Why the London Knights Case is a Landmark Case for the Hobby

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As many have read recently, Scott Galbraith may be taking action against the London Knights for what he believes is fraud (this article is not to sway opinion one way or another).  There are multiple stories coming out about the issues including this article and this article.  The original auction listing is here.

Some people have said that the team tried to make it right and Scott should be satisfied with that.  Those people are wrong.  The moment you accept fraudulent actions from an organization, even if they try to ‘make it right’, it sets the notion that they could try it again, maybe to someone who wouldn’t know better.  

There are a couple of issues that we see in the game worn collecting world when it comes to organizations:  Teams do not know what they have or teams think their customers do not have resources for authentication outside of the team’s word.

Whiffen of the London Knights said in regards to photo matching:

It is not a foolproof or precise process, because you would literally have to watch every shift played during the course of the season to know if every mark corresponded. It’s a tool, but hardly a science.

When the auction states: 

This jersey was worn in game throughout the entire 2015-16 season and includes a letter of authenticity.

This eludes two points.  Playoffs and memorial cup are apart of the 2015-16 season.  This snippet does not specify REGULAR season.  Very important when listing items to be as accurate as possible.  When making a statement that a jersey was worn throughout the entire 2015-16 season, only a sampling is necessary, not every shift.

Every shift.  Players do not change jerseys every shift.  In fact, rarely does a player change jerseys after a period, however it can happen, but not likely.  Every single jersey is unique.  With today’s high res photos, it is very easy to distinguish unique features of jerseys, such as cut, threading, placement of numbers and crest.

Observing these compared Dylan Larkin jerseys taken from the Stadium Series, they are two separate jerseys easily identified by the spacing in the pattern where the arm meets the body and shoulder.  You can see the jersey on the left has a connected pattern while the jersey on the right is offset (It is commonly known that for events such as the Stadium Series, players wear a different jersey for each period).

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When it comes to memorabilia and game worn items, where does the burden of proof reside?  If an organizations members are unaware of what they have or how to describe an item they are placing for sale (such as calling a game issued jersey game worn), is ignorance an acceptable excuse?  Even worse is deliberate fraud.  Is a generic LOA acceptable?  This was worn by a player, take our word for it, we have no evidence or proof, but it was.  The case in question is highlighting how much should be proven against blanket trust, and that is OK!  

There is far too much technology in order to handle these sort of requests.  If we take a look at what many of the jerseys among the NHL have inside today, many have barcodes.

How do the teams use these barcodes?  I do not know.  Some believe they use a program that allows them to tie the serial number to a game, but there is no data on this, at least publicly.  These barcodes are great.  They can be washed without deterioration and can be placed in easily accessible places, but even with teams that have these on their jerseys, it may very well be used to identify a jersey, not track it.

This is where the burden of proof becomes very important.  Clearly, the ‘take our word for it approach’ fails for numerous reasons.  The next best thing is tracking.  Using these barcodes and a piece of software, jerseys could be tracked down to the date and time they are issued for the game.  If they are changed in between periods, this could be documented as well.

The problem in tracking software is it creates an additional duty for the person who is handling it, such as the equipment manager.  Now instead of simply placing a jersey in the locker stall, the equipment manager has to do one additional action, scan a barcode, then place the jersey in the stall.  The equipment manager needs to benefit to use something new, enter TCMax from Soaring Software Soltuions, Inc.

This software would not only track use of jerseys and equipment, but could offer equipment managers insight into stock levels of sticks and tape.  They could track how often they perform maintenance on skates, identifying how many times steel has been sharpened.  If a piece of equipment comes back broken, they can ID all their broken equipment and handle it at one time.  There are far too many valuable resources available in a piece of software like this in just a business environment while retaining records valuable to the memorabilia side.

Whatever the case may be, it is becoming clear that proof in memorabilia is becoming more important, and if teams want to engage in the sale of memorabilia as such instead of simply used equipment, staff should be trained in understanding authentication, outsourcing sales to a party willing to put in the research or tracking measures be in place in order to provide public information as to the history of the item being sold.