Thursday, May 30, 2013

How responsible are the buyers of fakes and forgeries?

I found this interesting article in Coin World magazine. It's about someone (an art dealer) who purchased a fake painting and later sued. A New York court ruled that it was the buyer's responsibility because the buyer knew it could be fake, and did not exert due diligence -- that is, have it checked by experts -- prior to the purchase.

Of course, this scenario can be applied to all risky areas of collecting.

While I am not one to ever side with shady sellers, the article makes a strong case that there is responsibility on the part of the buyer to properly inspect an item before it is purchased.

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Accountability matters

By Armen R. Vartian
Article first published in May 20, 2013, Expert Advice section of Coin World

I recently received an email from a Coin World reader asking what remedies a coin buyer would have if he purchased “raw” (uncertified by a third-party grading service) coins from a dealer as Mint State 60 or Mint State 63, and then the coins were returned “no graded” (were rejected for encapsulation) upon submission to a major grading service.

Answering his question got me thinking about the impact of grading services in the industry generally, and also about a legal doctrine applied to sales of art and set forth in a recent federal court decision in New York.

Facts simple
The facts of the New York case were simple.

A collector wanted to sell a painting by Milton Avery, and sent the painting to a warehouse in New York City where, as the court noted, “any prospective buyer ... could inspect it.” A firm ended up buying the painting for $200,000, after the firm’s president inspected it at the warehouse.

Shortly thereafter, this firm, a dealer, submitted the painting to the Avery Foundation, which declared it a fake. The collector refused to make a refund. The court sided with the collector.

Siding with the collector
First, it declared that although both parties may have been mistaken as to the painting’s authenticity, the dealer was negligent in not having the Avery Foundation examine the painting before the purchase transaction, rather than afterward.

The court also noted that even if the seller knew the painting was a fake, the dealer had every opportunity to have the painting inspected by the foundation, and therefore couldn’t reasonably have relied upon any statements the seller made about authenticity.

The federal court emphasized that the foundation had sent the seller a letter stating that its representatives were willing to travel to the warehouse for an inspection, and that the dealer should have done more than merely have its president look at the painting himself.

Inspect before buying
Citing other cases involving failure to properly inspect real estate to discover defects, the court concluded, “The very fact that [the dealer] felt the need to seek authentication by the Avery Foundation after the purchase indicates that it knew how to do so prior to the purchase.”

It’s not clear how my reader’s situation is affected by this. In the stamp collecting field, it is normal for buyers to require expertization before concluding a purchase.

I say “concluding” because sometimes the stamps are submitted before money changes hands, and other times the transaction is completed subject to the buyer having the right to rescind if the stamps are found to be inauthentic.

No such practice exists for coins, in part because so many coins are already certified. Nevertheless, raw coins still are bought and sold with some frequency.

Consider certification
Would it be fair for a court to chide a buyer of fake or overgraded coins for not having had the coins submitted to the grading service before he purchased them?

Many, if not most, sellers would balk at such a requirement, and simple sell to someone else. And the buyer in the New York case was a dealer, who presumably knew the risks.

Shouldn’t collectors also be held responsible for knowing the risks of buying uncertified coins?

Shouldn’t collectors also be responsible for knowing that, for coins of coins of substantial value, if they aren’t certified, it might be because they aren’t genuine or are overgraded?

Armen R. Vartian is an attorney and author of A Legal Guide to Buying and Selling Art and Collectibles.

Collectibles and Law column | Coin World

Friday, May 24, 2013

Apollo 8: First to the Moon

Apollo 11 tends to get most of the limelight, but many forget that Apollo 8 was the first mission to the Moon. While Apollo 8 did not land on the Moon, they were the first to leave Earth and orbit the Moon in December 1968.

It was a daring mission led by the incomparable Frank Borman. Jim Lovell, the future commander of the Apollo 13 mission, and Bill Anders rounded out the crew.

The crew of the historic Apollo 8
Bill Anders, James Lovell and Frank Borman

On Christmas Eve 1968 during a live television transmission heard by an estimated 2 billion people, each crew member read a section from the Book of Genesis (verses 1-10). Borman finished the broadcast by wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone on Earth with, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

(As an aside, it's almost unimaginable that religious content like this would be permitted on a broadcast today. If it was, they would have to include a message from every conceivable religion (and atheists) as to be as "inclusive" as possible. Some would call this "progress" I assume.)

The signed limited print above was issued by the San Diego Air and Space Museum in 2008 -- the 40th anniversary of the mission. As space collectors know, Bill Anders is an exceedingly difficult signer, making an Apollo 8 crew signed item one of the least common and most desirable Apollo crews.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Story of the Ted Williams “Thumper” postcards

The Ted William’s “Thumper” postcards often appear for sale. The signatures are generally authentic; however, it is possible that unsigned versions of the card exist where a forgery could be added.

So, where did these Thumper postcards come from?

Reportedly, Ted Williams had a business interest in an orange grove. When someone ordered a certain quantity of oranges, they received a free signed postcard. A larger 5.5 x 8.5 print also exists, and presumably these were sent with larger orders.
Whitey Ford Thumper Postcard


Interestingly, there are also Thumper signed postcards for others players as well including Brooks Robinson, Whitey Ford, Stan Musial and others. The quality of the artwork varies greatly. It is unclear if these were also "orange grove" giveaways." The Williams postcard bears a nice likeness, while some others -- notably the Ford -- are somewhat dis-proportioned and cartoonish.

Ted Williams Thumper Postcard envelope

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tour these museum-like space collections

Collectors Anthony Pizzitola and Dan Mangieri provide a glimpse into their amazing space memorabilia collections. Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Thursday, May 09, 2013

RR Auction Spring 2013 Space & Aviation Auction

It's once again time for RR Auction's Spring Space & Aviation Auction.

While the video focuses on the flown equipment, there are also a wide selection of top notch autographed items in the auction.




All lots are current available for your viewing pleasure in preview.

As some regular readers may know, I am Steve Zarelli, RR's space authenticator.