Hi Paul, I have recently been left a huge collection of baseball memorabilia and, not being a collector myself, I have no idea how to even begin valuing it. I've heard an authenticator would be useful, can you recommend any? - J. Babbs, Oakland
Well, I'm afraid an authenticator won't put a price on the items you have there, but they will certainly help you to get an idea if you have a genuine item on your hands, and some will even grade the condition that it is in - both hugely important in determining a collectible's value!
Authenticators basically assist you in determining if your items are the real deal, using their own experience and expert knowledge. However, it should be noted that opinions do differ, so it may be worth paying two different companies a visit to ensure you are getting the correct result.
Authentication is more important in some areas than others, but when it comes to sports memorabilia it is vital and you'll find most discerning collectors are unwilling to bid on items - especially those with a high value - unless they have been properly assessed.
Baseball - and sports memorabilia in general - has a particularly complex grading and authentication system. The big name that stands out is Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), which offers a range of services from trading card grading and storage to professional equipment authentication.
One of the options you may wish to take is the PSA QuickOpinion service, where an expert from the company will give your item a quick once over and confirm if it is "Likely Genuine" or "Not Likely Genuine". At just $10, this gives you a good idea whether or not to progress with a full authentication service.
For the benefit of our other readers, I'll take a look at some of the other available authenticators.
There are a number of reputable authenticators for each area of collecting and it can be hard to choose. For me, the best way to decide is to look at existing certificates in your particular collecting area from past auction results and use the authenticator they have chosen.
And remember, these companies can also look at an item you are thinking of purchasing, and give you a good idea if it's really worth your money.
Below I have listed some of the top names in a few of the most widely collected areas:
Autographs - PSA/DNA, AMA Autograph Authentication Services
Coins - American Numismatic Assocation Certification Service (ANACS), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), Independent Coin Graders (ICG) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)
Comics - Certified Guaranty Company (CGC)
I hope this helps,