RISE TO THE TOP OF THE GIFTING GAME
Before we know it, our loved ones are going to hand us their holiday shopping lists and if your family is anything like mine, what used to be video games and toy robots now reads autographed trading cards or a signed football, jersey or helmet from their favorite sports players. Prior to working in the sports memorabilia industry, I would not have known where to start – beyond a Google and a prayer. Now I am here, Dear Abby-style, to help all of the spouses, parents, co-workers and novice givers who want to get the best gift possible for their sports fanatic friends and family without breaking the bank.
#1 – (NOT) PAST THE POINT OF NO RETURN
Buy from a company that will accept returns after the holidays. I cannot tell you how many times we get the call that no gift giver of memorabilia wants to make, “I bought this autographed football, and my husband already has it, and I need to return it.” We, and others, will accept returns whenever and for whatever reason, as long as the merchandise is in sellable condition and not custom-framed. Choosing a gift can be difficult and we want everyone to be happy.
#2 – AUTHENTICITY MATTERS
Ensure the autograph on the item you’re looking to purchase is certified authentic. There are different types of authentication and different companies that provide these services. The most common phrase you’ll hear is a Certificate of Authenticity (or COA). In the past, these would be a physical piece of paper or card that stated the authenticity of the item and/or origination. Unfortunately, these were pretty easy to fake so as collecting has become a larger industry and we’ve moved into a new era of technology and invention, most authentication companies now use tamper-evident stickers (that may or may not still be referred to as a certificate or COA). The stickers can be a hologram and may have a QR code to direct you to the authenticator’s website database to verify your item. The most important aspect of a card or sticker is the number. The number is what you will use to look up on the authenticator’s official website and verify who signed the item and possibly where or when it was signed. This is an important feature that adds extra value to the collectible if you’re ever looking to possibly sell it in the future. The main benefit of the tamper-evident sticker is that it ensures the item you are receiving has not been altered. The sticker will leave specific marks if removed. Cards and tickets are slabbed or encapsulated, meaning they are sealed in a plastic case, authenticated and graded based on their condition. Finally, there is the Letter of Authenticity (or LOA). Letters are usually reserved for rare autographs, people who have passed away or items signed by multiple people. Some of the very reputable authentication companies include, but are not limited to:
#3 – PROTECT YOUR FLEX
Display cases and frames are highly recommended for autographed collectibles. Sports memorabilia, like other types of keepsakes, should be properly preserved. Framing is the best way to keep photos and jerseys pristine and looking great. Not to mention, it’s an excellent way to show off a prized autographed possession (while keeping it safe). Display cases for helmets, baseballs, footballs and endzone pylons are the best way to keep the items and the autographs preserved for years to come. Without proper care, the autograph may fade or smudge. In addition, depending on where they are stored or displayed, the item itself may become damaged by dust and lack of care. Autographed memorabilia items are an investment and should appreciate in value with time, if stored properly. For others, framing and display cases provide an avenue to show off your collectibles as if you have your very own art gallery or museum. Click here to learn how we custom-frame our jerseys!
#4 – A HELMET IS A HELMET, RIGHT?
Not all helmets are created equal. We are often asked to explain the difference between replica and authentic full-size football helmets. The simplest answer is the padding. The authentic helmet has the padding inside you would need to play in a professional game, while the replica has a plastic plate or an empty interior, depending on the age of the helmet. The longer answer is that an authentic helmet may add more value to the item due to the cost and accuracy of the construction, being the closest to what the players actually wear on the field. Additionally, there is an entire discussion about SpeedFlex versus Speed Rep or Eclipse versus Chrome and some of us who are buying gifts don’t care enough about the differences. It may seem overwhelming or complicated but, most of those terms mostly refer to the aesthetic aspects of the helmet. If you can afford it, go authentic. If you can’t, buy a replica version. At the end of the day, for most invested collectors, it is about the autograph. For those who just want it to look good, the matte black Eclipse and white matte Lunar variations, in addition to the shiny Chrome or radiant Flash versions always tend to grab the eye of admirers of a collection. They also add variation to an assortment that may already include the basic team designs. If the intended recipient is a stickler for historical accuracy, there are also throwback variations of team helmets corresponding to the different eras of uniforms worn by a team. Ardent collectors usually prefer to have the helmet bearing the autograph correspond to the style or design that was worn or used when that player was on the team. These are sometimes more difficult to find but can definitely add to the value. We have experts on-hand to help you find the best version of an autographed memorabilia item that fits both your budget and the fan or collector that you’re shopping for.
#5 – THE WRITING ON THE WALL
When it comes to the autograph itself, you want to find a clean, clear signature in a color that pops on the surface or photo – like white on red or black on white. As we all know, even some of the most accomplished individuals don’t necessarily have the neatest handwriting or sign their names legibly. Each signature is different. Certain players do not sign their entire name and others spell it out with every letter. There are players
like Pro Football Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks of the Florida State Seminoles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Lynn Swann of USC Trojans and Pittsburgh Steelers fame who have signatures that are works of art themselves. It is evident on all of their items (and we know from working with them at signings) that they take pride in their autographs and have added fun elements. Brooks incorporates a smiley face with his signature and Swann draws the letter S in his last name to resemble the elegant bird that is a homophone of his surname. Autographs can be acquired at an organized signing or captured in a quick moment – adding or detracting to the accuracy and quality of the signature. Some items have inscriptions (for example, a player’s number, championship, accomplishment(s), nickname or clever phrase) and some don’t. Some items are personalized and others aren’t. Inscriptions most often add to the value of the item as a lot of famous figures charge more for additional verbiage at an autograph signing. Prime examples are a National Championship or Hall of Fame induction year, accomplishments like Rookie of the Year (ROY) or MVP or a team motto like Roll Tide for the Alabama Crimson Tide or Go Dawgs for the Georgia Bulldogs and others. Conversely, a personalization (like To Joe) can reduce the resale value of a collectible as it is really only meaningful for a person with that name (but what a treasure if you happen to find an item in the wild with your gift recipient’s name on it, as long as they’re not looking to resell in the future).
I know that the amount of information here can be daunting. But in the end, it is really about your loved one’s face when they unwrap their jaw-dropping gift and you become the ULTIMATE HOLIDAY HERO!
When in doubt, please reach out to our Customer Experience Specialists who are ready and eager to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have to ensure that you find the perfect gift for the sports and entertainment fanatics in your life. Shop your loved ones’ favorite sports superstars’ autographed helmets, autographed jerseys, autographed baseballs, autographed footballs, autographed photos and more today at SportsCollectibles.com!
Contact us during business hours, Monday through Friday from 9am until 5pm, eastern time on the phone at 800-793-9793 or through the chat feature in the bottom corner of our website at SportsCollectibles.com. Alternately, you can email us at [email protected]. Due to the holiday volume, please allow a couple business days for an email or voicemail response.
This post brought to you by Sports Collectibles Blog Dog, Fancie!
-Fancie is mom to Blog Dog Shimmer. As the mama, she wanted to bring this sage advice to other mamas and loved ones looking for the perfect gift for the sports lovers in their lives. Fancie is just as stately and elegant as her name suggests, except when Shimmer is chasing her around the house! But she also knows that her human mama can’t resist her precious face and loves to spoil her rotten.