Lawsuit filed and served to PSA/DNA, JSA, Roger Epperson, REAL, Houston Texas, Steve Cyrkin of autograph magazine and LIVE the online forum, and RR Auctions, Bob Eaton, MA
From Courtroom news service: Courthouse News
By. Jonny Bonner
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Autograph dealers, auction houses and authenticators conspire as a "cartel" to push out rival dealers, two memorabilia dealers claim in nearly identical antitrust complaints.
Defendants in both cases are Collectors Universe dba PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication, R&R Auction Co., Roger Epperson dba Signed Sealed and Delivered dba Roger Epperson Authentication, Steve Cyrkin dba live.autographmagazine.com, and Momentica.
Both plaintiffs - Todd Mueller dba Todd Mueller Autographs, and Nelson dba Iconographs- are represented in federal court by the Christman, Kelley and Clarke law firm of Santa Barbara. Mueller is based in Colorado, Deedle in Nevada.
Authentication is crucial in the memorabilia business, both plaintiffs claim in their July 14 lawsuits. Both say that without authentication, memorabilia are "essentially worthless."
"Therefore, to ensure the value of their items that they are purchasing, selling, or offering for consignment, dealers, collectors, and auction houses will use third-party authentication services to get a second opinion on the authenticity of an item," both lawsuits say.
Both claim the defendants refuse to authenticate their celebrity-signed memorabilia "to increase their own market presence." Both say that violates antitrust laws.
Both say that two of the defendants dominate the authentication business: defendants PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication. They are two of the third-party authenticators accepted by eBay, the complaints state.
Mueller dove into the autograph industry as a collector in 1978 and began working as a dealer in the early 1990s. He claims the defendants call his items "questionable" and refuse to authenticated them.
"Defendants have joined together as a complex association of autograph dealers, auction houses, authenticators, and public personalities to act as the only authority on authenticating items that dealers are attempting to sell to their customers," both lawsuits state.
Both claim that the defendants, though in the same business, are not true competitors.
"In addition to sharing the same experts, these seeming 'competitors' in the autograph memorabilia market are not competitors in any sense of the word. Through their shared staff and relationships, the cartel routinely shares information with each other regarding the autographed memorabilia market," both complaints state.Mueller claims that a customer who bought five autographed photos from him, with his own certificates of authenticity, signed by non-parties Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lopez, Bernadette Peters, Debbie Reynolds and Lindsay Lohan, submitted the items to PSA/DNA for authentication.
PSA/DNA returned the items as failing authentication, Mueller says, and he was forced to refund the money
That customer "has never done business with Mueller since," he claims.
He says Prestige Auctions also refused to sell five autographed items from him with his certificates of authenticity, including photos signed by non-parties Tom Hanks, Dennis Quaid and Cher, Doris Day, Joe Frazier, and Uma Thurman.
Authenticated, signed photos of Hanks fetch more than $200 online.
PSA/DNA is currently selling a robe signed by Frazier for $500.
"This cartel exists to drive out any competition from the market by intentionally failing the authenticity of a dealer's items based on the dealer's identity and not on the item itself,'" Mueller claims.
Mueller and Deedle both say they want to hold the defendants "responsible" and "break up" the cartel.
Mueller and Deedle each seek $4 million in damages for antitrust violations, interference, and violation of California consumer laws.
Autograph Planet will follow this and keep you up to date as things progress.
For Steve Cyrkin, These will bring him up to 5 lawsuits, with 2 going on right now. He has been sued; first by Christopher Morales (dismissed), then Kevin Martin and his company, Piece of the Past (we prevailed), and in another, ongoing lawsuit by Todd Mueller and Todd Mueller Autographs. In these lawsuits, he has lost every motion, and might be held in contemp of court if he does not follow what the judge has ruled in the case so far.
Any attempt to talk to him about this on his forum has been met with the deletion of the thread, and the person asking the question removed from the forum. There has been no updates to the ongoing case or the other cases by Mr. Cyrkin, because they are all losing the motions that were filed, and he does not feel that it's "newsworthy"
Again, more on this and the other cases here on Autograph Planet as they become available.