Some words about “Auction LOAs”

In each of our auctions, we’ve been fortunate enough to have offered a growing number of quality autographed items.  Each auction, the selection we offer has gotten larger, more varied, and certainly more interesting.

As a result, though, we’ve felt the need to clarify our position on “Auction LOAs.”

Autograph collectors have a variety of opinions about the rise in third-party authenticators in the hobby.  Our opinion is that with the large amount of fraud pervasive in the hobby, third-party authenticators have done a world of good.  Sure, they occasionally make mistakes.  Sure, they are providing opinions that are, from time to time, frustrating.  However, on balance, they have an immense amount of knowledge, enormous databases of exemplars from which to compare, and large networks of experts with whom to consult.  Most importantly, the two largest authenticators – James Spence Authentication and PSA/DNA – have simply seen an incredible number of autographs, and have a wealth of experience from which to draw.

Our primary partners for the authentication of autographed material are JSA and PSA/DNA.  We are comfortable with their expertise, and are thrilled to work with them on the authentication of the autographed items that we sell.

Occasionally, however, we receive autographed items that have been authenticated with an Auction LOA.  These LOAs have been utilized by Auction Houses as a sort of limited LOA, featuring the opinion of a third-party authenticator but not an actual LOA.  The auction houses, perhaps to save money, enlist the authenticator to review a large volume of material in a short period of time, issuing these auction LOAs as a Seal of Approval but not a final verdict on authenticity.  Upon the auction close, the winning bidder receives the item along with the Auction LOA, which is described as a “preliminary review” of the item in question.  The winning bidder is then required to resubmit the item for a “full” LOA, for an additional fee.  It is explicitly stated in the auction LOA that it is entirely possible that upon full review, the item in question could be rejected as inauthentic.

Typically, the LOA incorporates the auction house’s catalog description of the item into the LOA.  They do this for the purposes of properly identifying the item (since no photos are included in the auction LOA), but the result is misleading.

Recently, we received a consignment consisting of a Babe Ruth autographed check.  The check came with an auction LOA, and the auction house described the signature as being a “10”.  Unfortunately, the consignor was under the impression when purchasing the check that he was getting a Babe Ruth check with the signature graded 10 by the authenticator.  Unfortunately, there was no way this signature would have graded a 10, or anywhere close.  When the consignor received the item, he continued to think he had a Ruth signature graded 10, because the auction house’s hyperbolic description was written into the LOA.

When we received the check, we immediately realized that the LOA was simply an auction LOA, and the signature was by no means a 10.  After breaking the bad news to the consignor, we submitted the check to JSA and received a full LOA.  Sadly, however, we returned it to the consignor, who would surely have taken a loss on his purchase since he thought he was buying a “10” when he won it.

We do not feel the Auction LOAs are unethical.  They are what they are.  We do, however, feel that some auction house descriptions are misleading – sometimes intentionally so – and when these descriptions find their way into an LOA, they can artificially inflate the value of a signed item, and even provide bidders with a false sense of security.

As such, Love of the Game has elected not to offer items with Auction LOAs for sale in our auction.  While we will take them on consignment, we will submit them to a third-party authenticator for full LOAs or Basic Certs (depending on value).  This is, of course, more costly, but in the end, we feel that it provides our customers with a level of confidence and comfort that the Auction LOA does not provide.  Furthermore, we feel that when our customers purchase signed, authenticated items from us, they should not have to pay additional money to obtain a “full” LOA.  They’ve already purchased the item!

Going forward, any authenticated item sold by Love of the Game will have a full LOA or a basic certification, with the exception of those signed items that are authenticated and encapsulated by PSA, SGC, or JSA (those items, of course, do not require certs since they are encapsulated).

On a similar note, we are occasionally asked why we sometimes sell signed items that are not authenticated.  There are two reasons why this may happen: 1) The item was submitted too close to our auction deadline, and time did not permit us to obtain the authentication.  2) The item is simply not valuable enough to justify the investment.  In both of those cases, please know that we do not sell non-authenticated, signed items unless we are certain of their authenticity, and we guarantee that such items will pass muster with JSA or PSA/DNA.  In the event that they do not, we are happy to issue a full refund on your purchase.

We hope that this clarifies our position regarding autograph authentication.