of your favorite book. Just seems human, is all.

      And ya know, I'll bet there were indeed cultures at some point that venerated and valued a famous person's excrement. A recent artistic kerfuffle revealed a culture that values elephant excrement.

      Who can ever tell with people? But I take your larger point. Perhaps we'll evolve some day. Don't see it happening in our lifetimes.

  3. Another classic article by NO'ah about "assuming" something from "maybe" nothing, good job! lol