Brett Favre will forever be known as an NFL iron man who started more than 250 consecutive games. That’s a lot of No. 4 gamers that he’s gone through since 1992. Problem is, according to Packers jersey experts, there are thousands of so-called “game-used Brett Favre jerseys” on the market — a number that isn’t even possible for the future Hall of Famer.
Just a few years ago, collectors were able to purchase authentic Favre gamers for less than $5,000, but currently, they’ve been selling for more than $10,000. With the increase in value, there has, unfortunately, been a huge increase in the number of fakes that have hit the market recently.
“Of the 27 total Favre jerseys submitted to us for examination, 11 were found to be ‘unable to authenticate,’ ” said Troy Kinunen, co-lead authenticator for MEARS. “He’s definitely been one of the most problematic jerseys people submit to us. That’s nearly 50 percent of the ones that MEARS has looked at since 1996. They’ve been dumbied up. From the nameplates on the back, to fake size and year tags, to incorrect sleeves, to a bunch of things.”
Guy Hankel, a reference librarian in Madison, Wis., and a writer/researcher in the game-worn hobby, conservatively estimates that fakes outnumber real Favre game-worn jerseys 15:1.
“It’s been getting more difficult to see any genuine Favre gamers on the market, whether it be through private sales or through auction houses,” Hankel said. “They really seemed to have dried up in the past couple years, I think perhaps knowing that we might reach this point where Favre retires and obviously the supply is then cut off and what’s out there is out there.
“These days, I research every Favre jersey that comes into the market. I get questions from other auction houses and collectors. I have collectors asking me, ‘Can you let me know when you see a legit Favre jersey up for sale?’ I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen one, though. It’s been a while. A lot of legitimate ones are locked down in collections.”
Beyond an actual, authentic game-used example, there are two types of Favre jerseys that collectors might come across. The first is classified as a “game-issued,” “game-cut” or “backup” jersey. These types are usually issued by the team and are authentic jerseys. The tagging and characteristics might be exactly the same as an authentic game-used jersey, but they might never have been worn by Favre during game play.
These shirts definitely have value — usually around 10 percent of what an authentic gamer would sell for. However, collectors might also run into “dumbied up” jerseys that weren’t issued by the team and might actually be retail jerseys that have been forged to look like an authentic game-used jersey.
Whether it’s a retail tag that was swapped out for an authentic jersey tag, or year tag that was added on a store-model shirt, these examples are out there to fool unsuspecting buyers and have little or no additional value from a retail version.
Kinunen cautioned that he’s seen many “dumbied up” Favre jerseys for sale on eBay.
“There’s some that originated out of the northern Wisconsin area by a guy who had a lot of these bad jerseys,” Kinunen noted. “He submitted some to MEARS, and I told him if anybody ever bought or sold them from this source that he would be caught, because we have all his fake examples recorded in our database.”
Hankel agreed with Kinunen about many Favre fakes being offered online, and warned that there are other outlets to watch out for when in search of an authentic Favre gamer.
“It’s quite common to see fake Favre gamers being sold at major auction houses,” Hankel said. “They (auction houses) might trust a well-meaning authenticator who doesn’t have the wherewithal or time to actually look at enough photos or enough game film to really determine whether or not that particular jersey is indeed game-worn. You can’t take well-meaning authenticators for granted.
“It’s just that leap of faith that some of these auction houses take. The problem is, for a Favre jersey, it does require a fair amount of research time. I know a lot of people rely on Getty Images and online websites like that, but this is where video really comes in handy. I make a point of taping everything — preseason games and regular season games — and I have for years. And that’s helped quite a bit, in terms of filling in the blanks where photos just couldn’t help me out or could help me out only to a limited sense.”
Kinunen also stressed the importance of thoroughly researching a Favre gamer before you get out your wallet.
“Favre jerseys are pretty complicated because he was a quarterback and had a lot of customizations to them,” he said. “Different hems, sometimes he had the pockets, definitely the sleeve openings ... His earliest jerseys, they were cuffed and the later jerseys were wide open.
“The two main problems we see in Favre jerseys are the sleeve openings and the nameplates on the back. They have totally wrong fonts. I call it the ‘A-hole test,’ because the ‘A’ in ‘FAVRE,’ is totally wrong with a lot of these fakes,” Kinunen added. “Typically, with bad jerseys, if there’s one thing wrong with them, there’s at least three things wrong with them. Usually, a bad jersey is something you’re taking that it’s not and making it something that it is supposed to be.”
Hankel pinpointed various characteristics that he watches for when analyzing a Favre jersey.
“It’s tough,” Hankel said. “Obviously, having it in your hands and being able to examine it in person is the ideal thing, but often you’re only going to get pictures to work with. What you have to do is ask for some clear, detailed photos of all the tagging, detailed photos of the hemming on the sleeves, as well as the body of the jersey. You also have to get a good shot of the nameplate to determine whether or not it’s placed correctly and whether it has the exact kind of font for what year it’s supposed to be.”
