Contact 6: How Miller Park ensures authenticity of game-used memorabilia

MILWAUKEE — Many Brewers fans would love to own a broken bat, or an authentic jersey worn in a game by their favorite Brewers player. But how do you know these treasured items are really 100% authentic? FOX6’s Contact 6 went behind the scenes at Miller Park for a look at how Major League Baseball officials know an item is really game-used.

Latunya Meredith is a Major League Baseball authenticator. Her job is to watch and verify equipment that will be sold as game-used is really used in a game.

Sports fans pay hundreds of dollars for balls used in last year’s playoff games, or a game-used Brewers jersey, but some say buyer beware!

Robin Williams is a handwriting and documentation analyst and has identified memorabilia fraud before.

“Over 50% of sports memorabilia is fraudulent.  The vintage market is even more fraudulent.  It’s probably up in the 85 to 90 percentile bracket,” Williams said.

Williams gets that statistic from what’s called the biggest forgery scam in history — “Operation Bullpen” in 2000. It was a three-year FBI undercover investigation that exposed a nationwide fake memorabilia bust of over $100 million!

That scam is why Major League Baseball started the authentication process and why Williams warns customers to ask questions.

“What game were they used in?  Where is the documentation from the equipment manager or MLB?  If they cannot tell you exactly what game it was used in, and they do not have the documentation, I would walk away,” Williams said.

Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger says he’s glad MLB’s system is in place and gave Contact 6’s Katrina Cravy a rare look behind the scenes at Miller Park.

“It took a lot of foresight to do this because it has now been 10 years and the process works well. It has really legtimized the memorabilia and game-used equipment,” Schlesinger said.

At Miller Park, there are three MLB authenticators designated to certify Brewers equipment. All of them, like Meredith, are also Milwaukee Police officers. One of them is at every Brewers game.

“That individual witnesses if there is a ball that’s been hit in the game, or a cracked bat or if there is a lineup card in the pregame that has to be authenticated. That person will witness it, will affix a hologram sticker directly on the item, will then log in to Brewers.com a description of that item with a serial number so that anybody acquiring that hologram item will be able to go on to Brewers.com, log in with that serial number and identify it is exactly what it is,” Schlesinger said.

The Brewers request certain items be authenticated based on their value.

“Basically based on the popularity of the player. If there is a milestone event, if a player is going for a record of some sort,” Schlesinger said.

When jerseys are being authenticated, the players come off the field, take the jerseys off, hand them to the clubhouse manager and he takes them directly to be authenticated, when the MLB hologram is immediately attached.

“We know that when we tell people that we have an authentic jersey and it’s got the hologram, we can feel 100% confident and that the fan has every confidence he or she is getting game-used and authentic,” Schlesinger said.

Experts say — look for the hologram and check the serial number to make sure the description matches the item. Also — don’t be afraid to ask questions before opening your wallet!

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