What does COA mean? How to Authenicate Collectibles

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Steve Duke Presents Tradio Gems: What does COA mean? How to Authenicate Collectibles
(Excerpts from Tradio)

 

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Subject:
I want to know what COA means.

Steve Duke:
You don’t know either, ha?

Subject:
Is that something Charlie Sheen is doing?

CeCe:
And we had to bring him up.

Steve:
Okay. Well, COA stands for Certificate of Authenticity.

CeCe:
Ah.

Steve:
Now, what exactly is a COA and why would you need it. Well, lots of times out there in the collectable market there are things that you’re certainly not an expert on and you’re going to rely on somebody who theoretically is an expert to tell you whether it’s authentic or not and we’ve talked about this before. In the collectable world, if something has value then it’s worth money and people are willing to spend their money for it, but there is going to be somebody out there who says “You know what? I don’t have the authentic one, but I bet I could make this thing look pretty darn good and somebody is going to buy it.”

So if there’s a way to hornswoggle you out of your money, somebody is out there thinking of a way to do it. I guess it’s easier to do it that way than get a job or really work for something, but in the collectable market there are lots of ways to lose your money and I’ve told you one thing that’s really, really important if you’re going to spend money on collectables. Number one, the most important thing about collectables is this. If you enjoy it and when you look at it at the end of the day and it makes you smile then by all means collect that collectable. Collect that particular type of item. I don’t care whether it’s matchbooks. I don’t care whether it’s violins. I don’t care whether it’s teddy bears. I don’t care if it’s shards of soap. If it makes you smile when you look at it…

CeCe:
Seriously?

Steve:
There are people, believe or not, that collect shards of soap.

CeCe:
Really…

Steve:
Yes.

CeCe:
Why?

Steve:
Thank God I am not one of those. I don’t have that type of collection going on anymore.

CeCe:
Anymore?

Steve:
I’ve bathed with all of them and they’re all gone.

Subject:
That’s why we’re on the other side of the table.

Steve:
Exactly.

CeCe:
You might want to come closer. I’m pretty sure I smell my Surf. I’m pretty sure I smell better than he does.

Steve:
But, no, there’s nothing set in stone as to what a person can collect and what they enjoy. You know there are people that save the lint out of their navel.

CeCe:
Gross!

Steve:
What are you talking about? That ball is three inches long that I’ve got at the house now.

CeCe:
And you’re his friend and you hang out with him?

Subject:
Very rarely. He said he needed a ride. He didn’t want to pay for gas.

Steve:
Yeah. I was hitching on my way over here, so.

CeCe:
I feel so sorry for his wife.

Subject:
Yes.

Steve:
She’s the one that started that collection.

CeCe:
Oh, don’t trash her now. Come on. She’s a good woman.

Steve:
Really, as far as collectables go, if you enjoy it by all means collect it. The next part of the collectable market is most people who have collectables they enjoy the particular item they’re collecting, but in the back of their mind they’re hoping that what they’ve paid for that collectable over a period of years will appreciate and go up in value. Some do. Some don’t.

We’ve talked about how some collectables are cyclical; they go in cycles. They may be really hot one year and there is just no interest in it the next year so they’ve gone down in value. Have they become less scarce? Not really, but you have to rely on a secondary market. The primary market was a person who produced that collectable. The secondary market was a person who bought that collectable. Then another secondary market is a person who has got that collectable and they need to sell it and find another collector for it.

So authenticity comes into play at the point when you want to turn around and resell that particular item. Now, it also comes into play as far as when you’re going to buy it. If you don’t have the knowledge you’re going to depend on the person who’s selling it to you and you’re going to really believe that that person either doesn’t know what they have or they know exactly what they have and they’re going to sell it to you at a fair market.

Now, a lot of times you’re going to deal with a dealer; someone who buys and sells that particular item. Lots of times you may collect autographs and you’re going to buy those from a particular dealer. That dealer has 30, 40 or 100 different types of autographs and he says to you, “You know I didn’t get all these in person.” He says, “Some of these people are deceased, but I have a COA to go along with them,” a Certificate of Authenticity. Well, if it has a Certificate of Authenticity then gees you’ve got to believe that it’s genuine.

