SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Question: When is an autograph not an autograph?
Answer: When it’s an “autographed signature card,” apparently.
Several weeks ago, many online retailers began accepting orders for a special “collector’s edition” of WWE’s latest documentary, “Brock Lesnar: Eat. Sleep. Conquer. Repeat.” According to the description of the DVD from WWE.com, Walmart.com, Amazon.com and several other sellers, the collector’s edition box set includes “a pair of replica gloves, a Brock Lesnar Topps trading card, and an autographed signature card with authentic ring canvas from WrestleMania 32!”
The cost of the box set varies, from $39.96 at Walmart to $49.99 at Best Buy, to upwards of $60 from some smaller retailers. For some autograph collectors, this seemed like a steal. A Brock Lesnar autograph for as little as $40? Most of his certified WWE autographed trading cards from Topps sell for $100 at minimum. But those who ordered the collector’s edition box set specifically for the autograph were in for a disappointment.
The “autographed signature card” advertised with the set turned out to be an oversized card with a piece of the mat from WrestleMania 32 and no autograph. Instead, a facsimile of Brock’s signature was printed on the card. Basically, fans who were expecting to get an item signed by Brock Lesnar instead got a picture of his signature.
Customers’ reactions to the “autographed signature card” can be seen on YouTube. Simply search for “Brock Lesnar DVD unboxing” and you’ll find plenty of videos. Some customers dropped four-letter expletives. Some shrugged it off and said, “Oh well, what do you expect for 40 bucks?” Others didn’t seem to realize the item that they got wasn’t actually signed.
Advertising an autographed item and then delivering a preprinted signature makes WWE and its business partners look bush league. There is no way the NFL or NBA would allow a company to advertise an “autograph signature card” of an athlete like Tom Brady or Lebron James and then deliver a preprinted signature. Yes, there are plenty of sports items that feature facsimiles or replica signatures, but reputable companies will make that clear up front – or at least in the fine print.
WWE isn’t new to the sports collectibles business. The company has been selling signed items for more than 25 years. Unfortunately, WWE frequently makes decisions that bring into question the legitimacy of signed WWE memorabilia. As far back as 1990, the WWF was selling preprinted signatures as authentic autographs through WWF Magazine. During the Attitude Era, the WWF sometimes sold framed items with a signature or piece of mat without giving collectors any sort of COA. Over the last five years, WWE has sold countless signed pictures or mini-posters (that they often misidentified as “trading cards”) without providing any sort of COA. Just last week, fans who bought the deluxe edition of WWE 2k17 got a signed photo of Shinsuke Nakamura – but no COA.
I regularly get emails from readers asking me if an item is authentic. In many cases, it looks like something that WWE would produce, but without a COA, it’s impossible to tell. One of the reasons I tend to steer novice WWE autograph seekers toward Topps is because signed Topps items always have some sort of guarantee of authenticity: a stamp on the front of a card, a COA on the back of the card or a letter for larger non-card items.
WWE is a multimillion dollar publically traded company, but much smaller companies like TNA and Ring of Honor do a better job of ensuring the authenticity of items they sell to fans. Hopefully WWE will learn from this Lesnar DVD fiasco and be more honest and up front with their customers about what exactly they or their business partners are selling in the future.
PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
NOW READ OUR PREVIOUS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Signed Golden Star Cards of Top British Wrestlers, including Zack Sabre Jr., Lionheart, & El Ligero