How do you buy vintage game worn jerseys without getting ripped off? ‘Very carefully’ would be the short answer but there’s actually a lot of truth to that simple, smart alecky answer. While eBay is where most sports memorabilia commerce takes place and many authentic game worn vintage jerseys are sold, there aren’t a lot of rules and regulations regarding what sellers can claim.
- Don’t automatically buy the ‘game used’ line in a seller’s title. Sellers will sometimes use this as a means of making sure their listing is found in a search. You’ll often find the phrase ‘game issued’ next to it. Both are nice, but there’s a big difference in value.
- Examine the provenance they are offering very carefully. Being able to prove what they are offering is real is a huge selling point and if the description only ‘suggests’ a jersey was worn in a game or simply claims to have ‘wear’ or ‘stains’, that doesn’t prove it was. Dealers have gone to jail on federal fraud charges for rubbing jerseys in the dirt and washing them a few times to make it look like a player wore them. Sometimes a jersey can be photo matched without having a chain of connection to the original sale or gift from a player but if that is also lacking, be careful. Provenance means proof and if the proof is too much of a stretch, don’t buy. Sometimes you can disprove a seller’s claim simply by doing some photo research yourself.
- Don’t expect every jersey will have a letter of authenticity. Prior to the 1990’s (and even then), it just wasn’t done and many sellers simply don’t want to pay to have a jersey that is only going to sell for $100 or $200 authenticated. It makes sense. If the seller guarantees it will pass authentication, that’s a relatively good indicator that he’s willing to stand behind his material. MEARS is a solid jersey authenticator and for hockey jerseys, MeiGray is among the best.
- If you want to grow your collection, focus on game-worn jerseys of players who might be on your trading cards but aren’t necessarily big name stars. Those who create and/or sell phony jerseys don’t mess with trying to make a 1980’s era jersey from a weak-hitting infielder and many times you can get those jerseys very cheap. If you’re a true collector, those jerseys bring just as much joy as a big name star. Still, be sure the jersey has proper tagging and at least some sort of solid provenance.
- Buy minor league jerseys. Some of the coolest game worn jerseys have been worn by minor league baseball and hockey organizations, going back to the 1970’s. Again, sellers will rarely fake a minor league jersey, unless they think they can hoodwink someone into buying a star.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Good sellers will respond in a timely fashion, answering any questions you may have and will always have a money back guarantee.
Click here to see some vintage jerseys on eBay and put the tips into action.