Since 2002, the Star Wars Celebration autograph hall has been the best place for fans to meet cast and crew from the entire Star Wars saga. It’s not only a chance to meet the stars, but also a great opportunity to take home an autographed photo or item. At Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017, those autographed items are even more special thanks to a new collaboration between Lucasfilm, Topps, and Authenticators, Inc.
In December 2016, Topps, Authenticators, Inc., and Lucasfilm launched StarWarsAuthentics.com, an exclusive online destination for authenticated autographed photos from iconic Star Wars actors. Imagery comes direct from Lucasfilm’s own library of high-quality photos printed using Topps’ technology. David Leiner, general manager and vice president of the North American Sports and Entertainment division at Topps, says, “Topps excels in visual arts and printing technologies, and we are thrilled to bring our expertise to Star Wars, building upon our trading card and Major League Baseball memorabilia business.” In addition to that expertise, a new authentication process offering fans unprecedented peace of mind and assurance of the authenticity of their photos is coming to Star Wars Celebration in April.
While this form of authentication is new to Star Wars, the team at Authenticators, Inc. has been part of the memorabilia scene since 2006 when the company was founded to help Major League Baseball grow its fledgling authentication program. Like other sports and entertainment stars, Baseball players had been autographing items for decades. Buying, selling, and collecting signed memorabilia had grown into a multi-million dollar market. But with that growth, fakes and forgeries were also part of the trade. Something had to be done.
In the 1990s, the FBI led an undercover investigation into the fake baseball memorabilia industry known as Operation Bullpen. That investigation determined that 75% of all autographs for sale were forgeries. The investigation shed light into how far forgers would go to sell fake items, and led to the MLB developing their own authentication program.
More recently, actor Mark Hamill shed light on a similar unfortunate trend in the resale market for his own autograph. Hamill has taken to Twitter, helping fans spot forgeries and speaking out to protect fans from fakes. Seeing this, Michael Posner of Authenticators, Inc. could relate. ”This is a man who is all about his fans and now he realizes they are getting ripped off. After reading this in the paper and on Twitter, I realized we have a solution here.”
With that, the collaboration with Topps and Lucasfilm was born. “Topps has been not only a partner with MLB forever, but they are the longest tenured licensee with Star Wars as well. It was the perfect storm for us,” says Posner. “We pooled our resources to really take the autograph business to the next level in the same way that Topps and Authenticators Inc. had done with Major League Baseball.”
For many fans, the first chance to see the new authenticated products comes at Star Wars Celebration next month. “We are excited to do this at Star Wars Celebration and show the fans how all of this can work,” says Posner. For the convention, Topps, and Authenticators, Inc. will have a full team on site. With them comes Topps’ highest quality items and Authenticators Inc.’s high-tech solution for authentication.
At the core of their solution is an independent third party that witnesses each and every signature. Off-duty law enforcement officers working as independent contractors are assigned by Authenticators, Inc. to authenticate autographs. About the authenticators who average 26 years in law enforcement experience, Posner says, “This is someone who has been around, has attained a certain responsibility, and has gained a lot of respect in their jurisdiction.”
All artifacts also receive a uniquely numbered, tamperproof hologram that allows customers to verify items online. This process eliminates “Certificates of Authenticity,” which are easily replicated or forged. Having seen the lengths that forgers will go to in order to scam customers, Posner reminds us that, “If people were going to fake the autograph, they certainly were going to fake the Certificate of Authenticity.”
The hologram itself might be small, but it is packed with technology to help maintain its integrity. “The hologram is highly engineered,” Posner says. “We use a government contractor to make it. If someone tries to pull the hologram off, it destroys the hologram.” That means that holograms can’t be moved from one item to another. Each hologram has a hologram ID that links it back to the database at StarWarsAuthentics.com. “We’re the peace-of-mind provider for the end consumer. That hologram lives on the product and the database lives on the Internet. On your smart phone you can verify the items by taking a picture of the barcode.” In the race against forgers, Authenticators Inc. is always looking for ways to change the game.
“To date, no one has tried to fake our hologram,” says Posner. “Fans now have something they know is truly legitimate. Because there is no doubt about the authenticity of the item, it’s worth more.” In the retail market, MLB autographs and game-used memorabilia certified by Authenticators, Inc. regularly sell for at least a 50% premium over similar items authenticated by other “opinion-based” companies.
Fans attending Star Wars Celebration in Orlando have a lot to look forward to, and the autograph hall is no exception. “Topps and Lucasfilm are working very hard to bring the best talent from Star Wars. I think fans are going to be very happy,” says Posner. At the show, the authentication team will be in full swing. “When a talent is at the signing booth, they will be accompanied by an authenticator from Authenticators, Inc,” says Posner. “When an item is signed, the hologram is applied right then and there. Within minutes, they will be able to authenticate that item on the StarWarsAuthentics.com website. They won’t have to worry about another piece of paper to keep track of.” It’s the same experience that fans have experienced in Major League Baseball for 15 years.
For fans that can’t make it to Star Wars Celebration, StarWarsAuthentics.com is the best place to find these new, high-quality authenticated items. Today, the site offers autographed photos, official photos, trading cards, and wall art. Available now are items featuring Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Brian Herring (puppeteer of BB-8), Daisy Ridley (Rey), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Îmwe), Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), John Boyega (Finn), and Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook).
Fans can purchase authentic movie photos and officially licensed Star Wars memorabilia to get signed at the autograph pavilion at StarWarsAuthentics.com.
Star Wars Celebration Orlando will take place April 13-16 at the Orange County Convention Center. Visit StarWarsCelebration.com for tickets and more info!
Cole Horton is a historian turned writer turned games industry professional. He’s the co-author of Star Wars Absolutely Everything You Need to Know and the upcoming Star Wars The Visual Encyclopedia. You can find him on Twitter @ColeHorton.