I have been following a story that was published recently online involving the FBI’s investigation on six dealers and fraudulent game used jerseys sold over the course of a number of years. When you see a story like this come up, horrendous thoughts of what may have gone down in the industry come to mind. Sports card companies are mentioned in the breakdown, and that is something that I think bears mention in a way that may confirm some fears had by many collectors over authenticity of the swatches that are present in almost 100% of the products released each year.
There is a growing feeling around the hobby that all is not what it seems when it comes to jersey cards, and after seeing some of the biggest names in Game Used Memorabilia sales pop up in this investigation, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. I applaud manufacturers like Leaf for coming out and saying directly that they had never purchased from these perpetrators, but that is like me coming out and saying that I never bought any jerseys from these guys. Leaf doesnt have as much of an impact in these types of cards because of their place in the industry, and I would feel much more vindicated if the big three said similar things.
So far there is silence from the major manufacturers, understandably so, as there is not a definite outcome as of yet. However, its easy to say that fakes in this hobby are just as much a story as the legit items, if not only because of the virus like infestation they have had lately. Again, Sports Collectors Daily is the only hobby trade to report so far, and that is par for the course. When these jerseys are such an enormous part of our hobby, you would expect that there would be a lot more commentary around this probe from the feds.
When people were taken out of the building in cuffs at this year’s national convention, and investigators were present at the last few to delve further into things like this, there needs to be more discussion. Sports Memorabilia is a HUGE industry with TONS of money behind it, so there are always going to be criminals who want to make illegitimate gains from the situation. This is not a surprise, but it does have ripples that go further out than we would normally expect, if not only because of the people involved.
Bottom line, transparency in this matter is paramount for everyone involved in the industry. If a company did unknowingly buy from nefarious individuals who were staked by once reputable dealers, we need to know about it. The sheer number of jerseys bought and used each year is so large, that I doubt the majority of them are even in the same zip code as this situation. On the other hand, if there are some jerseys that were purchased, its the responsibility of the manufacturer to inform the collecting public as soon as the investigation is complete.
There are a lot of eyes trained on this part of collecting cards, and that laser focus will become that much hotter as more suspect behavior is uncovered. Its also time for fakes to be at the forefront of the consciousness of every collector, as there is no reason to leave people in the dark. Its our money that is being burned, and if a collector is uneducated, it leaves the door open for every scam artist out there to take advantage of them. That isnt fair to anyone.