Strange as it may sound, Major League Baseball believes it can rescue Star Wars fans victimized by forgers selling phony autographs and memorabilia.
Star Wars just became the first entertainment client for Authenticators, Inc. — an MLB-created operation that verifies legitimate autographs and merchandise such as game-used baseballs. It teamed with trading card company Topps and Disney’s Lucasfilm for today’s launch of starwarsauthentics.com, billed as a destination for “photos and authenticated autographs from iconic Star Wars actors.”
The venture, which coincides with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, “will allow us to provide Star Wars fans with access to autographs of their favorite talent from a galaxy far, far away that are completely verified and authentic,” says Paul Southern, who’s SVP of Star Wars licensing at Disney Consumer Products.
Topps GM for North American Sports and Entertainment David Leiner says that the company “identified a hole in the entertainment industry, a need for certified authentic pieces for the Star Wars brand, and with this collaboration we are able to meet consumer demand.”
Forgers have made a bundle selling fake Star Wars memorabilia. This time last year Mark Hamill took to Twitter to warn that “many fans [are] spending their hard-earned money for fraudulent signatures.”
Although there’s little hard data on the problem, the FBI found in a 1997 investigation that forgeries accounted for 75% of all autographs being sold.
MLB created Authenticators Inc. in 2006 to deal with the problem. In 30 U.S. markets it contracts with witnesses — mostly law enforcement officers who have undergone a background check — who go to autograph signing and item collecting sessions and affix numbered, tamperproof holograms. Buyers can check the numbers with an online database to verify that the merchandise is legit.
The holograms are harder to copy and forge than conventional “certificates of authenticity,” the firm says.
Starwarsauthentics.com will start off selling autographed photos from what the companies describe as “Topps exclusive signers” including Star Wars: The Force Awaken‘s John Boyega and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Felicity Jones.
“Boyega signed items will be joined by The Force Awakens costars Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver,” they add. “In addition to Jones, Rogue One’s Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed and Donnie Yen autographs will be available. Starwarsauthentics.com will also be the only place to find the first official dual-signed items of Boyega and Ridley.”