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$85,000 UD Legendary Cuts Card May Have TWO Fake Autographs!

The one-of-a-kind Upper Deck baseball card featuring autographs from Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner may not be so rare after all. The card was taken from a pack of 2005 Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts and features four of the five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. A great attraction – if it were real.

This map (shown here) first came to attention in November 2005 when collector Barry Scott of Guntown, Mississippi, put the map up for auction and sold it for a whopping $85,000. But then (this article surfaced recently. It appears that Kevin Demitros, the 50-year-old Milwaukee airport planner who purchased the card, was watching an HBO special on sports memorabilia fraud and saw way shockingly the authenticity of his card questioned. The same card he had thought was a “retirement investment. And why wouldn’t it be? The card was from Upper Deck. Upper Deck!

Below is an excerpt from the article:

Demitros watched an HBO special on fraud in the sports memorabilia industry and saw a scan of his card examined by a convicted person as part of a federal tampering investigation. The man claimed two of the autographs on the card were fake

Demitros is now embroiled in a dispute with the card’s maker, Carlsbad-based Upper Deck Co., which stands behind its products but said it was willing to have the card reviewed by an independent third party to determine its authenticity. .

Three authentication companies that studied an analysis of it said they believe Ruth and Johnson’s autographs may not be genuine.

“It’s a huge question. It’s an opinion,” Fitzsimmons said of trying to verify such old autographs.

First of all, I hope the signatures are real. Any false memory is bad for the hobby. It certainly looks like Upper Deck will do the right thing here and take care of Kevin if the signatures actually turn out to be fake (they better or they’ll have a PR nightmare and probably a lawsuit). There is, however, an important lesson to be learned from all of this – no one can ever say with 100% certainty that an autograph is real.

Hopefully Kevin’s story will bring more attention to the subject. Upper Deck, the leading card maker, a company that has its own authentication service that employs industry experts, may have missed another counterfeit…on one of its most valuable cards!

On the Upper Deck website, they claim:

Fake autographs claim casualties among unsuspecting fans. Upper Deck Authenticated ® has become the first company to address the problem of tampering by creating an airtight five-step authentication system that ensures fans get real autographs. Today, the company maintains autograph relationships with the game’s biggest stars and produces some of the finest memorabilia on the market.

And yet, arguably their most important card of all time, the one that sold for $85,000, included 2 alleged counterfeits!

This isn’t a new thing – I was exposed firsthand (on a much smaller level of course) to this last year when a friend of mine got an autograph from Mike Vick at the Pro Bowl for being accused by the buyer of the item that PSA said was fake, costing them a sale and damaging their reputation. It showed me firsthand that you’ll never know for sure, the best you can do is pay for an opinion. I went on to lay out an argument about the damage that autograph authentication does to the industry – not because experts give their opinion on the authenticity of an autograph, but because people have been led to believe they should treat this opinion as a FACT, driving up autograph prices to levels unreasonable for the average collector.

This story only adds to the argument presented in this article – the only way to really know if an autograph in your collection is real is to get it yourself. Anything else – a Certificate of Authenticity or even a certification from PSA/DNA – does not guarantee the authenticity of an autograph, it just increases the likelihood that it is real.

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