Paul Wedding’s sports memorabilia collection is impressive.
“I have 65 jerseys, 30 hockey sticks, 250 hockey pucks,” says the Auburn Hills man, who’s amassed his collection over the last two years.
Wedding says he spent over $13,000 on autographs from some of sports’ biggest stars, from Wayne Gretzky to Tom Brady, buying it all online from an internet auction company.
And none of it, he believes, is real.
“I have no reason to believe any of it is real, none,” Wedding said.
It was earlier this year, while showing off his collection, that one of his friends—another collector—pulled him aside. He told him the autographs were forgeries.
All of it came from Coach’s Corner Sports Auction, a popular, Pennsylvania-based online auction site for sports memorabilia from around the country.
Right now, the website lists more than 2,000 pieces currently up for auction.
"It doesn’t have a good reputation in the industry,” said Kevin Keating, a nationally recognized autograph authenticator who’s worked with the FBI during its investigations into the memorabilia industry.
When he looked at some of the items Paul bought, Keating described them as “bad attempts at forgeries.”
There are signs you can look for when trying to spot fake signatures. Some bad forgeries can be avoided by just comparing the signature with an authenticated one found online.
But the biggest red flag, Keating says, can be the price.
“A lot of people purchase items based on price comparisons, and if something is priced below the general going rate appears to be, that should be a red flag right there,” he said.
Last month, our sister station in Philadelphia tried to catch up with Scott Malack, the owner of Coach’s Corner.
He refused an interview, then walked into his business and closed the door.
A day later, his general manger Lee Tryphel called our sister station and defended the company, denying fraud. He said Coach’s Corner can’t examine the thousands of pieces that others put up for auction each month on its site, and he estimates 20% of the lower priced items—under a couple hundred bucks—can be forgeries, and a likely higher percentage for more expensive items, adding “authenticating pieces is a game we can’t play.” And yet the company provides these certificates of authenticity with each items the sell.
“There’s a lot of money in autographs,” Keating said, “and as long as there’s money to be made, there’s going be fraud. It’s prevalent in any type of business.