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benstevens
10-25-2004, 02:51 PM
In another thread, someone mentioned other companies may charge more than our company. I just wanted to open a discussion and see what you guys think and explain our basic business practice, and why we are so trusted for having authentic autographs in the community.

Speaking generally of the Star Wars autograph business, I think you will find most other online dealers charge more than us, some substantially more.

I feel the main reason for our lower prices is that we buy directly from the actors we contract for a personal signing, or to come to our conventions. Many other sellers get their items signed by handlers and other sources that go to conventions in their place. Because of this middleman effect, the costs go up and the risk for fakes rises too.

Think about this. An autograph dealer gives a guy $1000 to go get autographs from an actor at a convention that they as a business can not personally attend. This buyer gets there and finds out it will cost him $900 to fill the order. That's $100 for this middleman, seems fair. But then, what if he just fakes them or some of them himself. Their only cost is a small bit for photo printing, but the profit jumps way up becuase they don't have the cost of paying the actor. This person snaps some shots of the actor signing someone else's stuff at the convention and sends it all back to the unsuspecting buyer. Seems crazy enough right? Problem is that it really happened to an autograph delaer who shared their experiance with us as they relied on someone else (someone they trusted) to get their autographs for them and they didn't become aware of it till much later. This business had a "guarantee" and a "coa" because they thought they were getting the real deal when in fact they were selling fakes. They still offer the same COA, etc, but will they find out in a couple of years they have been had again?

Fact is, we can't do business like that, and that's why we don't have and don't offer autographed photos from every convention in the world. We simply don't get out inventory that way. Nor do we have anything that we did not personally obtain.

If in doubt, and to protect yourself, have the seller show you photographic proof they were actually there getting the autographs. If they can't, why risk it?

Just my thoughts... Also up for discussion: It's common to find out that what some collectors have been getting in the mail is often signed by office clerks, assistants, or auto-pens. That's not to say it's all done that way, but it is often the topic of discussion in the various autograph collector magazines. Is there any way to ever be certain when something is received in the mail?

What do you guys think? Are we too protective?

-Ben
C2 Ventures

Habs98
10-25-2004, 04:25 PM
This is a great topic for discussion. For startes it's your investment you should be protective. I just started collecting autographs and have either gotten them myself in person or had a friend who was attending a convention get one for me. I've never bought one online or sent anything in the mail to be signed because of the horro storie I've heard. I don't want a clerk or secretary signing a card or picture for me, so I wait it out until I can attend or a friend can attend a show for me. Being protective I think is a good thing especially when shelling out a big nut to get autographs from these actors/actresses.

WattographsGaryX
10-25-2004, 06:52 PM
In another thread, someone mentioned other companies may charge more than our company. I just wanted to open a discussion and see what you guys think and explain our basic business practice, and why we are so trusted for having authentic autographs in the community.



As mentioned this is a great thread for discussing the “business” of autographs – it’s a lot more difficult in many ways than some people would acknowledge. I don’t think many people realize the difficulty in setting up signings and appearances for actors.



Speaking generally of the Star Wars autograph business, I think you will find most other online dealers charge more than us, some substantially more.



I think this is dependent on which other dealers. There are a few who ONLY deal with Star Wars, like we do at Wattographs. Our prices for signings we sponsor or items in our store are based on what it costs us to obtain pieces, so sometimes they are extremely affordable and sometimes they are very expensive. It depends solely on how difficult it was to obtain, usually because there’s more than one signature on it. While I know the other company you mention, I’m not familiar with their strategies for getting autographs.

With prices, I don’t think many collectors factor in the costs they would have to get a particular signature if they got it themselves. That $20 signed photo you paid for at the convention actually costs more. You have to figure your admission cost, gas, parking, food, lodging (if applicable) and the other small monetary things that add up so quickly.

For example, let’s create a hypothetical situation for a convention that is near one’s home to get Joe Celebrity’s autograph:

Joe Celebrity autographed color photo - $20
Parking: $5.00
Admission: $35.00 (for weekend)
Lunch both days: $20.00
Gas from your house: $5.00

You’ve spent $85 for the weekend. While one can argue that there were other things happening at the convention (and I agree), for that photo, you’ve effectively paid $85. A $25 photograph on a website now seems to be a bargain!



Think about this. An autograph dealer gives a guy $1000 to go get autographs from an actor at a convention that they as a business can not personally attend. This buyer gets there and finds out it will cost him $900 to fill the order. That's $100 for this middleman, seems fair. But then, what if he just fakes them or some of them himself. Their only cost is a small bit for photo printing, but the profit jumps way up becuase they don't have the cost of paying the actor. This person snaps some shots of the actor signing someone else's stuff at the convention and sends it all back to the unsuspecting buyer. Seems crazy enough right? Problem is that it really happened to an autograph delaer who shared their experiance with us as they relied on someone else (someone they trusted) to get their autographs for them and they didn't become aware of it till much later. This business had a "guarantee" and a "coa" because they thought they were getting the real deal when in fact they were selling fakes. They still offer the same COA, etc, but will they find out in a couple of years they have been had again?



