The continued growth of Cal Ripken's popularity has brought a lot of entrepreneurs to the attention of the Tufton Group, which handles the Orioles shortstop's appearances and endorsements.
Most of the time Tufton deals with product prototypes or drawings. But sometimes it learns of entrepreneurs selling items with bogus Ripken signatures.
Says Ira Rainess of Tufton, "When there's a large demand, people will try to take advantage."
He says Tufton became aware of large numbers of forgeries in 1991, after Ripken's second MVP season. Reports of forgeries ++ slowed in late 1992 after Ripken signed up with the Score Board, which is the exclusive distributor of his signed baseballs and photos, Rainess says.
But forgeries emerged again during last summer's streak pursuit.
"During the streak, demand was so large, Score Board didn't have the supply," Rainess says.
Complaints have decreased the past couple of months, he says, because "people have been educated about the distribution of authentic Ripken autographs" after reports on Channel 2 and in Sports Collectors Digest and Business Week.
He says Tufton gets complaints from collectors and dealers, mostly outside the Baltimore area, "where people don't have the access to Cal or aren't as familiar with his signature. . . . Around here, you're hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't have a Cal Ripken item."
Rainess advises collectors to be aware of market price and where the dealer got the item.
He says Score Board is selling autographed Ripken balls for around $99. Demand has pushed prices up from the $79 range of a year ago. "If the price is below market value, that should be a tip-off."
Collectors should ask dealers where they got the autographed balls, Rainess says. "If he says he had a private signing, that's not true," he said. "[Ripken] has never had a private signing."
Score Board includes a certificate of authenticity with each item and will tell collectors who it sells to. Call (609) 354-9000.
Of course, Ripken is famous for impromptu ballpark signings that can go on for hours and has been known to sign a chef's apron in a restaurant. But these items seem likely to remain with the people who asked Ripken to sign them.
Wednesday is the last day to enter the Honus Wagner T-206 give-away. The Wagner card winner will be drawn on Wagner's birthday, Feb. 24. Entry forms are available at Wal-Mart.
Pinnacle, which has produced Zenith issues of baseball and football cards, brings the super premium line to hockey. The set, with three insert sets, will be shipped in late January.
Topps' 1995-96 Finest Basketball, due in late January, includes 29 draft picks in the 140-card basic set. There are also three insert sets, including a 29-card set featuring two players on each, a star passer and a high-scoring teammate.
Signature Rookies is beginning an 18-month memorabilia giveaway, whose top prizes are game-worn jerseys of Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig. Information cards are in every pack of Signature Rookies cards.
Through March 31, "The Faces of Baseball," exhibit featuring more than 40 photographic portraits of baseball's most famous faces, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 727-1539.
Feb. 10, card show to benefit Bengies Chase Girls Softball Program, Oliver Beach Elementary School (12912 Cunninghill Cove Road), Chase, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
March 29-31, "Senators of Griffith Stadium Reunion" card show (expected signers include Harmon Killebrew, Chuck Stobbs, Roy Sievers, Mickey Vernon and Eddie Yost), Essex Community College, March 29 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., March 30 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., March 31 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (516) 676-3302.
Card of the week
Pinnacle's newest racing card line is Racer's Choice, which will debut in March with a suggested retail price of 99 cents per pack. There are 110 basic cards plus insert sets featuring Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. (Shown is Sterling Marlin.)