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Autographs and Redemptions, Legally (Part One, Hopefully)

Posted by houstoncollector on May 1, 2009

First up, I want to put up a legal disclaimer and state that I’m not a lawyer, I don’t work for a card company, and I honestly don’t know exactly what their policies are when it comes to legal contracts with athletes as far as providing signatures for sports cards. In this era of sticker autos and redemptions, it’s a fair guess that the contracts that Upper Deck, Panini and Topps have with the athletes are not generally for specific products, but outside of that, it’s anyone’s guess.

The question is this: If athletes are signing binding legal agreements to supply autographs for the companies, and fail to do so, or fail to produce actual signatures (see: Chris Johnson, Vernand Morency, and many others), what, if anything, is the legal recourse possible? And if so, why aren’t we hearing about it?

I’ve taken the liberty of emailing Topps, Panini and Upper Deck to see what information I can get, and when I have it, I’ll present it to you guys. Basically, though, if the contracts do not specify a certain date to have the autographs signed, why not? If they do, and the athletes don’t sign, why aren’t they being held accountable by the card companies for breach of contract? Why aren’t stricter quality control structures not in place to prevent crap signatures from being pushed out en masse? Not only that, but why aren’t the athletes having an issue with the fact that so many signatures of them out there may seem to dilute and devalue their name, or is that not something that they honestly think about?

Now, I’m not explicitly blaming either the athletes or the card companies at all at this moment, as I simply do not have the information or the data to make that presumption. However, I do want to know, and I think it’s something that we really need to know. I’m not saying that every athlete needs to make a flawless signature, although I do think that the quality of the signature (as well as the quality of the game-used material) needs to match the product that it’s in. If I pull a lazy, scrawled sig or a single-color white swatch from a $5 product, that’s one thing. If I’m pulling that same stuff from a $100 product, that’s quite a different thing together, and I think that needs to stop.

So, the clock is ticking, guys. Let’s see what information we can turn up.

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