|Have you ever seen this logo? I bet you have…|
As I get more into autographs I’ve had to learn what to look for in terms of authenticity, value, and exactly what constitutes a “good deal.” Obviously I stick with cards issued by brands I trust, and the vast majority are Upper Deck cards because of their exclusivity contract with Griffey. But somehow they weren’t the only company with an exclusivity contract.
The Score Board, Inc. sold untold thousands of autographs in their short time, and the deeper you go into their history and products, the more questions you seem to come away with. So after many hours of clicking and reading, here is everything I’ve learned about this company and their wacky, roller-coaster history. Keep in mind I will keep the lens of a Griffey collector, and there will be lots of quotes.
A Brief History
The Score Board Inc. was a sports memorabilia company founded in 1987 by Paul and Ken Goldin, a father and son pair who were super into baseball card collecting. The company began life as a penny stock selling at 3 ½ cents per share. By the end of 1992 that same stock was up to $45 per share. So if you bought $100 worth of The Score Board Inc. at its IPO, within five years your investment was worth over $128,000. That’s right – a penny stock made serious money.
“All you need is a line of credit and exclusive contracts with the players, and whether you agree with it or not, Score Board was the first, and the biggest to do it. You can say worthless all you like, publicly traded company, licensed and embraced, by the NFL and MLB.” – whatever, self-proclaimed former employee, blowoutforums
TSB, as I will call them for brevity’s sake, did a LOT for the hobby in their short time. They were the biggest baseball card distributor in the country at one point, and they had deals with every major card company. They purchased the Best brand in 1991 so they could produce minor league cards as well as the Classic brand of cards and most of those funky phone cards you may have seen in the mid-to-late-90’s.
Most importantly, TSB had autograph contracts with various superstars across multiple sports and would sell signed items via home shopping channels like HSN and QVC. This is where TSB’s revenue really started rolling in, and for a while business was good.
“Goldin did not hold back in 1989, opting to continue increasing Score Board's exposure and presence in various sports memorabilia niches. Sales for the year reached $20 million thanks in large part to the debut of the company's merchandise on cable television's Home Shopping Network. In front of millions of viewers sports celebrities such as Hank Aaron chatted with a host who in turn sold Score Board's sports memorabilia. The contribution to Score Board's financial status was immediate and large; by the end of 1989 roughly half of the company's entire revenue volume was derived from sales made on the Home Shopping Network.” – Funding Universe
But the good times wouldn’t last. Paul Goldin, the father in the father-son duo that started the company, passed away suddenly in 1994 at which point his son Ken took the reins. Unfortunately the timing was bad for Ken. The card market was getting more and more saturated with brands and products (remember all those ‘90’s oddballs?). On top of that was the MLB strike which ended up being the first nail in the coffin for lots of companies that had only recently entered the market; and TSB was heavily invested in baseball.
There were other problems, too, including a lot of lawsuits and countersuits with competing brands and even players, some of which set precedents that are used to this day to teach law classes (really, look it up). While those are outside of the focus of this blog, they are interesting to read about. You can find these with a quick Googling. I’m going to be focusing on the products here.
“You send a lot of items out with a signing agent, he sets up in some hotel meeting room, athlete comes in, signs away, leaves, and stuff gets brought back, checked, stored or down to production, packaged with a stand or holder, cert and plate dropped in, labeled, then shipped. It's a production line.” – whatever, blowoutforums
While most memorabilia companies had moved to holograms and matching stickers for authentication, TSB used only a very sorry-looking COA that any geek off the street could duplicate. TSB was one of the strongest names in sports collecting, and any products sold direct by them and via home shopping were as good as gold(in), but there is no denying that the COA’s did leave a lot to be desired.
“In their prime, Scoreboard was an excellent source of authentic sports autographs and one of the trusted names in the hobby. The big problem was their terrible, easy to duplicate COA's.” – Funding Universe
In 1998 TSB declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. When this happened and there were still orders left to fill, at least one card shop took matters into their own hands. A dealer in Las Vegas called Smokey’s was found by the FBI during “Operation Bullpen” (come on, that’s a cool name) to have the template and a stamp for creating TSB COA’s, and they were allegedly using them to fill orders for Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle autographs. Griffey autographs were not mentioned in this case.
While it’s not Griffey-related, here’s a quick word of advice from an autograph enthusiast I ran into online: “Mickey Mantle never signed any bats or jerseys for Score Board, only flats and balls. If you see a Score Board COA with either of these, keep on walking.”
