Sunday, May 31, 2009

What is real?

We live in a world that is increasingly fake. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the primary reasons is that technology has made it easier for people to pull the wool over our eyes.

For example, law enforcement personnel spend millions of dollars each year to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Technological advances have allowed crooks to produce fake money that looks like the real thing.

The recent redesigning of some of our paper currency was not done on a whim. It was done to make the job of counterfeiters more difficult.

However, the fight between those who enforce the law and those who break it is a lot like a boxing match. Every time one side gets the upper hand, the other side throws a counter punch that causes both sides to change strategies.

Guaranteeing authenticity to people is a big challenge to merchants in some industries. After all, if they can not convince customers what they are selling is authentic, then they will not make a sale.

I do not watch home shopping channels on television that much, but this is a big emphasis for them. Whether it is a piece of clothing or an expensive coin, they often state that the purchase of an item will include a certificate of authenticity.

I do not know what that means. Who does the certifying in circumstances like this? I would assume it is an expert in the field of whatever is being purchased. Still, this does not mean that it is a flawless process.

Recently, the auction house Christie's announced its intention to auction off a poem supposedly written by singer Bob Dylan when he was a teenager.

Nobody doubted that the poem was in Dylan's handwriting. It was not a forgery, but it turned out that the poem was actually the words to a song by Hank Snow that was recorded back in the 1940s.

Red-faced representatives of Christie's conceded the mistake, but still plans to auction the manuscript as part of its Pop Culture auction on June 23, according to the Reuters news agency.

Originally, it had been expected that the manuscript would fetch between $10,000 and $15,000. Now, I can not imagine anyone paying more than a buck and a quarter for it.

Guaranteeing authenticity is also a big challenge for the sports memorabilia business. The selling of merchandise autographed by athletes is big business, and why not? For men who follow sports, nothing bonds them quicker to athletes than something autographed by them.

Of course, access to athletes is restricted so many people buy this memorabilia from merchants who specialize in this field.

The dangers here are obvious. If counterfeiters have the technology to print fake money, then forging a signature is relatively simple. And that can be big trouble for athletes.

In order to avoid forgery, athletes are often told to sign their name sloppily so crooks do not have access to their real signature. This may protect athletes, but it can dampen the excitement of getting an autograph.

A few years ago, Sports Illustrated magazine was selling old covers that included autographs of those on the cover. A friend of mine decided to buy one that was autographed by basketball legend Larry Bird.

However, he was disappointed when he received it. Bird had written his name so illegibly it was tough to make out the words.

He showed it to me. I could make out the 'L' and the 'B' but the rest was a scribble.

It looked more like a doodle than a signature.

No comments: