Monday, April 24, 2006

PSA/DNA Authenticator Was Also The Consignor

From The NY Daily News, 4/23/06


Memorabilia Mayhem

The sports memorabilia biz is most definitely not for the faint of heart. Collectors have long complained about deceptive advertising by auction houses; even more infuriating are the authenticators who claim to be independent but actually consigned the very items they claim they objectively appraised.

Those complaints, usually posted anonymously on Internet sites, are about to get a very public hearing in open court. A lawsuit filed in Boone County (Ind.) Superior Court by sports memorabilia dealer Bill Daniels accuses industry giants Mastro Auctions and PSA/DNA Authentication Services of fraud and questions the business practices and integrity of sports memorabilia's most important companies.

"I'm trying to fight this battle for every collector who has said, 'I got screwed but I have to take it,'" Daniels tells The Score.

The suit, scheduled for trial in June, says Daniels spent almost $20,000 to buy more than 2,000 autographed 8x10 photographs - including pictures of Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali - during Mastro's December 2004 auction.

The signatures, according to Mastro's catalogue, were authenticated by PSA/DNA. "The mother lode of autographed 8x10 color photos," the catalogue said. "The photos average NM/MT (near mint to mint) condition with '9-10' (on a scale of 1-10) signatures."

But Daniels says he got "sick to my stomach" when he received the photos. Sixty-five percent were damaged, with bent corners, creases and smeared signatures. Another 48 were in poor condition because the signatures were illegible. He also suspects some of the autographs may have been signed by players' secretaries - or may be forgeries.

Daniels contacted Mastro to get a refund, but when the company refused to exchange the lot or compensate him, he filed suit.

Mastro president Doug Allen says that's not accurate. "We offered Mr. Daniels the opportunity to return any photos he claims are undersized or have smeared autographs for a full refund on that portion of his purchase," he said in an E-mail. "Mr. Daniels refused the offer.

"I do not believe Mr. Daniels has ever identified an autograph he purchased that is not authentic," he adds.

Officials at Collectors Universe, PSA/DNA's parent company, did not return requests for comment.

Daniels and his attorney S. Andrew Burns later learned that PSA/DNA authenticator Zach Rullo, whose signature was on the letter of authenticity that accompanied the photos, was one of the consigners.

"That's a conflict of interest, absolutely," Burns says. "The biggest problem is that although they tell you how PSA is the leader in authentication and that they authenticated the lot, they never tell you that Zach owned it."

The quality of that authentication is also an issue; Burns says records indicate a three-man team that included Rullo spent 16 hours over two days poring through the 56,000 items offered in the 2004 auction. That's just a few seconds per item, the attorney says.

"That's not enough time to move the photos from one stack to another, never mind compare the signatures to exemplars or review the quality of the photos," he says.

Daniels, who says he spent $100,000 on Mastro auctions the year before he purchased the photo collection, says sports memorabilia's biggest auction house has lost a valuable customer. "They hold themselves out as the industry leader, but I'd like some checks and balances" Burns says about PSA/DNA. "If an auction house says something comes with a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity, I don't want to hear that PSA/DNA merely rubber stamped it."


Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree and hope this lawsuit becomes a class action instead. I know of others who have submitted items to PSA/DNA and later found out that their items even though they were listed as authentic, were not accepted by UACC dealers nor were they accepted at Sothebys when they sent them in for valuation. I personally think that PSA/DNA better get its act together or they will have their parent companys, Collectors Universe
' stock price plummeting faster than Enron when the collecting public finally gets wise!

JBoogie324 said...

I hope PSA/DNA gets what they deserve. I do not understand how people do not see the HUGE conflict of interest they have within the industry. I have had items denied by them, then sent elsewhere, to be forensically authenticated, only to be found authentic. They have denied a fellow collector's Joe DiMaggio posters and a few weeks later, offered to buy them from him. I was floored when he told me. People on eBay are so affixed with them it makes me sick. I feel the only way to make it in this industry is to deal with their stuff, which I just cannot bring myself to do. A campaign exposing these scam artists should be launched. I do not want them to clean up their act, I want them to be entirely shut down. This has gone way too far and has ruined the integrity of this hobby turned business.

Anonymous said...

Count me in boys. I got "bit" by PSA when eBay strongly suggested I have them authenticate my autograpg memorabilia, before selling it on eBay. I spent over $500 to have PSA authenticate several items that I personally had signed "in-person". PSA took my money and sent the items back, stating that all of them were non-authentic. Talk about a scam! And eBay states they are one of their premier authenticating companies. Wonder how much PSA pays eBay for that support?? When I wrote PSA and asked for further clarification, they never responded. So, folks, beware of these shady company. They are a bunch of crooks and wouldn't know an authentic autograph, if it was signed right in front of them!