Background on AB1570, a new law covering autographed items in California
More on AB1570 here.
On September 9, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia into law.
The law requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for signed item sold for $5 or more.
The idea is to crack down on fraudulent autograph sales. “That sounds pretty reasonable,” you are probably thinking. I, too, can get behind the motive.
Unfortunately for you, the consumer, the legislators never seem to have considered that buyers of autograph material eventually become sellers of autograph material.
Let’s say you like to go to author events and get books signed. Eventually, your shelves fill up, and you want to trade books in at a shop like Eureka Books.
Guess what? Remember that Certificate of Authenticity that sounded so reasonable? Well your name and address has to go on the certificate of authenticity because I (as the person issuing the COA) have to say where I got the book. This applies to signed books, artwork, and any other autographed items you own.
[If you are concerned about this legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, please contact your state legislators]
Maybe you’d like to sell that Morris Graves painting you inherited. You send it to an auction house, where it sells for $40,000. Good for you. But did you supply a Certificate of Authenticity? What? Why do I have to issue a COA? What do I know about authenticating Morris Graves paintings?
Guess what? AB1570 requires YOU, as the owner of the painting, to guarantee its authenticity. And you don’t issue the COA? You can be liable for TEN TIMES damages, plus attorneys fees. Call it a cool half mill, because you didn’t know you were supposed to issue a COA.
Maybe you decide to sell it at an auction house outside of California. Good luck, because if the person who buys your painting lives in the Golden State, the law still applies.
Consumers aren’t the only ones significantly affected by this law.
Consider bookstores that do a lot of author events. Let’s imagine that Neil Gaiman does one of his typical massive book signings in February for his forthcoming book, Norse Mythology. Say 1000 people show up and buy books at $25.95. The bookstore either has to issue 1000 COA, or risk being sued for $25.95 x 1000 x 10, plus attorney’s fees. Call it $300,000.
Is it any wonder that many of California’s best bookstores are very worried that this law will make it much harder to hold book signings and other author events. The legislature and the governor apparently had a similar response, because the law was passed with almost no discussion.
Please contact your state legislator.
“Your name and address has to go on the certificate”: Section 1739.7b(8) says the COA must “Indicate whether the item was obtained or purchased from a third party. If so, indicate the name and address of this third party.”
“Why do I have to issue a COA?”: Section 1739.7a(4)a: “Dealer includes an auctioneer who sells collectibles at a public auction, and also includes persons who are consignors or representatives or agents of auctioneers.”