Perhaps this is just the my mindless meanderings or just a “Rant” to get stuff off my chest…but I have something to say or just to Vent in the hope that someone, somewhere reads this. Maybe it’s like the saying goes about talking to 1,000 kids about the horrors of drugs and if you save just one, you did your job. So…this is what I have to say – I am so sick of seeing Charities buying into items which have fake autographs that it blows my mind!!!
Since I was born, my parents ran it down my throat to always tell the truth. I grew up in a blue collar household, in a steel town with two of the most hardworking parents you would ever meet. My father was a steel worker, coming home covered in dirt, grease and grime from a hard days work in the Bethlehem Steel Mill. My mother worked the mid night shift in a Veterans hospital cleaning and taking care of men who were in coma’s from unknown injuries. Both worked their butts off to raise three kids, put us through private schools and provide us with a comfortable living. Their work was dirty – but it was HONEST!!! I learned from an early age to walk the straight and narrow, don’t take short cuts and be true to you first. From that, I went into the U.S. Marine Corps and then into the Maryland State Police. There, for 20 years, I saw the lowest of the low, people lying, stealing, cheating to only get a head for a day or so.
So, as BW Unlimited grows across North America, and is now the #1 Charity Fundraising Firm in North America – working with the nation’s largest and most well-known charities, I see the ugly “Under Belly” of the Charity side of life. On a daily basis, I speak to people, see other companies and talk to charities who have been taken advantage of by other so-called “Charity Fundraising” entities. From overpriced travel packages not allowing the Charity to reap maximum profit to an unending amount of fraudulent autographed items.
Recently, through various networks, I heard of one provider who was raided by the Immigration and Customs Service (otherwise known as ICE) for selling fake Jersey’s. Now, here is what my rant is about “If it’s truly too good to be true, IT IS!!!”
A very long time ago, when BWU first started, I was like the rest of the charities out there when I saw those items – incredibly autographed items with a price that seemed “Un-Real.” The cloke or cover-up was that the price was low because they were being provided to charities. I used those items and was constantly being questioned about the “Why’s” and “How’s.” I answered the questions as best as I could but it welled up in me until I couldn’t stand it any longer. That is when I began to truly educate myself.
I aligned myself with some of the most knowledgeable people in the autograph industry. I took the time to ask questions, do my research and on one instance, paid to have a private investigator look into the issue just to get the answers I was seeking. I sat for hours on the internet looking for the source of these items only to come up empty. But through that time, I also learned the “Tricks” of the trade. I learned about “Bate and Switch” and how to make something look very real. I learned about photo’s of athlete’s signing their names, I learned about fake items along with fake autographs and how to get it duplicated without questions. I also learned about the terms “Autograph”, “Signed” and “Hand Signed” and how to apply them loosely.
I learned about the FBI investigation called “Operation Bullpen” which reports that 83% of the autographs found on-line are fake. I learned about the un-reputatable authentication businesses and how easy it is to issue a fake “Certificate of Authenticity” because honestly, most people do not know the difference.
I also learned that the absolute easiest place to sell fake autographed or signed items is through Charity Events. Why? Because the buyers are un-educated and are not collectors. Their purchases are on a “Whim” to support their charity of choice.
I have also been approached on many occasions, one very recently, to “Push” these items to our charities without proper authentication for unrealistic prices.
That…during this time of enlightening, is when I decided to continue to be the man I was raised to be and to not fold under the pressure of “Dollars over Integrity.”
Immediately, we began to insist on 3rd Party Authentication of all signed items. What this means to you is – anyone can sign and item and issue a “Certificate of Authenticity” or “COA.” In fact, if you are a charity and you are using a Charity Provider out there, take a close look or ask questions – do they authenticate their own items? If they do, that is like a Fox running the Hen House.
A 3rd Party Authenticator has no financial interest in the items and will place their reputation on the authenticity of the items. We have seen and been present for Athlete’s signing their name on 100’s of items. As they become tired of signing, their signature changes slightly. When the 3rd Party Authenticator reviewed the items, they would not pass the items signed last – based on the signature changing slightly.
We have seen providers prominently displaying autographed items by Celebrities, Political icons, prominent Legendary Musicians and historical Sports Legends in their inventory. For some reason, their inventory is constant and these items are always available. 60% of these people have passed away, making their autograph extremely rare. We have signed Body signed Guitars which never seem to go out of inventory as well as Cast Signed pictures and Posters always available to their charity partners.
If you look closely and use “Common Sense”…does this seem too good to be true? Do you know that “Cast Signed” anything is extremely rare? A Body Signed Guitar is a “Jewel” and extremely rare in and of itself? That getting an autographed item from a Political Figure is extremely hard but then to add several more autographs to the same photo are nearly impossible? Ask yourself, how can that even happen? Do you understand the logistics behind such an undertaking? Athletes are paid very well (EXTREMELY well) to sign their name, however, celebrities and political figures do not – in fact, they have no need to. An Athlete’s career is short lived so they have to maximize their potential quickly. But celebrities must be “Chased.” You’ve seen them, people stand outside of a show or restaurant and get a celebrity to sign their name on a 8 x 10 photo – NOT 16 x 20’s or 11 x 14’s OR GUITARS!!! These people are called “Chasers.”
So…I decided that we will be different. We are not going to sell or offer fake autographed items, provide over priced Travel Packages or anything of the sort that takes advantage of anyone. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night from worry.
When I learned that a charity is using one of these companies for items and also wants to place our items next to theirs, I could say “Sure” and still provide them. However, I am so worried about our reputation that I normally will decline. I don’t want our name tarnished for a dollar bill.
I want BW to be different, respectable, built on integrity and honor – and if that means we won’t be millionaires from Charities, that’s ok…at least I know, when I lay my head down on the pillow at night…that we are real and honest.
If you would like our help, contact us at www.BWUnlimited.com – we would love to help you.