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California's Signed Sports Memorabilia Law No Longer Just for Sports

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 22, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Good news for those that love buying signed collectibles: As of January 1, 2017, dealers in the state of California that sell signed collectibles are now required to provide a certificate of authenticity for any signed collectible worth over $5. While the law doesn't apply to private individuals conducting sales, there are still several concerns about the new law for consumers.

Whether it is a piece of fine art, a Jeremy Bulloch signed Star Wars action figure, some ultra-rare Christopher Rush signed Magic: the Gathering cards, or a signed Darryl Strawberry rookie card, if it's worth more than $5, a collectibles dealer risks serious legal consequences by not providing the legally required and rather specific certificate of authenticity. While California consumers may benefit from decreased fraud in the signed collectibles market, the law will likely impact many dealers' ability to even sell signed items moving forward.

What's Actually Required?

For collectibles dealers, the law requires that certificates of authenticity be specific to each signed item. This requires including the name and address of who the dealer purchased the item from, as well as whether the dealer personally witnessed the signing. Also, details regarding the item, such as whether it is one of a certain number of limited editions, or other unique information, should be included.

This basically means that California collectible dealers that sell signed items for more than $5 must now go through their inventory and create certificates of authenticity with the required information. This onerous requirement caused many small businesses,from traditional booksellers and comic book stores to fine art dealers, to vehemently oppose the law. Many individuals and collectors also opposed the law due to the privacy concerns associated with requiring a certificate of authenticity to list the name and address of the person from whom the dealer purchased the item.

Though the law's author has since attempted to assert that the law does not cover these industries, but rather, was only meant to crack down on Hollywood's celebrity forgery mills, the actual text of the law seems to directly state otherwise. Until the law is tested by the courts, dealers would certainly be wise to be careful.

What's the Penalty for Not Complying?

If a dealer fails to provide the certificate of authenticity, or a certificate is determined to be false, a buyer can bring a legal action against the dealer. Generally, a buyer will be entitled to compensation for the difference in value between an authenticated signed item, and an unauthenticated signed item. Additionally, under the new law, a court can multiply the amount of damages by 10, as well as award attorneys' fees and costs.

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