MLB’s Scherzer, Strasburg, Teammates Pitch New Plan To Sell Signed Memorabilia
Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 06:10PM in FanSigner, MLB, Max Scherzer, Memorabilia, Washington Nationals, autographes, memorabilia, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

May 12, 2017: In an effort to eliminate the middle-man in the memorabilia business and give fans better access to personalized items — while also enhancing cause marketing efforts — several members of MLB’s Washington Nationals have launched FanSigner.

Among the initial backers and participants are two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and infielder Anthony Rendon.

Listed among the initial organizations that will benefit from the platform are The Humane Society of the United States, ZiMS Foundation (founded by Zimmerman and dedicated to "bringing home a cure for multiple sclerosis) and the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

According to Mission Pen LLC, which is doing business as FanSigner, people can request autographed items directly from participating players via the home Web site, with the start-up inventory including jerseys, baseballs and 8x10 photos.

For an added fee, people have the option to "personalize their memorabilia either by requesting a custom inscription or by mailing in their own sentimental item to sign and return."

FanSigner said it takes a flat 10% fee and covers the packaging, shipping and logistics (i.e. rights to the photos themselves and acquiring the merchandise) of getting the items signed.

Then, according to FanSigner, as much as 90% of net proceeds from the sale of each item, with a minimum of $20, is donated to the charity or foundation of the athletes choosing.

Autographed 8x10 photos are listed for $120. Autographed baseballs are $190. Autographed jerseys are $500. In most cases, an additional $35 gets the buyer the personalized option. (See full details here.)

As an example of the process, FanSigner said that $500 would purchase an autographed Max Scherzer Nationals jersey, with $35 extra for a personal inscription. Scherzer would sign on the "3" of his 31 on the back of the jersey. FanSigner said 90% of net proceeds goes to The Humane Society of the United States.

"Everyone benefits from FanSigner," Scherzer, who unveiled the official launch of FanSigner via his Twitter account (which has 223,000 followers), said in a statement. "The players get a way to actively promote a cause that matters to them. Fans get access to personalized memorabilia without flying across the country. Charities get a new source of funding from the proceeds of each item."

According to FanSigner, "Every day fans across the country search for autographed memorabilia from their favorite athletes. To get something truly personal, fans have to invest a lot of time and money for only a slim chance to get their gear signed.

"FanSigner created a way for athletes to connect directly with their fans to personalize all their signed memorabilia. To give back to the community, a portion of proceeds from each purchase are donated to a charity of the athletes choosing."

According to FanSigner, more athletes and celebrities are expected to be added to the official roster. The site even provides an application form for athletes and celebrities who want to join FanSigner.

In addition, people are being encouraged to submit requests of athletes and/or celebrities whose autographed items they seek. By joining a subscription list, people would then “be alerted when your favorite celebrity has available items for purchase.”

According to co-founder and CEO Ryan Mitchell, "Through our service, fans can request any signer they want."

However, Mitchell addresses, though barely, the fact that many of the top athletes and stars whose autographs would be in high demand already have exclusive autograph deals with other companies.

"Aside from athletes like LeBron James, fans can request musicians like Taylor Swift, actors like Melissa McCarthy, or writers like J.K. Rowling," said Mitchell in a statement.

James, for example, is among the active athletes or legends with whom Upper Deck has exclusive autograph pacts, which also includes Connor McDavid, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods and Patrick Roy,

Arguably the most requested autograph among the Nationals would be Bryce Harper, but he currently has an exclusive autograph deal with trading card and memorabilia company Topps, as does reigning AL MVP Mike Trout and retired New York Yankees star Derek Jeter.

Panini America’s exclusive autograph deals include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Damian Lillard and Blake Griffin.

Fanatics on its Web site lists exclusive autograph deals with more than 50 active and retired players.

They include MLB players Kris Bryant David Ortiz, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Davis, Jake Arrieta and Mookie Betts; NFLers Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Jim Brown; NBA stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Isaiah Thomas and LaMarcus Aldridge; and Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey from the UFC.

FanSigner does address the illegal but lucrative practice of fake autographs and phony memorabilia.

"FanSigner works closely with each signer to establish strict procedures around the procurement and signing of each item which you, the fan, may purchase," according to the Web site. "One of our collective missions is to ensure that each item is autographed, inscribed, and delivered to you in a professional manner along with a personal letter of authenticity from our CEO.

"Fans get access to personalized memorabilia without flying across the country. Charities get a new source of funding from the proceeds of each item."

"Please know that a FanSigner representative will personally witness each and every signature to guarantee its authenticity and the initial handling of each signed item."

FanSigner said it plans to video each item being signed and post the videos to the Web site.

However, it ominously warns on its Web site, "Should you believe that any item, autograph or inscription is inauthentic, please contact us at as soon as possible so that we may assist with the investigation.

"Furthermore, if a third party authenticator denies the authenticity of your item we will refund 100% of your purchase. We only require the documentation of the authenticators' judgment," according to FanSigner.

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