U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in the Cincinnati area have seized 200 unlicensed sports jerseys containing autographs. The CBP says they were coming from the Philippines and destined for a warehouse in Nashville, TN before being removed from a DHL facility by investigators.
The jerseys included autographs from Hall of Famer Rod Carew, Steelers’ star Minkah Fitzpatrick, Raiders’ tight end Jason Witten and Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
It’s well known within the hobby that dealers and collectors will have players sign jersey numbers and have those signatures properly authenticated, then ship the numbers to a location where they can be attached to knock-off jerseys that cost less. One of those locations is in the Philippines.
The use of small, flat items for autographs and low-cost but unlicensed jerseys enables them to sell the autographed item to collectors at a lower price than they would be able to if they paid full price for an officially licensed NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL or college jersey.
Federal agencies, however, are adamant about protecting the licenses and prohibiting counterfeit goods from entering the country. Large numbers of jerseys are seized by the CBP at various sporting events and in stores each year. CBP officials pegged the value of the seized autographed jerseys at $42,625 “had the clothing been real.”
Photos provided by the CBP of the jerseys seized in the Cincinnati case show autograph authentication stickers from Beckett and James Spence Authentication. A photo of one of the Witten jerseys contains his own authentication sticker as well. Witten’s representatives told us they were authentic. However, the CBP maintains its stance that the signatures aren’t real, stating “the jerseys were determined to be counterfeit and the signatures not authentic by our Centers of Excellence and Expertise, Apparel, Footwear, and Textiles.”
It’s not yet known whether the seizure is part of an ongoing case over unlicensed jerseys that carry autographs. Steve Bansbach, CBP Public Affairs Officer in the Chicago Field Office, told SC Daily that the case will likely be turned over to an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP seized 26,503 shipments of counterfeit goods worth nearly $1.3 billion had the goods been genuine.