Avid sports collectors often had to rely on expert opinion to authenticate their valuable memorabilia. This was before high-definition photography and video could be used to provide definitive authentication through a process called photo-matching.
John Robinson, a Kirkland native, started an entire business around this technique after graduating from the University of Washington last year. Robinson launched Resolution Photomatching in July 2016 and has since partnered with major auction houses and recently authenticated a Lou Gehrig jersey that sold for $870,000.
“We provide another innovative method to certify potential game-used items besides the regular ‘official certification’ that has been around for years,” said Chris Youn, one of Robinson’s part-time employees. “Our work actually gives the clients, collectors and auction houses visual conclusive evidence of a game-used and game-worn item that sometimes adds thousands of dollars of value to any given item.”
Resolution Photomatching specializes in sports uniforms and equipment that have been used in-game by professional players. The process identifies unique characteristics to provide a side-by-side comparison of the collector’s item.
According to Robinson, this is becoming the gold standard in sports memorabilia authentication.
“Like most popular and prosperous markets, the game-used memorabilia market is full of counterfeits,” said Sherman Chan, another part-time employee. “Photo-matching gives collectors the peace of mind in knowing that their hard-earned money is not being wasted.”
Robinson, who is a collector himself grew up in Kirkland and now works remotely from Seattle. He first discovered the photo-matching technique in 2008 on an online forum and began using the technique as a hobby throughout high school and college.
He said he eventually realized that there was no professional photo-matching service and decided to launch the first “side-by-side” service himself.
His hobby contributed to the business’s success as Robinson used his connections in the sports authentication world to network with auction houses and big-time individual collectors.
A photo-matching service existed previous to Robinson’s business, but they used different techniques. According to Robinson, he was the first to provide the side-by-side photo authentication which provides a photo of the collector’s item alongside a photo of the athlete using the item.
His company now has two part-time employees and authenticates items for goldinauctions.com, SCP Auctions and heritage auctions. Robinson said his business was the only one of its kind up until four or five months ago when competitors started to break into the business.
According to Robinson, he has an advantage over other business and even individuals because he has contracts with multiple photo and video sources that allow him to legally use their images.
Photo-matching authentication can add value to sports memorabilia, but the technique also has flaws as it relies on photos and unique marks for a conclusive match. Robinson’s business can run into trouble with lightly used items.
“But for the most part,” he said, “unique characteristics will show up to the point where if it was used in a game, a photo-match can be made.”
Robinson said he never thought he’d be photo-matching for a living, but when he launched the business he felt confident it would succeed.