Game Used Universe is crossing over to the world of sports memorabilia auctioneer, building a model they believe puts collectors back in power.
It's become a hot button issue.
The rising value of sports memorabilia, the creativity among scam artists and the chase of big money has cast suspicions on a number of pieces of supposed game-used items coming from every sport. It's become a hot button issue, sometimes shielded from the often naive or undereducated buyers themselves who spend millions on collectibles each year.
Is it real?
No question is more important when four, five and six-figure items are offered to the public via the dozens of large sports memorabilia auctions taking place each year. Many casual collectors can't possibly know and have relied on their trust of auction houses to make purchase decisions for them. Much of the time it works. Other times, reservations expressed or information known outside the auction realm about a specific item never makes its way to those involved in the bidding. An unsuspecting buyer can wind up with an item that's questionable or even an outright fake.
Rather than have one of just a handful of people attempt to evaluate a wide spectrum of items, the sports collectors who built the popular website, Game Used Universe, felt they could build a better mousetrap.
"We believe the current auction model is deficient," CEO Chris Cavalier told Sports Collectors Daily. "Our model is about transparency and trust."
The company was born just two years ago as an online community with specialists in virtually every area of apparel and equipment . Bats, jerseys, helmets and other items have been studied in-depth for years by some of the top collectors in the field. GUU will use that collective knowledge to help launch its inaugural auction next month. Over 200 items have been consigned, ranging from Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford vintage game-used bats to NHL game-used helmets and NFL jerseys.
Since it's inception, Game Used Universe has provided content and social networking to collectors so they can make informed decisions about the items they purchase. The shared knowledge gleaned by collectors is passed on to those who visit GUU's popular online forums or seek advice from its panel of specialists. GUU says the same concept will apply to the auction, which launches in September and runs through October 25.
"The preliminary evaluations of all of the items in our auction have been done by some of the most knowledgeable collectors in the hobby," Cavalier said. "More importantly, they are people of the highest integrity."
Beyond its own evaluations, however, GUU has developed its own custom software where each and every item in its online auction will have a mini-forum below the standard photos and item description. The format will allow collectors to ask questions that can be answered by GUU evaluators and anyone in the GUU community who has substantiated knowledge about a specific item. The Q&A will be open to anyone viewing the auction.
"We will work together to make sure an item is genuine. It's a concept built on the idea of checks and balances," Cavalier stated. "It's better than relying on the opinions of just a few people in the hobby, some of whom frankly aren't always very reliable. This system of fully disclosing all information for collectors to use in their purchasing decisions has never existed before."
GUU was instrumental in helping Vince Malta complete his book “A Complete Reference Guide – Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats” and is working to distribute the book to all collectors. This reference guide is providing game used bat collectors with information that previously only resided in the hands of a select few and changing long-held opinions on certain types of bats.
"Our basic tenet is 'integrity before profits'. If information comes to light that an item is questionable or misrepresented, the system exposes it and we remove it. It's simply about trying to do the right thing."
GUU unveiled some of the auction items and received consignments at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. They also participated in last weekend's West Coast Sports Collectors Expo in the Los Angeles area.
Some of the items in the inaugural GUU Auction are shown below. To view an auction preview, click here.