On top of that scandal - which actually happened - were unsubstantiated rumors of employees taking boxes of authentic items, forging a bunch of fakes, replacing the originals, and returning them to stock for shipment. There were more rumors of employees stealing large quantities of blank COA’s which they later used to sell forgeries. On top of all of this a lot of independent dealers and the guys running tables at shows simply had no love for the company which also happened to be one of their major competitors.
“Score Board was the first company to really pimp out the industry as far as memorabilia, lotta anger and hate directed at them in the early 90's from the guys at shows with tables, and later by QVC/ HSN victims who thought Ken Goldin was really giving them a "deal of a lifetime," and finally by redemption people who just got flat out screwed. All this resulted in a lot of fairy tale rumor and innuendo.” whatever, blowoutforums
So, while they sold quality products for years, due to the controversy and rumors surrounding the company, there are some folks who label any and all autographed items from The Score Board as fakes. While I understand wanting to steer clear of a company that had forgeries manufactured in their name, I think these guys are throwing the baby out with the bath water.
“As for the autographs, I knew everyone involved, from raw materials to finished product, from the front door to the back door. Inventory was strictly controlled, you just didn't take something from inventory, and you sure as hell didn't return anything directly to inventory, EVER. (…) Some middle management and upper management were morally inept and made some shady deals, but that had nothing to do with inventory of autographed items.” whatever, blowoutforums
I’d like to mention here that I realize the folly of quoting Internet forum hearsay in what I want to be a fact-based blog post, but nearly everything I’ve been able to find about The Score Board is unsubstantiated rumor. There doesn’t appear to be a credible list anywhere online of what items were faked and what weren’t apart from suspicion and innuendo in Internet forums posted 15 years or more after all this went down. Whatever’s word is as good a source as any.
Now that we are talking about credible lists, this is a good time to take a look at eBay’s “not allowed” page for autographs:
“Autographed items with COAs and LOAs, or references to COAs and LOAs from the following people or organizations:
Coach's Corner Sports Auctions LLC
Christopher L. Morales
Forensic Document Services
J. DiMaggio Co. / J. DiMaggio Company
Legends Sports Memorabilia
Nathan's Autographs / N.E. Autographs
Pro Sports / Pro Sports Memorabilia
Rare and Signed.com
R.R.'s Sports Cards & Collectibles
SCAA / Front Page Art / Angelo Marino
Slamdunk Sportscards & Memorabilia
Sports Alley Memorabilia
Sports Management Group
Stan's Sports / Stans Sports Memorabilia
TTA Authentic (formerly STAT Authentic)
Blank COAs and LOAs
COAs and LOAs as stand-alone items
COAs and LOAs from anyone listed on the FBI's Operation Bullpen website”
And here is everyone listed on the FBI's Operation Bullpen website:
“Catch a Star/JMC Distributors/J&M Sports Cards/Mike Bowler (all of Oceanside, Calif.)
Classic Memorabilia/Hollywood Dreams/Hollywood Collectibles/David Tabb (of Santa Ana, Calif.; not to be confused with any other firms)
Del Mar Sports Cards/Jon Hall (San Diego)
Framed Images/Richard Laughlin (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
Front Page Art/John Marino, Gloria Marino, Kathleen Marino, Greg Marino, Angelo Marino
Home Field Advantage/Carmen “Chip” Lombardo (Del Mar, Calif.)
International Sports Marketing/Mike Lopez (Rosemead, Calif.)
La Jolla Sports Cards/Bruce Gaston (La Jolla, Calif.)
Prime Time Sports Cards/Michael Tapales (Buena Park, Calif.)
Pro Sport Memorabilia/Anthony Marino
Rick’s Collectibles/Ricky Weimer (Escondido, Calif.)
Shelly’s Cards/Sheldon Jaffe (Tustin, Calif.)
Sports and Celebrity Authentic Autographs/WW Sports Cards/Wayne Bray (San Marcos, Calif.)
Sports Management Group (Aliso Viejo, Calif.)/Universal Authentic Memorabilia (San Clemente, Calif.)/Sports Alley (Laguna Niguel, Calif.)/Mike Moses/Robyn Moses
The Beautiful and the Unusual/Lowell Katz (Long Beach, Calif.)
Universal Authentic Memorabilia/Reno Ruberti/Karen Ruberti (San Clemente, Calif.)/Scott Harris/Mary Lou Harris.”