COAs came into play really in big time in a lot of the sports autographs. There are lots of players out there. There’s lots of stuff circulating and when the market really heated up and dealers found that there were people who were collectors who really would be paying large amounts of money for these particular items that were signed by different players, all of a sudden the authentication services started to spring up.

Now, what are the credentials of a lot of these gentlemen or ladies or people who own these companies? Lots of them have met the people. They have originals. They see how this handwriting is done. A lot of times a lot of different players or famous people have certain peculiarities when they signed their autographs. Mickey Mantle when he did his M’s it was a really unusual way that he would form the bottom of his M.

Charles Dickens when he signed his name it would be sort of a scribble and it was very characteristic. I recently looked at a book that was signed by Charles Dickens and rather than signing his entire name it was just two initials, C.D. I was not able to find anywhere where he had ever done that and yet the people who have this piece had a huge Charles Dickens collection of all authentic autographs. I’ve sent that copy to all kinds of different people and nobody could really say to me it is or it isn’t. We’ve had a couple different opinions. I said the way it was formed I believe that it probably was his autograph, but you’re not going to get a Certificate of Authenticity on that because no one has really seen this type of autograph done by Charles Dickens.

Well, unlike that there are lots of players’ autographs or famous peoples’ autographs that have been copied. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s there was one company that sold all kinds of sports memorabilia and things like that and it all came with Certificates of Authenticity. Later on you found that these people are now in jail because all those autographs were fake. All those Certificates of Authenticity were fake and what you have is a very good copy, but it’s not genuine.

So, what good are Certificates of Authenticity? They’re no better than the pieces of paper that they’re printed on, unless you have a lot of credentials to go along with it that say these people are well-known. They’re known for being able to do Certificates of Authenticity. They’re great at being able to stand behind it and authenticate different signatures. They’re good that they know that this is a genuine photograph of someone done by that particular studio. It’s an early photograph from the ‘30s. It’s a silver gel-type, which would be indicative of that type of a picture and, yes, that is the autograph of that particular person from that time period.

We talked about some of the baseball signatures and football signatures. There were a lot of the batboys and stuff that practiced what the different signatures looked like from a lot of the players. They would sit there and if someone wanted autographs they’d say “Could you give me an autograph?” They’d say “Yeah, we’ll take it to the clubhouse and do that.” These were clubhouse signatures. It wasn’t done by the player, it was actually done a lot of times by a batboy who sat around and signed everybody else’s signatures.

You want to look for different keys. Again, if you’re going to rely strictly on Certificates of Authenticity at some point in time you’re probably going to get burned. You need to have a little bit of knowledge. You need to know what that autograph actually looked like and the fact that if it was signed on a picture as opposed to a baseball, which was harder to sign, there’s going to be variations in what that signature looks like.

I recently encountered a sword and riffle and the riffle had all kinds of engraving on it. It supposedly had belonged to Geronimo, the Indian Chief, and it just didn’t really look like it should. To really help me out, the person who had it came out with a book that actually showed a picture of this riffle and it showed Geronimo holding the riffle. It just went on and on and on and the more I looked at it this was just a Certificate of Authenticity. This was something that was printed. It was a visual right in front of me, but the more you looked at it you realized that the book itself was probably fake.

Subject:
Wow.

Steve:
So, just because there’s a book that you’ve never ever heard of or seen before along with an item that you’ve never ever heard of or seen before doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be genuine. You know the more expensive that particular item becomes, when you’re talking about an item that’s $25 to $50 to a $100,000 item, province is very important on it and that’s not just a Certificate of Authenticity, that’s a line of ownership that says “Okay, my uncle knew Geronimo and his great uncle was friends with him and he was in one of the wild west shows and Geronimo gave him this piece.”

I mean you need a line of authenticity. You need a line of province on really high-end, expensive, particular items, just that Certificate of Authenticity doesn’t mean a whole lot. Believe me; the people who want to take your money from you are going to come up with more and more items to help substantiate what that particular item is.

