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Roaring Tours, Quiet Markets: Inside the Surprisingly Thin Modern Music Memorabilia Market 

This is the latest edition of a multi-part blog series produced in partnership with Altan Insights on the key events and factors shaping the modern music memorabilia market. Altan Insights provides data and quantitative analysis to help collectors and businesses navigate the emerging collectible asset markets.

There’s no following more loyal than Taylor Swift fans on Reddit. When questions of authenticity emerged about a Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce dual-signed jersey donated to a charity auction, the Swifties on Reddit scrambled to defend their queen, eager to believe in another demonstration of her already thoroughly demonstrated generosity.

“I don’t think people realize that her real signature is vastly different from her signed merch signature. She uses a very simplified version on CDs and Vinyls because she has to sign 50k of them. For one-of-a-kind items like this that are for a good cause, she can take her time and make a more pretty signature that’s true to what her real one is,” a user named Flubby Starfish offered.

Anhuys chimed in: “Tbh I think it’s possibly due to the material of the jersey. Look closely at the fabric on the numbers on a HQ photo of this jersey. That kind of texture will affect the way the marker glides and it’s possible for her normal, muscle memory swoops to get warped when she goes over a fabric like that instead of something smooth like a CD/vinyl case.”

That’s it. The fabric warped her muscle memory swoops, of course.

When items lack a high standard of authenticity, fans are forced to perform mental gymnastics to either think the very best of their hero or convince themselves the artist interacted with an item. In the case above, the gymnastics were unnecessary – it was never alleged that Swift and Kelce directly donated the item. Nonetheless, as internet sleuths quickly raised suspicions about its authenticity – from the signatures being fake to the jersey itself being a knock-off – the jersey’s existence sewed unease in a community hopeful that its star had performed yet another good deed in a very long line of them.




The jersey eventually sold for $21,000 at the Linamar Curling for Kids event in support of the Guelph Wish Fund. It was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Jerzey Sports Memorabilia, an organization run by the man who donated the item. However, once the winning bidder became aware of the suspicions, she enlisted the assistance of Beckett Authentication Services for a second opinion on the signature. The verdict? A heart-sinking thumbs down.

Even though Swift herself had nothing to do with the inauthentic jersey, events like these taint the market for associated memorabilia and merchandise, introducing doubt into a broader population of transactions. And it’s never good to be mentioned in relation to a tainted charity sale, regardless of involvement. In a space governed primarily by letters and certificates of authenticity, it’s a jarring reminder that a letter itself is often not an ironclad confirmation of an item’s integrity. Many letters are produced after an item is signed, lacking witness-based support. Even the most reputable ones are mostly opinion-based, albeit grounded in rigorous professional analysis. In a Taylor Swift market held back at the high end by a lack of authentication rigor, letters tend to form the shaky foundation upon which the market is built.

Take some of the top Taylor Swift auction lots of 2024 to date as examples:

2014 Glamour Magazine Photo Shoot Used Gibson Les Paul Guitar With Magazine

  • Price: $15,875 (Julien’s)
  • Authentication: Photo evidence but not photo-match documentation

Signed Signature Baby Taylor Model Guitar

  • Price: $12,700 (Julien’s)
  • Authentication: Provenance from Taylor Swift donation (no letter advertised)

Signed Epiphone Acoustic Guitar

  • Price: $12,438 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: LOA from Beckett Authentication Services

Signed Taylor 3/4 Scale Acoustic Guitar

  • Price: $9,340.62 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: LOAs from Beckett Authentication Services and James Spence Authentication

Baby Taylor Signed Guitar

  • Price: $8,501.76 (Iconic)
  • Authentication: None, but guaranteed to pass Third Party Authentication

Signed Epiphone Guitar

  • Price: $8,499.99 (eBay)
  • Authentication: LOA from James Spence Authentication

They mostly cluster in the high-four, low-five-figure range, which are no small sums considering most are unused items. The other commonality: they’re often supported by letters, in many cases from reputable outfits like Beckett Authentication Services and James Spence Authentication. The presence of those authenticators in the best-performing lots is not a surprise, and collectors recognize the incremental value of their sign-off versus a less reputable LOA. But do Taylor Swift fans know enough to recognize that difference? Or is a letter just a letter?

The jersey incident suggests that the latter is often the case, but as events like those become more prevalent and well-known, fans who don’t know the difference may avoid the memorabilia market altogether rather than parsing the merit of various authenticators.

Even material sourced directly from the artist doesn’t achieve higher prices without additional support. Consider the signed Baby Taylor model acoustic guitar, advertised by Julien’s as being directly donated by Taylor Swift to the Musicares Charity Relief Auction. It sold for $12,700. That’s by no means a weak result, outperforming a conservative $1,000 – $1,500 estimate and landing right in line with similar letter-supported lots, but the novice collector might expect direct provenance to outperform LOA-based support.

However, that direct provenance means little without associated documentation, and the lack of it may scuttle the interest of otherwise willing buyers who are skeptical of their ability to one day sell the item on at a sturdy price. Similarly, fans and collectors would love to see the artist acknowledge that they’ve donated the item as a confirmation of sorts to supplement the credibility of the auction house’s description.

The shakiness of a memorabilia market may not matter much to an already wealthy artist, but if it weighs on items donated directly from them, perhaps that’s a matter worth taking notice of. Taylor Swift herself doesn’t need the additional funds from memorabilia sales, but it could be another tool used in an already extensive charitable effort to direct funds to dear causes. Raising top dollar for those causes requires top-tier authenticity in a market where direct provenance is a strong tool, but a much stronger tool when demonstrably supported by the artist and by documentation that will extend beyond the winning bidder to future owners.

Those offerings are strengthened on a go-forward basis by tools and services like photo-matching (for used or worn items) and witness-based authentication (meaning a representative personally witnesses the signing or use), in addition to state-of-the-art, tamper-proof marking, hologram, and tagging technologies.  Digital ledgers associated with those technologies can then more effectively trace ownership from the artist to the current owner.

To the extent an artist or athlete is known to use these methods in releasing product to the market, a credible brand develops and strengthens, ultimately leaving the products that lack the same backing in an inferior state of market acceptance. Parallels can be drawn to athletes signed with Upper Deck, for example. Items without Upper Deck certification that are marketed as being from a time after the athlete was known to sign with the company raise an instant red flag.

For modern music memorabilia to better resonate with existing collectors and protect fans-turned-novice-collectors, artists will have to lead the way, putting the necessary guardrails in place to make the jersey incident a less common occurrence. Until then, Redditors will continue to contort themselves into mental pretzels to protect the honor of their queen.