As you can see, neither The Score Board Inc. nor either of the Goldins is on either list. This is not a surprise as they sold thousands of legit autographs for years, and they do not deserve to be on either list.
The Problem with Autographs
Now you already knew this deep down so don’t get upset, but it’s important to keep in mind that if you didn’t get it yourself, there is no way you can guarantee with 100% certainty that any autograph ever signed is genuine. This is the nature of the beast. It simply cannot be done. You can trust a company to have taken steps to assure the item is legit and the seller you are buying from to not be a con man or simply misinformed, but that’s about the best you can do. You will never really know for sure. Never.
“ALL certs can be copied, the only way you're ever going to be sure is get them from a reputable company or become familiar with the autograph you're after. Compare them to a lot of other signed pieces by same player. If you look long enough at ones you know are good, the bad ones will become obvious.”- whatever, blowoutforums
If you really want to scare yourself, go read the horror stories about fakes and counterfeits being authenticated even by the likes of reputable firms like PSA DNA and BGS. There are far more than I’m comfortable with, especially since I own several slabbed autos and consider some of them to be cornerstones of the collection.
Having read through dozens and dozens of stories of the dark side of autograph authentication, I cannot understand how anyone can tell me how everything one company releases as legitimate is 100% real, but they never touch anything from another one. It simply does not compute, especially when the latter company was the most reputable source of autographed cards and memorabilia in the market for nearly a decade.
The Griffeys of The Score Board, Inc.
Now that all that stuff is out of the way, we can finally settle in to our comfort zone and talk about Griffey cards. While there are probably more to be had out there, I have exactly two autographed Griffey cards with COA’s from The Score Board, and here they are:
|1992 Upper Deck Bloodlines Triple Autograph|
First is one of my favorite Griffeys of all time, the 1992 Upper Deck Bloodlines card signed by Junior, Senior, and brother Craig. These were hand-numbered out of 1,992, the year they were all members of the Mariners program. On a personal note, this card got the (coveted?) #1 spot in my Top Griffey Acquisitions of 2016 list (which just a year before a card signed by both Griffey and Mickey Mantle didn’t even get). You can read my lovey-dovey description of it here.
These cards were sold through QVC in a lucite case complete with an engraved plaque and COA, whatever that’s worth.
Why do I think it’s authentic? Well, it’s is a 1992 card, so it’s possible it was sold before all the nonsense allegedly started over at The Score Board. I’ve seen a specimen of this exact card that was PSA DNA slabbed authentic. In this case not one but THREE autographs had to pass muster to earn that designation. Also I’ve seen numerous examples in the very same case that mine arrived in that have sold on memorabilia sites outside of eBay. And finally, I’ve seen a lot of Griffey autos in my time, and this one just looks right.
When I bought this card I thought the price seemed suspiciously low. At the time I figured it was the large production run that was the reason; but having spent a little time looking into the company behind the COA, I suspect some collectors have written off The Score Board. Whether they are justified in doing so I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that I believe this card is authentic, and I couldn’t be happier that the price was low enough for me to own one.
|1991 Score Jumbo Autograph w/ COA|
I also have this warlock which I acquired on a whim for ultra-cheap, having already done a bit of research into TSB. Plus it's a Paul COA which is considered more likely to be genuine than a Ken one.
I even have one of those phone cards:
|1997 The Score Board Prepaid Phone Card Promo|
I don't know what possessed me to buy it, but I did. Looks cool.
Please understand that this post is not to say that everything with a Score Board COA is legit; but I’ve done so much research into this company, and it appears that the damage done was by just a small handful of counterfeiters and limited to a few specific categories. You can’t write off the entire brand, especially since they did sell millions of dollars in authentic signed merchandise, and they did it legitimately and in the most American way possible.
So, what would I NOT buy that comes with a COA from TSB? From my online research into the company and its products, the items that would scare me the most are signed balls, bats, jerseys, photos, and anything with a Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle autograph. COAs with Ken Goldin’s name on them instead of Paul’s would also cause me concern. While I should reiterate that NO AUTOGRAPH can possibly be authenticated with any real certainty, those particular items seem to have gotten the most attention from counterfeiters.
In closing I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that I hate just about everything about the sports memorabilia/autograph market. The people are shady, practically nothing is verifiable, and every year there seem to be more horror stories. And somehow the whole thing seems to be centered around mini-helmets? What is that all about? Mini-helmets are stupid...JUST COLLECT CARDS FOR GOODNESS SAKE.
Okay, that’s it.