I find that, depending on your “middleman,” this is an exception rather than a rule if you’ve worked with people and carefully vetted them before having them act in the middleman capacity. If something ever happened that resulted in a proven non-authentic autograph, you can bet we’d be giving refunds and FIRING that middleman – potentially taking them to court if the damages were high enough. There’s no 100% sure method of ensuring an authentic autograph, save the collector standing there while Joe Celebrity signs. If a company stand behind their COA, then a collector can be assured that if something’s gone wrong, the company will work to make the situation better.

It is a risk, but if you know what/who you’re dealing with (i.e., you know what an authentic Joe Celebrity autograph looks like), you’re less apt to have fakes. It CAN happen to anyone and many great dealers have had non-authentic items get into their inventories. All you can do is offer to refund the money on the item and find some way to compensate that collector for their inconvenience.

We only use someone acting as a middleman if there’s no other way to get those signatures at the time. Fortunately, we’ve NEVER had a fake slip by and if I suspect it may not look quite right, I won’t offer it for sale on our site. I’ve even gone so far to refund money with a signature that I personally saw signed that ended up looking like crap and the collector was very unhappy with.



Fact is, we can't do business like that, and that's why we don't have and don't offer autographed photos from every convention in the world. We simply don't get out inventory that way. Nor do we have anything that we did not personally obtain.



This is a great business philosophy to stand behind and if people can’t deal with that, that’s their issue.



If in doubt, and to protect yourself, have the seller show you photographic proof they were actually there getting the autographs. If they can't, why risk it?



Sometimes you don’t carry a camera on you. I have a friend in NYC that is an in-person collector and I know his absolute disdain for forgeries. He’s told me about people who forge who also work the celeb scene, but I know this guy’s out there on the street getting signatures when celebs are in town (I’ve heard the stories about how difficult celebs can be in-person!).

But, I agree…pix of the person getting the sigs (and make sure the photo being signed is the same one you’re getting) are one good way to give a little security.



Also up for discussion: It's common to find out that what some collectors have been getting in the mail is often signed by office clerks, assistants, or auto-pens. That's not to say it's all done that way, but it is often the topic of discussion in the various autograph collector magazines. Is there any way to ever be certain when something is received in the mail?



I see this more commonplace with the “top” stars than some of the tertiary characters in Star Wars. A good number of the secondary characters all answer their own fan mail and I’ve discussed it individuals each chance I get when I’m meeting with or in some form or correspondence with the actor. However, expect EVERY TIME that Harrison Ford isn’t going to sign through the mail. He’s a difficult signature in-person – enough so that someone who has an auction for $9.99 online with no reserve bid in place should raise not one, but SEVERAL red flags. By-mail requests for Ford will yield a pre-printed autograph on a head-shot type photo.

As far as the discussion in the autograph collecting periodicals, people are mostly complaining about the current A-List actor or actress who is just too durned busy to. The don’t seem to gather that <insert current “hot” star here> just doesn’t have the time or resources in place to answer what amounts to literally THOUSANDS of pieces of mail. After all, if Brad Pitt’s sitting around answering all that fan mail, he won’t be out doing the performances that makes him an A-List actor in the first place. They also get angry if they get something like the aforementioned pre-print – rather than looking at the fact that the actor is ensuring the fan gets SOMETHING rather than no-response at all. A pre-print sucks, but it IS free!

Another popular misconception is that the actor “owes” the fan something – while it’s a good theory, in reality an actor owes us NOTHING. “But we pay to go see their movies…we buy their books…” Yes, but no one forces anyone to do that. More people seem to think it’s an entitlement rather than a special connection with the celebrity.

The way you can be certain is to become a more sophisticated collector, utilizing a wide variety of resources and being familiar with what you are collecting. Since I personally have so much experience with Star Wars autographs, I tend to be able to weed out 95% of fake signatures. I can usually tell a true Carrie Fisher from a fake – especially since I’ve written a study on her signature!



What do you guys think? Are we too protective?



I definitely don’t see you as over-protective. I would never doubt the authenticity of stuff offered by you as I know your policies on authenticity are second-to-none. All you can do is continue to remain vigilant and stand by your methods. If people have a problem with it, that’s something THEY have to deal with.

Gary X http://threads.rebelscum.com/images/graemlins/grin.gif