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It's ‘buyer beware' in this trade

Before spending $600 for an autographed Peyton Manning football, how do you really know that’s Manning’s signature gracing that prized pigskin?

And what happens if your $600 investment is damaged or stolen?

These are questions people need to ask, says one sports memorabilia dealer.

“I hate to admit it, but any time there is money to be made, crooks are going to be there, too,” says Carlos Gonzalez, owner of North Carolina-based Authentic Signed Sports Co. “Do your homework before you buy an item and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask them how they got it and where they got it from.

“Prices are going to vary. But if it sounds too good to be true, then, you know, it probably is. There are so many places you can buy memorabilia. You can get it on eBay and other Internet sites. You don’t know who you are dealing with. You spend money and you can get nothing in return. This business is making money. You don’t have to steal from people. You want to treat them right so they come back and spend more money with you.”

That’s been Sport Spot – S&S’s secret to success.

Ron Straessle has owned the business at 1015 Coliseum Blvd. E. for 17 years. He says that while the business isn’t as successful as it once was, “it’s not dead. It’s not thriving. It’s nowhere where it has been, but we are doing well.

“We do well because we have good customer service and are known nationwide. We have a nationwide reputation in the industry and on the Internet. I used to collect, but I don’t anymore. Everyone always wanted to buy what I had, so now I am a seller.”

While buyers should beware, they also should be protected.

The Maryland-based Collectibles Insurance Agency sells specialized insurance coverage to stamp and postcard collectors and dealers.

The business – founded by fellow collectors in 1966 – expanded to autographed items in the early ’90s, and now the company insures just about any kind of collection, says Annemarie Fitzpatrick, the company’s sales director.

She says customers usually find out too late that their homeowners’ insurance doesn’t fully cover their collection. To buy collectible insurance, an appraisal isn’t required. Fitzpatrick says the customer determines the collection’s value and the amount of insurance needed.

“We insure today’s treasures from tomorrow’s tragedy. People spend a lot of money on their collections and dealers travel to different shows and they need insurance. They find out their homeowner policy has limits, so that’s why they take out specialty insurance like ours,” says Fitzpatrick, adding that customers should maintain an inventory of all the items in their collection.