When is a lifetime guarantee, not a lifetime guarantee?
Ten years ago, I bought a single signed baseball of legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel. It came from a dealer named Steve Milwich who bragged that he was a UACC Registered Autograph dealer with his company “Sign Of The Times” and guaranteed the authenticity “for life.” He even put a “Sign Of The Times” “Authenticity Seal” hologram on the ball.
The ball came with a hand-written letter to Steve from dated 1993 written by James Spence, noted autograph authenticator who runs- and I quote his website- “The foremost authentication service in the hobby.”
At the time, Spence ran a company called “Show Off” Collectibles. He then went on to be lead authenticator for PSA/DNA and then his own company JSA- James Spence Authentication.
The letter accompanying the ball reads,
“This letter is to certify the authenticity of the single-signed Casey Stengel baseball you purchased from my company. The item was signed on the sweet spot in fountain pen ink and appears on an Official American Association game used baseball.
The autograph is bold and consistent with the many other Stengel autographs I have examined over the years. it is my policy to offer a lifetime guarantee of autograph authenticity for all items purchased.”
The COA from Sign Of The Times reads
“Certificate of Authenticity
This is to certify that the autograph below is guaranteed for life and has been authentically autographed by the star named.
Great looking Official “American Association” GAME USED baseball autographed by Hall of Famer, Casey Stengel! Casey has signed this ball perfectly on the “sweet-spot” in black fountain pen. This balls comes with the ORIGINAL letter of Authentication to me, dated 9/11/93 from JAMES SPENCE III (now lead authenticator for PSA/DNA) and authenticated by MARK JORDAN as well! Sign of the Times Authenticity Seal #2560.
U.A.C.C. Registered Dealer #73″
Recently I sold the ball on ebay for the same price I paid Steve Milwich ten years ago. The person who bought it sent it to James Spence’s current Authentication company JSA, WHO REJECTED THE AUTOGRAPH.
They rejected a baseball which came with a letter from their CEO saying it’s real.
And he guaranteed it for life.
This time, they cited
- Atypical letter slant, angle, and/or pitch
- Ink doesn’t have characteristics normally found with naturally aged ink
- Irregular letter shape and/or formation
- Irregular overlapping of strokes
- Irregular spacing between letters
- Lacks spontaneity, rhythm, conviction and/or movement
- Sizing of letters Disproportionate/Exaggerated/Undersized
So the person who bought it from me wants their money back, which is understandable. I contacted JSA, James Spence’s company, who said they can’t talk to me, since I didn’t submit the ball for authentication. So they talked to the person who bought it from me.
JSA said that JSA- James Spence Authentication never authenticated it originally or made any guarantee, James Spence THE INDIVIDUAL did, and therefore they don’t owe anything.
They recommended I contact the person I bought the ball from.
I left a voicemail for Steve Milwich and emailed him twice and he did not return my call or emails. I then called him again and got him on the phone. Steve said he’s out of business, so the lifetime guarantee no longer applies. He also said “And anyway, a lifetime guarantee is good for a year or so. And this is the reason people don’t offer lifetime guarantees.” He said he bought the ball from James Spence at a card show in Westchester in 1993. Steve said if I had a problem, I should go to James Spence.
By the way, I refunded the money to the person who bought the ball from me. I’m getting the ball back. The person I bought it from is telling me I’m out of luck. And the person he bought it from is telling me the same thing.
James Spence Authentication and Steve Milwich are both blaming each other and trying to hide behind language.
I would like to remind you. All of this happened because James Spence guaranteed for life a signature that James Spence’s company then said was inauthentic.
Way to run a business.
James Spence has reached out to me and offered to discuss the matter when he returns to his office on Friday. He says it will give us the chance to “resolve this matter properly.”
Hopefully he will do the right thing…
UPDATE: Just had a conversation with Jimmy Spence who agreed to honor his lifetime guarantee & refund my money. Thank you Jimmy. Time to move on…