Let’s discuss the Certificate of Authenticity(COA) that accompanies modern collectibles and some pieces termed “art”.  These certificates simply put are a marketing ploy.  What are they authenticating ?  That the item is a piece of porcelain or a plastic car made by a machine in China ?  These items do not need to be authenticated.  They are real, they were mass produced and sold.  The same applies to art with these certificates applied to the back.  If it is mass produced art, meaning a modern offset or giclee(digital) print, it is a new item.  It doesn’t need to be authenticated.  Just like a new piece of pottery or a framed print from Pottery Barn doesn’t need a piece of paper to testify to the “realness” of that item.

However, a piece of original art bought directly from an artist or a gallery maybe sold with a certificate of authenticity.  It really isn’t necessary, but in this case it is okay.  It is the artist saying – “This is a real and original artwork by me.”

Rugs are often sold, usually on cruise ships(next to the new art prints) with certificates.  There is a problem here.  These carpets  may be old(usually are not – at best they  may be classified as semi-antique) and they are sold by a dealer. The dealer also issues the COA.  It is a conflict of interest to authenticate anything you are selling.

Another area in which we appraisers often encounter Certificates of Authenticity issues is with sports memorabilia, autographs, and collectibles. In an article on 2-clicks-sportsmemorabilia.com regarding how to make wise purchases in this collecting field, the authors cite: ” it may be saddening but it is a known fact – the sports autographs industry is a huge avenue for forgery and many fraudulent practices: from forged sports autographs, counterfeit sports memorabilia, pretentious sports sellers, to fake certificates of authentication….”  This same source discusses COAs as something to be skeptical of when it comes to sports collectibles.

“Certificates of Authenticity (COA) may be important in assuring that a memorabilia is not a fake. However, there are circumstances that a COA is no less than a piece of paper. There are certificates that are only issued by the sellers themselves.  When you buy a sports autograph; look for the certification by a trusted third party authenticator such as Professional Sports Authenticator, Upper Deck, or Global Authentication Incorporated to mention a few.”

Tip: Don’t buy something with a COA, thinking it is valuable or will rise in value.  Bottom line most of these certificates are not worth the paper they are written on.  They usually are a trick to separate buyer’s from their hard earned cash. Know about the field you are buying by studying and looking at good examples from trusted sources before you buy.  Don’t make a decision to buy based on a COA being present or absent.

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