LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Since Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in a helicopter crash, collectors have been cashing in on items featuring the Lakers legend’s signature and sports memorabilia experts have seen the market for his autograph skyrocket.
“They’ve gone up between five and 50 times,” Mike Sablow, owner of Cardboard Legends in Van Nuys, said.
CBSLA investigative reporter David Goldstein found dozens of ads for merchandise allegedly signed by Kobe, including a basketball for $100,000 and his number 24 signed jersey for $250,000. A ball allegedly signed by the entire world championship team was going for more than $2 million.
But not all items were selling for blockbuster prices, an allegedly signed picture was going for $251 and an allegedly autographed OC Weekly magazine was selling for $398.
A CBSLA producer met with Armando, the seller of that magazine, who also claimed to have sold a signed ticket and jersey. Since the star’s death, he’s sold more than $20,000 worth of Kobe Bryant merchandise.
As for the magazine, Armando said it came from a friend who works for UPS.
“He was delivering some stuff, and he was working in the office,” Armando said. “The guy get him walking in the office and said, ‘Hey, can you sign this for me?’ ‘Sure!’ And, like, he signed it.”
After paying the nearly $400 for the magazine, CBSLA took it to Sablow, who has been in the business for 26 years selling sports memorabilia — including plenty of authentic Kobe Bryant autographed merchandise.
“In my opinion, it’s way off,” Sablow said of the signature on the OC Weekly magazine. “I don’t think it’s legit.”
He compared the signature to an item with an authentic Kobe Bryant signature.
“He doesn’t go up that way,” he said. “He just wouldn’t do that. He doesn’t sign that way.”
Sablow sent the magazine to another expert, who agreed with his opinion that the signature was indeed fake.
On eBay, there’s an option to get an official authenticator’s opinion for $10. It, too, said the magazine’s signature was, “likely not genuine.”
“I’d give you a dollar,” Sablow said. “Yeah, and I don’t even want it.”
Even when faced with expert opinion, Armando still claimed the signature was real.
“An expert is an opinion, sir,” he said. “That’s an opinion of a person. You can have an opinion, I can have an opinion, she can have an opinion, he can have an opinion.”
When Goldstein questioned the seller further, he offered to refund the money.
But Armando wasn’t the only one. Goldstein’s investigation found a number of other Kobe autographs on eBay that came back “likely not genuine.”
“It’s horrible,” Sablow said. “It’s why I always tell people go to go to a dealer, to someone you trust.”