Another thing you’re going to find when you go on these cruise ships, remember how they have all these art auctions and they have all these Chagall’s and they have all these Matisse’s, you name any important artist, they’re going to have their work for sale on that boat every week. Whether you’re on that boat every week or not, I’m here to tell you every week there’s a company that’s going to come in and they’re going to sell you artwork. On the back of most of that artwork there’s a nice letter of Certificate of Authenticity and it has a very official-looking seal that’s impressed into it and it’s taped right to the back of that picture.

How could they be selling you a fake if it has a Certificate of Authenticity? Well, if you really get into it, that Chagall is not an original Chagall. It’s a lithograph of an original Chagall and it might be numbered. It’s just not what it’s supposed to be. It is not an original Chagall. The wording if you look at that Certificate of Authenticity says “This copy of the original Chagall” or “facsimile of this original Chagall.” Facsimile or copy, that’s going to be the word that saves their butt as far as being able to say “We never said this was ‘the’ original. We said it’s ‘an’ original of ‘the.’”

I mean wording is very important in a lot of your Certificates of Authenticity. Some of them just allude to the fact that it’s a genuine item. Some just are blatant and just flat out tell you “Yeah, this is original.” You have to know who you’re dealing with, what you’re dealing with. Do I tell you not to buy this artwork on a lot of these cruises? Again, the first thing about collectables, if you look at it, you enjoy it, it didn’t affect your lifestyle when you bought it and it makes you smile when you look at it, by all means collect it, but if you’re going to spend serious money and you’re buying it as an investment it should come with some sort of authenticity.

I’ve found over the years that the more paperwork that comes with a piece of art or item like that that expounds on how genuine this particular item is, usually it’s not. Unless that artwork comes from an institute, if it comes from a museum, if it comes from a curator of a museum who has a background in that particular type of item, then most times you have a little bit of recourse to come back on a person who you bought it from, but most of the time if the person who has authenticated it has credentials and the fact that they have letters behind their name doesn’t mean that they’ve got that province. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have all that knowledge to be able to identify the particular item.

So when it comes to spending real money on an item, make sure you know who you’re buying it from, make sure you have a little bit of knowledge and make sure you have in writing that if this is not a genuine item then you can come back and get your money back on it. It’s scary out there. You’ll even find a lot of Salvador Dali stuff out there in artwork.

CeCe:
I was going to say, there was Salvador Dali work on the cruise I was on in March.

Steve:
Oh. Yeah, you’ll find Picasso prints, Salvador Dali’s, I mean all this stuff. Salvador Dali, the museum won’t even authenticate that stuff anymore because it’s just gotten to the point where it’s so hard to tell with the printing techniques and things we have today, computers. If they can crank out paper money that looks good, they certainly could crank out artwork too so be careful. Your COA stands for Certificate of Authenticity. It’s only as good as the person who’s selling it.

I’m Steve Duke, owner of Westchester Gold & Diamonds, talking to you a little bit about Certificates of Authenticity. And, yes, we do deal in collectables and memorabilia and anything that we’ve sold to you as genuine if it’s ever found that it turned out that it wasn’t genuine, bring it back and we’ll be more than happy to refund your money on that.

We’re in the Bear Plaza behind ABC Liquors. If you have items, autographs, unusual antiques, old stuff that you’d like to turn into cash, please stop by and see us. With that we’re going to take a quick break and return to Tradio.

Hi, I’m Steve Duke, owner of Westchester Gold & Westchester Gold is paying cash for your diamonds and vintage jewelry. Westchester Gold is buying gold and silver in any condition: coins, flatware, tea sets, even broken jewelry. Westchester Gold will buy your fine antiques, art glass or oil paintings, vintage pocket watches and wrist watches; anything old of unusual. Please bring your items by our new location behind ABC Liquors in Port Charlotte for a free evaluation and fair cash offer.

Steve:
We are back with Tradio 206-1580 and Cece, quick, give us a time check.

CeCe:
Nine forty-nine.

