The Internet, for all its flaws (it is, after all, extremely easy to flog almost anything suspect on the web) has matured in the last few years. These days, a site selling genuine signed memorabilia is certain to look the part. That means no dodgy links, no amateurish "feel" to the thing (so no cobbled together ads and no unattractive hyperlinks) Ė a definite, professional finish, in other words: or steer well clear. Itís a bit like shopping for sports memorabilia in a high street store that has clearly seen better days. If however, it was a nice clean shop with efficient staff and good product display, chances are you could trust it.
For most collectors of sports memorabilia (and, indeed, signed memorabilia in general) it can be pretty easy to fake. Itís an industry commonplace that the better known a personality is, the easier it is to slip false versions of his or her signature into the market. Thatís down to a numbers game: because there are lots of examples of the signature of a famous sports person floating about, and because itís simply not possible for all of those signatures to be absolutely identical, it becomes less likely that a fake will be spotted. Simply put: if someone wants to fake sports memorabilia, and he or she chooses to do so by making up a signature for which there are hundreds of genuine variations out there, no-one is going to notice the introduction of the dodgy one. Where thereís enough legitimate variation, a little illegitimate variance is never going to be noticed.
How do you tell that the memorabilia item you are buying isnít fake? Well, there are ways and there are ways. The best way to protect oneself against the iniquities of fake artists is to find a source of sports memorabilia whose integrity is beyond reproach. A reputation goes a long way, in this game: so if one is purchasing from, say, a web site that is clearly trusted by others, then itís a pretty safe bet to say that one is in good hands.
Besides looks and feel a truly trustworthy Internet retailer of sporting memorabilia site has something else going for them. Thereís a way to prove the authenticity of a signature beyond a doubt. Visual evidence, either a video recording or an unarguably dated photograph, of the sports man or woman the signature purports to come from, signing the object in question (the object must, of course, be recognisably the same) on the date in question. Sites selling faked sports memorabilia do not have access to this kind of evidence, for obvious reasons: so anywhere that can promise to provide such proof is clearly the place to go. As an online shopper, it should generally be enough that a site makes that promise: that, combined with the look and feel of the thing, is an excellent barometer of the trust one can put in it.
The final analysis as ever, rests with the buyer. If one feels that a site is offering signed memorabilia under less than definitely kosher circumstances: donít buy. Go elsewhere, and buy from a site that leaves no room for question.