How would you handle this sad situation?
Visualize your gala. You’ve worked hard to acquire items, and your guests are milling through a large auction. Some of the items are the local sorts of donations one often sees at events in your area. Other items are more glamorous because you’ve worked with a memorabilia company to bring in “big ticket” items.
Guests are ogling and bidding on the merchandise, buying signed guitars from their favorite bands and snapping up memorabilia signed by celebrities. The auction is buzzing with excitement and you’re raising thousands of dollars.
After your gala, the local news station does an in-depth feature on your event and shows the world that virtually all of the memorabilia you presented as being “real” was fake, even those with the “Certificates of Authenticity” attached on the back.
What do you do?
- Do you offer to reimburse your guests? (The charity offered to do this.)
- Do you take the consignor to court?
- Do you decide to try a different consignment company the following year? (But how do you know the merchandise is legit?)
- Do you hire a good P.R. firm?
I’m going to let the newsreel speak for itself, but here’s the short of it: The fake memorabilia market is larger than the real memorabilia market. This puts you in a precarious position if your nonprofit is selling signed rock memorabilia in your auctions. Who do you trust?
Stories like this are why some of my clients “just say no” to memorabilia. A few take an even more aggressive stance, refusing to accept anything – memorabilia or not – if the item has a price attached to its sale. If it’s consigned, it’s not in their auction.
As I’m not a signature or memorabilia expert, this is one area where I can’t help my clients. Outside of sharing information like this story, I can’t authenticate a piece for them or verify that a particular company has legitimate merchandise.
It’s fun to have charity auction memorabilia in the auction, isn’t it? It can be exciting to bring in some of the pieces. But this presents the downside of the industry, too. All food for thought.
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