Steve:
All right, that means you’ve got nine minutes for my undivided attention. So give us a call at 206-1580 if you have items that you want to buy, sell or trade. Of if you have questions on any of your collectables, I’ll be more than happy to try and field those questions for you. Cece, you did mention that, yes, May is our big month. It’s Steve Duke’s birthday and Mother’s Day Sale coming up.

CeCe:
Yup.

Steve:
And like we don’t have enough inventory already, next week I’ll be at the jewelry show picking up more items for our people out there.

CeCe:
Just out of curiosity, does that mean you won’t be here next Friday or you’ll be back in town by then?

Steve:
Oh, no, I’m leaving Saturday for the show.

CeCe:
Ah, very good. Okay.

Steve:
So I will be here Friday with bells on.

CeCe:
Woo-hoo! I can’t wait to see the bells.

Steve:
And, hopefully, somebody will give me a lift while I’m hitching here.

Subject:
I was going to say, do I have drive you there?

Steve:
Well, I don’t know. It depends what we’re doing Friday night again, so I don’t know. We’ll see.

Subject:
You know I have a Certificate of Authenticity, a COA on a piece and now I’m really concerned.

Steve:
Well, you should be because I looked at it and, like I said, when they put those official-looking seals and things like that on the back of artwork you usually have to worry. Like I said, if it’s a curator of a museum or something like that…

I don’t know how many different appraisals I’ve seen over the years where these people who are self-proclaimed experts and you can get on the computer now, which is a lot easier, and do background checks on a lot of these people. Like I said, they have all these letters behind their names and supposedly they have all these credentials and when you go to find out about them there’s nothing about them. If they are experts in that particular field there’ll be articles about them.

Subject:
Absolutely.

Steve:
It’s sad, I’ve see a lot of people come in with different items that they’ve bought over the years. I had a gentleman come in with a big book, a big breakdown of a painting that he had that was supposedly a $10 million painting, but since I was a nice guy he would take $3 million for it.

CeCe:
How generous of him.

Steve:
And I thought that that’s certainly a nice thing. That was a nice gesture, you know? The more I delved into the thing, he’s up in Sarasota and when I made some calls to different friends of mine up in Sarasota they said “Steve, this thing has been around for like seven or eight years. He’s tried everybody in the world. This whole booklet of, theoretically, experts who knew all about this artwork and talked about it and it was from this period. It was just sort of in front of you.

“You could really sit there and if you didn’t know a whole lot you could look at it and you could figure out what century it was from and you could figure out what country it was from. The artist’s name was on it, so that was pretty easy to figure out who the artist was and it was a copy of a 1700’s picture. It was made in the 19th century, but it was a copy a particularly valuable rare picture and it’s been floating around and floating around. He just recently called me and said could I get my paperwork back. I gave him back his book with all the pictures and things of it and supposedly he had a buyer for it.”

It’s like I’ve said before, there’s not that many people out there with dollar bills that are selling them to you for forty cents because you’re a nice person. They’re selling it to you because there’s something wrong with that dollar bill and, hopefully, you’re not intelligent enough to know that it’s not a real item.

CeCe:
You know if these people could just funnel that creativity and energy into something, I don’t know, legal and positive.

Steve:
Yeah, but you can make a lot more money doing what they do now, as long as it doesn’t catch up to you.

CeCe:
White-collar crime [inaudible 26:44.6].

Subject:
Absolutely, but some of these artists did do limited edition lithos and things like that; you know numbered editions.

Steve:
There are plenty of artists who did numbered editions, limited editions. Now, when we talk about a limited edition, under 100 pieces to me would be really limited, 50 editions.

Subject:
I agree.

Steve:
When you get an artist who is real specific, like a Whalen, he does all kinds of sea life and stuff, but you buy one of his limited editions, limited to only 3,500 pieces. Thirty-five hundred pieces is a lot. So when you talk about buying a limited edition type of thing, number one, you have to look at the artist. Are they going to reissue in another limited amount the exact same edition? Those plates are out there and as long as it’s in writing that they’re going to discontinue this, it’s only limited to 50 of that particular item or that impression, as they call it, then fine, that’s limited item.

