In our 20 years in business, too often we’ve seen customers unknowingly buy sports plaques from disreputable sellers on the internet under the impression that they’re getting a good deal. But the reality is, major league plaques for the NFL, NHL, and NBA have the same counterfeit issues jewelry, designer, and music companies do, if not more. Most plaques are thrown together on low budget. They’re cheap quality plaques and have no proof of licensing.
Despite the major league’s crusade to aggressively crack down on counterfeit plaques, the war on illegal merchandising continues. Having been a reseller of sports plaques for years, we’ve heard all kinds of purchasing nightmares around custom plaques. Plaques falling apart, unlicensed photos, and more. And most fly by night sellers don’t offer returns which forces you to throw out or sell the plaque. But be aware you can’t resell the plaques either, even if you aren’t wholesaling them.
It’s important to know what to look for when purchasing sports plaques. And if you already have bought sports plaques online, it’s important to know you have official merchandise, and what to do when you realize your plaque is illegal.
We have several tips that can help you buy a sports plaque without worrying about buying an illegal plaque. Look at the overall quality of the plaque. Does it display proper licensing? Did it come with obvious cosmetic issues? Does the seller seem reputable, or does it say it’s shipping from overseas? Staying vigilant over these details while you’re buying a plaque can help you enormously in the long run.
Most plaques aren’t perfect overall. You SHOULD expect some blemishes from being handled during the production process. But if the plaque has very noticeable, obvious cosmetic issues, especially in the product photo, it’s a cheap plaque! Be cautious, especially if the price is unusually high! These sellers are usually trying to make nice money on plaques that usually deteriorate quickly, even with gentle handling. The oils from your fingers cause cheap lacquer to separate from the plaques. And not only does this leave residue on your hands, but it creates a mess to clean up whenever you touch the plaque. In fact, we’ve heard stories from customers that unboxed nice white plaques, only to find a portion of the paint missing by the time it was hung on the wall. You should especially be careful handling these around young children, as they can potentially swallow or play with the paint.
Beyond a peeling finish or paint, noticeable portions of the plaque can be missing, or the photos could be fading. This is because most plaque sellers substitute plaque materials that are cheap and crumble easily, even with gentle impact. You want a plaque that is solid, durable, and authentic. You also want to check to make sure that the plaque’s top holders or acrylic sealing is airtight and not coming off. We guarantee to use pressure sensitive adhesive, a high grade industrial adhesive used in industries like mass transit.
Have you ever noticed how a photo fades over time in the sun? If your plaque came looking like that photo frame, it was unprofessionally printed. Sellers that do this are most likely printing illegally licensed pictures from low res sources (such as Google Images) on noncommerical, low quality printers. This makes the prints appear faded, runny, and pixelated. Even if the plaque manages to look good at first, it doesn’t stand a chance at lasting as long as a plaque from a reputable seller would. Also be sure to study the corners of the photo carefully. In the corners you should easily see hologram stickers that are numbered and serialized appropriately. It should also show a licensee affiliated with the major league (NFL, NBA, NHL, etc.).
Trading cards are so inexpensive that they are rarely reproduced illegally. Despite being less of concern, you can still be on the safe side by checking for name brands. For example, our trading cards are from authentic name brands like Tops and Panini, to name a few.
You should always look at the reputation of the plaque company or seller. While there are plenty of honest sellers with small online reputations, you’ll want to look for as much information about them as possible. Google their name, backtrack their website, look for any information about what materials they use. Do they have any positive feedback available? If not, try contacting them to ask how their plaques are licensed, how long they’ve been in the business, if the material they use is genuine, and if they have any testimonials. Answers that are delayed, vague, or dismissive, allude to a bigger problem.
So always be sure to gather information about where the company is based. You’ll want to know where their customer service and manufacturing plant is. Don’t buy from overseas companies. Plaques shipped overseas are known for cheap materials and illegally printed photos. Also be on the look out for poor companies that have shipping centers in the US. Do some digging on the company to be absolutely sure. These sellers have practically no customer service or return policy.
Always check to make sure the seller you’re buying your plaque from offers a return policy. After all, nothing is more frightening than buying a cheaply crafted $50+ plaque you can’t return. While that’s often the case with plaques purchased overseas, it can happen with American based companies as well, especially if their manufacturing is outsourced. So always check that the company stands by their products with a money back guarantee. We stand by all of our products with a 30 day guarantee, but any return policy with at least a 7 day return window should be enough.
Surprisingly, few sports plaque retailers work with verified vendors. That’s why you should always question shady companies and sellers that refuse to back their products with proof. And even then, it’s important to do your research on the company to see if they are really working with verified licensee. You can usually tell by serialized, hologram stickers, and a long reputation of transparent, ethical business. That’s where you should do your research, read reviews, and if need be, ask questions.
We hope this article has helped you make an educated decision on what to look for when it comes to sports plaques. If you’re in the market for sports plaques, whether it be for yourself or as a gift to someone else, you should be aware of what you’re buying! Don’t be suckered into $40 for cheap, low quality plaques! And always remember, as a laser engraved gift company for 20+ years, you can buy sports plaques through us with confidence! Engraving Nation is here Monday to Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM to answer any concerns, questions, or requests you may have.