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Our memories are precious to all of us.

The serve as milestone markers on our life journeys.

For folks who grew up loving sports, our most cherished recollections are quite naturally sprinkled with athletic achievements — either our own, or those of our favorite players or teams.

Many of us commemorate those events by collecting memorabilia.

For our own accomplishments, we keep our trophies, medals and ribbons. For the accomplishments of our favored teams, we collect autographs, pictures, balls, bats and jerseys.

They serve to remind us of treasured snapshots in time.

There are unscrupulous folks out there, however, who would try to steal our memories from us.

We got a painful reminder of that in the past week when a story broke that a Maryland man, operating a Glen Rock business, allegedly made millions selling counterfeit sports memorabilia.

Using various accounts and names, the man allegedly purchased counterfeit jerseys in bulk from China and put fraudulent autographs on them. He then passed them off as authentic autographs of famous athletes, even offering certificates of authenticity that were just as fake as the autographs.

If the charges are true, this went on for years — from 2008-2013.

If found guilty, the accused could face up to 20 years imprisonment. Unfortunately, no amount jail time can restore the stolen memories.

Sadly, this is not all that unusual. The sports memorabilia market has long been plagued by charlatans.

It does serve to remind us, however, that the only way to be absolutely sure that a piece of memorabilia is authentic is if you witnessed the autograph yourself, or if you personally saw the player wear the jersey in a game.

If you buy something online or at a show, you must follow an old but true axiom — let the buyer beware. You could be purchasing a well-documented fake.

In addition, it should serve as a warning that sports memorabilia should not normally be purchased as an investment. If you buy an autographed, game-worn jersey expecting it to soar in value, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment.

Memorabilia is best collected on a first-hand basis with the sole intent of enjoying yourself.

That way you know it is truly authentic. That way it will be truly memorable. And that way no one will ever be able to steal that memory from you.

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