It’s like Beam bottles when they came out. They said we’re only going to make so many of this particular type of a Beam bottle. Beam is a liquor company that did all kinds of really cool porcelain bottles to put their booze in and, theoretically, after they made a certain amount they were going to break the mold and it was a limited. Well, they didn’t. They had so much success at making this car model with the booze in it…

Subject:
They had like the Indy cars. My father has a few of those.

Steve:
Right, or Duesenberg and stuff like that, all kinds of stuff. Elvis Presley bottles and things like that. You know they limit it to 1,500 for the first production and they’re never going to break the mold. Well, it did so well, why break the mold? It was in good shape, we’ll make another 1,500 and another 1,500.

So a lot of the people who spent money on the Beam bottles found that man it was a neat way to get the booze, but the bottles really didn’t appreciate because the company didn’t do what they were supposed to do. They didn’t break those molds and the same thing happens on a lot of the artwork. They just continued to make more and more and more of it.

The collector plates that you see, people constantly come in with collector plates limited to only 4,000 of this production. Well, that’s a lot. When you start thinking about how many people collect an item that’s fine, but after you’ve bought it where are you going to go in a secondary market to try and sell that. So collectables are pretty tough to try and really make money when it’s a mass-produced limited edition type of thing and that’s the problem you run into.

Subject:
So your recommendation is to someone who wants to do that, aside from wanting true enjoyment out of it first, is to try to find something that’s a limited edition less than 100.

Steve:
Well, if you’re going to buy a modern piece right now, yeah, less than 100 items. You say well, Steve, a lot of these guys did autographs. Babe Ruth, he signed a lot more than 100 items, some of the Presidents, they signed lots more than 100 items, but the thing is they can’t be reproduced again. There’s a finite amount of items out there. There’s a limited amount. There’s a certain amount of them out there and there’ll never be anymore.

With the newer collectables if a company says we’re going to limit it to 100 items, that doesn’t mean they can’t turn around and make a little bit of a variation in it and change it again or just turn around and use the same item again and reissue it. So this is the problem with the modern stuff as opposed to the old stuff that’s probably going to appreciate because there is only a limited amount of it. Again, the province has a lot to do with the value of that particular item.

We have one caller, let’s hit it. Good morning, you’re on Tradio.

Caller:
You were talking about those Jim Beam bottles.

Steve:
Yeah.

Caller:
Are all of them pretty much worthless or are there some out there that do have value?

Steve:
No, there are still markets for a lot of the Jim Beam bottles.

Caller:
The reason I was asking is I have one that is a Marine edition that I got from my grandfather back oh, 100 years ago.

Steve:
Is it the one with the helmet and the boots?

Caller:
No. Actually, this is a Marine Semper Fi with the flag raised on the back and that kind of thing.

Steve:
Okay. Well, again, what we get into is there’s always going to be collectors. Now, military collectors, there’s a huge market for different military stuff, whether it’s Army, Navy, Marines. So, yeah, your bottle is going to appeal to a person who collects military. It will also appeal to someone who collects Marine stuff. So, yeah, it’s going to have value as far as somebody out there is going to want that.

Caller:
Okay. What’s the best way to put that out there?

Steve:
Believe it or not, really, I would tell you the Internet, eBay, something like that. You reach such a huge world market that way that you’re probably going to be able to sell it on eBay.

Caller:
I have never sold on eBay. Are you somebody that can do that for me?

Steve:
Yeah. If you bring it by the shop we can take a look at it. I’ll research and show you what it will bring in the market and if you’re interested in it we’ll be happy to do something with you.

Caller:
Fantastic. Thank you.

Steve:
Thank you very much. I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold & Diamonds. We were talking a little bit about antiques, collectables, and Certificates of Authenticity today. If you have items, memorabilia that you want to turn into cash, please stop by and we’ll be happy to look at those. Until next week we’ll say so long.
Stop by and see us. We are in the Baer Plaza behind ABC Liquors. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is located at 4200F Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL 33952.
Call (941) 625-0666.

Westchester Gold and Diamonds provides services including custom jewelry design, repairs, appraisals and other jewelry and antiques related services. Westchester Gold and Diamonds is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday and by appointment at your home or bank.