I've been thinking for a while about putting down a few words on authentication. Being that this can be/is a very expensive hobby, it most certainly pays to be aware before buying anything and to go the extra mile regarding due diligence.
The sad fact is that the world is full of people who are just looking for a way to exploit others. The higher the potential gain, the higher the chances for someone trying to screw you over. And as there are a lot of money in prop collecting, there are very many people out there who will sell you anything under false pretenses. I've been lucky this far, but there have been a couple of close calls, and I've only been into this for about two - three months... One of these examples is that I was surfing e-bay looking for cool stuff. There is a lot of it on e-bay! However, I was eager and therefor not to critical. So, when I came across a good-looking background prop from The Godfather for a low price I jumped on it. luckily for me, the auction still lasted a few days and I got time to think a bit. Was it really realistic that a very nice prop from such a classic as The Godfather would sell for such a low price? And if it was, why wasn't there a bidding war on it? These, and other questions, combined with a sinking feeling in my gut made me think not only twice, but several times, and I desided that if it felt to good to be true, it most probably was. I then recanted my bid (which is possible on ebay if you have a reason), and got out of it. Of course, I have no proof that it was a scam, and I may have missed out on the deal of the century, but I'm glad I did, because I would always have had doubts about the prop, and as such I would never have been able to enjoy it. And, that is what it is ultimately is about for me, to have something that I can be proud of and really enjoy.
So, other than trusting ones gut and really living by "if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is", what can you do to make sure that your dream prop is actually real?
Well, common sense is a great place to start. ask your self; does the rice for this artifact seem realistic to it? A hero-prop from a big popular movie will probably get the big bucks. For example, you would never offer out Han Solos blaster from Star Wars for $250, would you? Shit like this goes for tens of thousands of dollars because they are super rare and very many people want them. So, think before you click...
Also, for beginners, like me, I have found that I prefer buying from recognized shops, like the ones I have linked to here. These I have researched thoroughly online and read revues of from several sources that I have themselves researched.
Notice a key-word up there? Yup, research!! Google is your friend. I was on the brink of buying another prop, (I forget which and also sadly what seller, so I can't warn about him here...), but something struck me as a bit odd, so I did some googling on the seller, and sure enough, it turned out that he had been recently found out to be a con-man. Luckily, I again listened to my gut, and was spared a faulty buy. To be honest, I actually feel that I have been more lucky than I have right to be so early in the game, but it just proves that if you're skeptical and willing to go the extra mile before buying, you'll be better off when you do spring for something and be more certain that it is real.
I have also been so lucky that I have gotten to know a person in the movie industry, and I know that (s)he has sold objects to Prop Store, so I know for a fact that they are legit. They are also mentioned repeatedly on for example Tested.com.
The serious shops will always give a Certificate Of Authenticity (COE) with everything they sell. By doing this they show that they are willing to stake their reputation on the props they sell being legit. This is the first thing to bee looking for when considering buying a movie prop. If the seller is not willing to sell with a COA steer clear. You will then have no proof what so ever that the prop is the actual "Jumper used by actor XYZ in movie ABC", and not a jumper that the seller had in the closet and wanted to get rid of... Of course, COAs are not that hard to fake, so don't take it for granted that it is legit just because the seller gives his own with. You still need to make sure that the COA is authentic. Again, Google and man-hours of research is the only way you can make as certain as possible without actually getting it from the set....
I have done the research on the other shops that I'm linking to here on this blog, and have bought from them. This should show that I at least trust them. That being said, don't just take my word for it. I'm just a random guy writing online. Take me as one of several sources.
One other source that I trust is The Original Prop Blog. I have used this one and have via him steered clear of some buys after reading articles there where sellers were debunked. I can wholeheartedly recommend him.
That is what I have for now on the subject of authentication. I will, however, be updating this post when I find something new regarding this subject, eg new trusted sources, or if I find out that a seller is outed as a fraud, so do come back here and check. I will give a shout when it has been updated, and also try to show here on the blog that it has been updated.
Also, if you find something to be a good or bad source/seller, do please tell me and anybody else reading this in the comments field. By doing this we help each other and the hobby immensely by weeding out the bad apples.