SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Thursday federal authorities seized nearly $5-million worth of phony Super Bowl sportswear and merchandise in a nationwide sweep.
Fake T-Shirts, hats, jackets, along with souvenirs, were among the nearly 42,000 items confiscated in Operation Fake Sweep.
Sale of sports clothing, as well as sports collectibles is always brisk, but when Super Bowl time rolls around the interest and demands for your teams colors and logos goes through the roof.
And when you go shopping for Patriots and Giants gear, it’s easy to tell the real from the phony.
At the Sports Zone at the Holyoke Mall the shelves were filled with shirts, hats, Giants, and Patriots. even Victor Cruz was representing.
But it’s also the time of year when the phony factor goes through the roof. There is a shiny NFL hologram on the real McCoy. If what you’re buying doesn’t have the hologram, you’re not getting the real deal. And if it’s real, it’s usually more expensive.
“What we tell people is that’s why a lot of stuff is so expensive,” said Jim Dent, owner of the Sports Zone. “Because of the licensing fees you have to pay the NFL, MLB, all the different sports venues that they have.
Hurting us? It can hurt us because you can go to the gas station where they’re selling a hat for $5.00. Then the customer says there’s somebody selling it for $5.00. It’s not licensed material, that’s why it so cheap.”
But what’s the difference between real and fake? Well for the NFL it means loss of revenue, copyright infringement. For the customer it’s a small decrease in quality. But honestly, not very much.
“There will be slight differences in quality,” said Dent. “But a lot of it, if you look at it, it basically can be the same. The quality will be different. Like I said the NFL merchandise, it’s a lot cleaner merchandise. But relatively, no it can look the same, it could be very hard to tell.”
One other aspect of the sports memorabilia market is the card and collectibles market. At the Coin Exchange there were baseball cards from every era. A Patriots helmet autographed by Tom Brady was also nearby.
And while the sports swag has its hologram, this stuff includes a very important piece of paper.
“If you’re going to purchase high end signed sports memorabilia you better have a certificate of authenticity from one of the major certification services that are in California,” said Euclide Desrochers, owner of the Coin Exchange. “Either it would have to come with the certification, or you’d have to send the item out to California to have it authenticated.”
So at the end of the day, if you buy your team swag from a reputable chain store, or even a longtime local retailer like the Sports Zone, you’re going to get what you pay for.
You just have to look for the NFL hologram. And when you do, you’ll be paying a premium price.