What is AFTAL?
The “Autograph Fair Trade Association” ( AFTAL ) was formed by a group of acknowledged autograph dealers, with the intention of stamping out the market in fake items and ensuring that the customer is able to find dealers that they can trust.
Inclusion in AFTAL is proof of each dealer’s commitment and professional competence. The Code of Conduct commits each AFTAL approved dealer to providing authentic items, with all the required knowledge, qualification and diligence that that may demand, and is the best possible proof any collector could have when looking to buy authentic signed memorabilia.
Simply put, there is no reason as to why any honest dealer should not become an AFTAL approved dealer, but many reasons why some could never become an AFTAL approved dealer.
What does AFTAL do?
The signed memorabilia market is now a multi-million industry, with the result that the less honest sellers will simply create those items that are most in demand. This non-authentic material is then offered for sale on websites, Internet auctions, and through retail outlets around the UK . Although easily spotted by an expert, hundreds of fake items are sold to unsuspecting collectors every day. AFTAL work hard to ensure that the Police and Trading Standards are aware of who the forgers behind the fakes are so they can take action.
Any memorabilia dealer can apply to join AFTAL, but not all applications are successful. Some “dealers” know that their ability to tell good from bad would become apparent during our verification process and authentication course, and so choose not be involved in AFTAL. If your dealer is not a member, ask them why!
Gazza's Pointers for Buying...
When looking for authentic signed items, we recommend that you always search out established dealers that are well known within the business, and not just known for selling on eBay! There are a number of associations or clubs that dealers can join, but AFTAL is the only one that has a strict initial vetting procedure, an online complaints form, a compulsory full day autograph course for all new dealer members, an email newsletter to ensure that its members are aware of any new forgers etc, and a complete list of its dealers with contact details on the website.
Any dealer who is serious about autographs will have taken the time and effort to become a full member of one of the more well known autograph associations who have their dealer members listed on their websites. It is our opinion that you should be very cautious about dealing with anyone who is not prepared to both join and stand by one of these associations’ rules and regulations. But beware! We have seen a number of shady dealers who have even gone as far as creating their own associations in an effort to create a cloak of respectability for their fakes and forgeries!
Look out for dealers who state on their website or listings ‘I buy my stock from UACC or AFTAL dealers’ whilst not themselves being members of either! These dealers should raise a question mark (have they been refused membership, do they indeed buy from who they say!), and anyway, surely you can do the same without their extra mark up?
A COA should always include the dealer’s full name and contact details, as well as membership numbers of any associations they are members of, without this the COA is worthless, and always check the membership of any dealer if he says he is a member of some association or the other. Never assume that what they are saying is a fact! AFTAL, PADA and the UACC Registered Dealer programme are the only associations with any kind of vetting procedure etc, and all have a full dealer member list on their websites.
Don’t ask the dealer questions such as ‘is this genuine’ if he is a good dealer, then you must take that as read, but if he is a faker, then he will always simply tell you what you want to hear anyway, so the question proves rather pointless. ‘When was this item signed’ for the same reason this is another bad question. Some dealers can tell you where or when an item was signed, as they may have obtained it themselves in person, but the same could not be said of say a Charles Dickens or Charlie Chaplin signature. Being able to talk to the dealer is important, so look for a phone number and ask them about the size of the photo or other relevant questions. This will enable you to get a much better ‘feel’ for the dealer, as most dealers have a passion for autographs, and will enjoy talking about the hobby with you.
If you are building a collection, then try and learn more about autographs and collecting. There are dozens of books available, some good some not so good. The bible for prices is the ‘Sanders Price Guide’ available via Amazon. Other good books are ‘Advanced Autograph Collecting’ by Mark Allen Baker, and the ‘Guinness Book of World Autographs’ by Ray Rawlins. Both of these cover most areas and between them contain thousands of reference signatures. These books are both out of print, but are sometimes available via some autograph dealers.
AFTAL are also now able to offer day courses for dealers and soon for collectors as well. There are also many websites and forums for autograph collecting, and there is also a magazine ‘Autograph Collector’ but this is only available from the USA via subscription, but is well worth it.