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RFID Gives Sports Memorabilia Stamp of Authenticity

Prova Group offered its RFID-enabled authentication service to thousands of collectors at a recent sports collectibles convention, providing electronic guarantees that autographs were genuine.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 21, 2007More than 3,000 collectors used RFID to authenticate signatures at The Football Spectacular Show, a four-day sports collectibles convention in Dallas, held Nov. 29 to Dec. 2. Produced by Triumph Sports, which does similar shows all over the United States, the event leveraged technology provided by Prova Group.

Prova's RFID system authenticated about 4,000 autographs from athletes signing at the event. The collectors obtained RFID tags printed at the show, then affixed them to the items so they have physical and electronic records proving the autographs are genuine.

The collectibles industry has always been vulnerable to fraud. Autograph verifiers—people who visually analyze submitted signatures and compare them with bona fide autographs—can be used to verify an inscription's authenticity, but they can make mistakes. Holograms, commonly used to guarantee an autograph is genuine, can be counterfeited. And paper certifications of authenticity (COAs), issued at the time an autograph is signed, can't guarantee the collectible named in the certificate is the same item being sold. Prova's RFID solution attempts to provide the best proof possible that an autograph is authentic.

At the Dallas show, collectors wanting to use the service visited a registration area where Prova employees inputted each collector's name and address into a database, as well as the label's unique RFID identifying number and a description of the item to which it would be attached. The RFID tag was then affixed to the item to be signed.

For larger items, such as footballs or shirts, Prova issued high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive tags complying with ISO standard 15693, that measured about 1 inch by 1 inch. The company issued EPC Gen 2 tags, measuring about 1 inch by ¼ inch, for smaller items such as trading cards or baseballs. Both types of tags are made by X-ident Technology, contain RFID chips from Texas Instruments and are designed so that if a tag were removed from an item, its antenna would be broken, rendering the tag inoperable.

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