Certificates of Authenticity - What do they mean?
The following statement addresses the issue of so-called "certificates of authenticity". While it often refers to these certificates in the context of meteorites. the same points also apply to other exotic collectibles such as amber, fossils, and other natural artifacts.
Question : Do you offer a certificate of authenticity (COA) with your specimens?
No. And the reason may surprise you. Certificates of Authenticity (COA's for short) have meaning only if they are issued by an authoritative body that has oversight over the material in question. There is no official governing body for the sale of meteorites and meteorites are an unregulated item. When you purchase something like a diamond or a signed baseball, there are sanctioning organizations that regulate the sale of those items and they have oversight that is widely recognized within their respective fields. These organizations can render an authoritative judgement on the quality or authenticity of a given item. There is no such group for the world of meteorite sales.
So, in other words - any COA that comes with a meteorite is worth the paper it is printed on and nothing more. It has no binding value for insurance or legal purposes. It is a feel-good assurance from the dealer that the specimen is authentic and as-described. You can frame it and display it with the specimen, but it has no value in and of itself.
What really matters is the reputation and expertise of the dealer. A few search engine queries will quickly reveal something about the reputation and history of a given seller. The world of meteorite collecting is relatively small and the number of legitimate dealers is even smaller. Word gets around quick and memories are long. This means that scammers and frauds are quickly exposed and blackballed by the entire community of collectors, dealers, and institutions. No other dealer, scientist, or collector wants to be associated in any way with a known scammer. Selling a fake or misrepresented meteorite is the quickest way to kill one's reputation (and business) in this small world of meteorites. Stories about such scammers and bad deals are all over the internet, and a few search engine requests will reveal them all in lurid detail. Avoid any dealers or names who come up on the wrong end of these searches.
There is one online group that helps police the world of meteorite dealers, but they only have oversight over their own members. They do not have any ability to verify the authenticity of any specimen offered by a seller outside the group. This is the IMCA (International Meteorite Collectors Association) and they are a group of collectors and dealers who police their own ranks. Like any online group, there are good and bad members, so IMCA membership is not a guarantee. There are also some good dealers who are not members.
As recently as the early 1980's, printing a COA was not an easy feat. One had to design the COA and then go to a local print shop and pay to have it printed. Not many scammers would go through that kind of trouble. With the advent of home computers, desktop publishing, and laser printers, anyone can print a slick-looking COA in minutes - all that is required is the ability to push a mouse around and click "Print". Given that producing a "professional" COA is so easy, it renders them valueless.
In summary, I do not offer Certificates Of Authenticity because they hold no value. If you want me to print one for you, I can, but I do not offer them as a matter of policy. My word is my bond and I guarantee for life the authenticity of every specimen I sell - this promise is worth far more than a COA because I back it up.
NOTE : Upon request, I will provide a Certificate of Authenticity for any specimen that I offer. I can either send a printed paper COA or I can send you a digital COA via email and you can print it on your own printer. Like I said before, I am happy to provide a COA, but I just don't offer them as a matter of policy for the reasons explained above.