Sports memorabilia from specific games can be valuable, but used to be hard to authenticate. No more. Now Major League Baseball Fights Fakery With an Army of Authenticators, on the spot to tag items as they become sports history.
"Nothing is too mundane to be authenticated, if deemed potentially valuable. Cans of insect repellent used to combat the midges that swarmed the 2007 playoffs in Cleveland were authenticated. So were urinals pulled from the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis and office equipment from since-razed Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The Phillies are cutting the clubhouse carpet from last season into authenticated 18-by-24-inch mats. "
Indeed, "...every game has at least one authenticator, watching from a dugout or near one. The authenticators are part of a team of 120 active and retired law-enforcement officials sharing the duties for the 30 franchises. Several worked the home openers for the Yankees and the Mets, helping track firsts at the new stadiums. They verified balls, bases, jerseys, the pitchers’ rosin bag, even the pitching rubber and the home plate that were removed after the first game at Yankee Stadium. "
"With Yankee Stadium emptied after the opening 10-2 loss to Cleveland, Lubrano watched groundskeepers shovel dirt from the mound and home plate into five-gallon buckets. Lubrano sealed the lids with tape, then stuck holograms on each bucket, lid and seal. The dirt will be divided into small containers at a warehouse, in front of an authenticator."
How's that for product differentiation?
Update: Tyler Cowen at MR has a post on a related subject, titled Department of Unintended Consequences. Apparently, fraudulent items in the (unauthenticated) market for antiquities on eBay have driven out genuine items, driving down prices (for genuine as well as fake items, since there's no authentication) with the unintended but welcome consequence that grave robbing has become less profitable.