Kinunen said that if he were to buy a Favre game-used jersey, he would look for one that is accompanied by a Favre signed certificate of authenticity, along with the Favre hologram. Hankel didn’t completely disagree, but pointed out that just because a Favre jersey had Favre paperwork, it doesn’t necessarily free a collector from any worries of purchasing a fake.
“I should note that your chances of having a legitimate Favre jersey is enhanced by having the Favre paperwork and hologram, but it doesn’t guarantee it,” Hankel said. “I’ve seen a few that come with that paperwork that aren’t the real thing.”
One of the jerseys that Hankel is talking about is the 1994 white Throwback shirt that was worn during a Monday Night Football game at Soldier Field against the Bears. The whereabouts of the actual authentic jersey from that game are unknown, but there are plenty of fakes in circulation. Hankel stressed that the “A,” “R” and “E” are incorrect on nearly all the fakes when compared to game tape. He also noted a discrepancy in the style of the “4” and placement of the nameplate. Hankel said he was certain at least one ’94 white Throwback jersey that had the Favre documentation wasn’t worn in that particular game.
To complicate matters further, in 1998, the Packers sold Grey Flannel Collectibles 36 “made up” Favre 1994 Throwback game jerseys from extra blanks the team still had in its inventory. Several of those examples have been resold by unscrupulous or uneducated sellers as authentic game-worn jerseys.
One might raise the argument, at least in the Grey Flannel jersey case, that the Packers acted a bit recklessly by putting these “near-authentic-looking” jerseys on the market. However, Mike Telin, who purchased five of these jerseys, disagreed. Telin, who has sold some of these shirts in the past, said he always disclosed that they were indeed “issued” and not “worn.”
“There’s a lot of fake stuff out there,” said Telin. “I never claimed my Favre Throwbacks were game-used or anything. I’m telling people they’re team-issued. This particular jersey was only used in one game by the Packers, so there’s not going to be a dozen real ones.
“When these jerseys came out, the game-used jersey phenomenon was just getting started. They’re more careful about stuff like that now. I don’t think it was irresponsible on the Packers’ part. They have to go somewhere unless they destroy them. I’d rather see collectors get them, but it’s the responsibility of the collector to be honest with the public.”
Honesty is a trait that 16-year-old collector Joe Krawczyk wishes he would have gotten from the eBay seller from whom he purchased a Favre supposed “gamer” for $600 about a year ago. Kinunen provided Krawczyk a free full MEARS authentication on his Favre white away jersey, and the news was not good.
According to the Letter of Opinion that MEARS presented to Krawczyk, the jersey was not authentic and had the following problems:
- The jersey was a retail version with the retail tag removed from the neck. The outline is still visible upon inspection on MEARS’ light table.
- The “96” box year tag should be found in the collar, not near the tail tagging.
- A size flag tag should be found on the right side of the Starter manufacturers tag.
- Incorrect name font was on the “R” in FAVRE.
- Sleeves are open and should be cuffed.
Final grade: unable to authenticate
“The store-model jerseys today are pretty detailed,” Kinunen said. “To a casual collector, they look like gamers. They have the sewn-on letters, and they’re kind of cut a little bigger. (In Krawczyk’s example, there was an added “96” year tag on the tail, which was incorrect, but sometimes the forgers don’t even know what an actual gamer is supposed to look like. In previous years, the year swatch was placed on the tail, so there was a possible precedent for that.)
“I feel horrible for the buyer, because $600 to a 16-year-old is a lot of money, and if your first introduction to collecting game-used stuff you get stung, you may never come back and that’s bad for business for everybody,” added Kinunen. “The moral of the story is you have to stress education. That’s why young collectors should read SCD, read archived articles and definitely read MEARS articles.
“On the flip side, that’s exactly the same thing that happened to me. The very first game-used piece I bought, I got stung on. But, I took my own advice and bought every book and every magazine to educate myself and didn’t get discouraged.”
Dan Schmidt, the former coordinator at NFL Auction, says fake game-used jerseys will likely continue to be a problem until the NFL itself becomes more proactive.
“The solution is a hybrid between what MLB is doing and what the NBA is doing,” Schmidt said. “Someone is going to have officially start certifying game-used jerseys as game-used jerseys. The league has to take an active stance in what they want to do here. MLB is saying these things are real and put some process together to give the buyer some piece of mind. Somebody has to do something, because right now the game-used football market is like the Wild Wild West out there.”
So, why has the NFL been slow to react?
“In my opinion, it requires a lot of effort for a minimal amount of return,” Schmidt said. “There’s more moving parts required to generate returns that aren’t as fruitful as some of their other business doings. This is an area that requires a lot of effort.
“The NFL is very sophisticated in how they approach things, so I’m very confident that whatever approach they end up taking in the long run is going to be the one that raises the bar in the industry, and when that happens, we’ll all be happy. I don’t think that it’s very far off before they put a solution out there for this problem with game-used jerseys.”
Locating an authentic Favre gamer can be a difficult and confusing process. As with any purchase of a game-worn shirt, the best advice is to do your homework, and if you have any doubts, pass. Be patient, keep looking, and eventually a “real” one will come along.