Auction Houses Cool to MEARS Deal

A major sports memorabilia authenticator took a tough stance on its dealings with hobby auction companies. Only one agreed to abide by the firm’s new contract.

Don’t look for Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services letters of authenticity on items that enter many of the hobby’s major auctions next year.

MEARS’ effort to force auction houses to comply with a set of uncompromising guidelines didn’t go over well. Among the provisions was an agreement by auction companies to submit to short notice MEARS "audits" of bidding records and consignor lists. MEARS also required full disclosure of items owned by the auction house or employees’ families, mandatory inclusion of its grades in item descriptions whether favorable or not, full disclosure of modifications or changes to items and more specifics relating to game-used bats. MEARS’ deadline for 2008 compliance passed over the weekend with only Robert Edward Auctions agreeing to the terms.

Collectors and auction companies use the Milwaukee-based MEARS to help determine if an item is authentic and possibly date it to a specific team, player or era. Using a large library of photos, books and other tools of the authentication trade, the company evaluates submitted items for a fee. A "MEARS letter" offering thumbs-up documentation of an item can often generate substantially increased profits for the consignor and/or auction house.

Now, however, it appears auction houses are prepared to find other means of authenticating their game-used items.

MEARS’ Dave Grob reacted to the results of its plan on Sunday.

Game used bats on eBay