Authentication and Appraising on eBay - dummies

Authentication and Appraising on eBay

By Marsha Collier

Despite eBay’s attempts to keep the buying and selling community honest, some people just refuse to play nice. After the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs launched an investigation into counterfeit sports memorabilia sold on the web, errant online outlaws experienced some anxious moments. One can always hope that they mend their ways, while at the same time advising you don’t bet on it. Fortunately, eBay offers a proactive approach to preventing such occurrences from happening again.

Topmost among the countermeasures is easy member access to several services that can authenticate specific types of merchandise. The good news here is that you know what kind of item you’re getting; the bad news is that, as does everything else in life, it costs you money.

Have a good working knowledge of what you’re buying or selling. Before you bid, do some homework and get more information. And check the seller’s or bidder’s feedback. (Does this advice sound familiar?)

Before you spend the money to have your item appraised and authenticated, ask yourself a few practical questions (regardless of whether you’re buying or selling):

  • Is this item quality merchandise? Am I selling or buying merchandise whose condition is subjective but important to its value — as in, Is it really “well-loved” or just busted? Is this item graded by some professionally accepted standard that I need to know?
  • Is this item the real thing? Am I sure that I’m selling or buying a genuine item? Do I need an expert to tell me whether it’s the real McCoy?
  • Do I know the value of the merchandise? Do I have a good understanding of what this item is worth in the marketplace at this time, considering its condition?
  • Is the merchandise worth the price? Is the risk of selling or buying a counterfeit, a fake, or an item I don’t completely understand worth the cost of an appraisal?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, consider calling in a professional appraiser.

As for selling a counterfeit item — otherwise known as a knock-off, phony, or fake item — that’s a no-brainer: No way. Don’t do it.

If you need items appraised, consider using an appraisal agency. You can access several agencies by going to eBay’s overview page. eBay offers links to various appraising agencies that may offer their services at a discount to eBay members. Here are some tried-and-true favorites:

  • The PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service), NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation), ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service), and IGC (Independent Coin Graders) serve coin collectors by encapsulating and grading coins for sale.
Graded and serial numbered coin
Graded and serial numbered coins bring in much higher profits.

When selling coins on eBay, you cannot put a grade within the title unless the coin has been graded by an authorized grading service.

  • PSA/DNA (a service of Professional Sports Authenticators), James Spence Authentication, and Global Authentics authenticate your sports autographs. These companies keep online databases of thousands of certified autographs for you to compare your purchases against.
  • APEX (American Philatelic Expertizing Service) authenticates your postal stamps.
  • CGC (Comics Guaranty) grades and restores comic books.
  • IGI (International Gemological Institute) grades, authenticates, and identifies loose gemstones and jewelry. Visit.
  • PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators) and SGC (Sportscard Guaranty) help guard against counterfeiting and fraud with sports memorabilia and trading cards. You can connect with these services to grade and authenticate your trading cards.

Even if you use an appraiser or an authentication service, do some legwork yourself. Often two experts can come up with opposing opinions on the same item. The more you know, the better the questions you can ask.

If a seller isn’t sure whether the item he or she is selling is authentic, you may find an appropriate comment (such as Cannot verify authenticity) in the item description. Knowledgeable eBay sellers like to share what they know, and someone on the Internet may be able to supply you with scads of helpful information. But be careful — some blarney artist (one of those is born every minute, too) may try to make a sucker out of you.