For many fans, obtaining signed memorabilia from their favorite actors or shows is a staple to any geeky collection or nerdy display. These holy grails solidify fandom and start numerous conversations amongst family, friends, co-workers, and fellow collectors alike. The stories you have from meeting your on-screen idols are always memorable—in one way or another—and the thrill of the chase intensifies with each signature you acquire. Fan Fest News prides itself on bringing the characters and the fandoms to you, the fan, so I wanted to explore an area of fandom that often evokes passionate review.
Autograph collecting has been around for centuries, but mainstream pop culture has come to provide numerous ways for fans to interact with their favorite celebrities or to obtain signatures. The one negative mark that has always, and will always, surround the hobby is that of authenticity. The old school train of thought is that unless you physically obtain the autograph yourself, one cannot guarantee the item’s authenticity. Such adage may hold merit, but today’s collecting scene provides multiple avenues for fans to acquire legitimate pieces. One such avenue is finding a company you trust. Zobie Productions checks all the right boxes when it comes to providing uniquely authentic memorabilia to fans at an amazingly affordable price.
Jayare Gallegos (pronounced Jay-R) is a near lifelong autograph collector with the goal of making his family-centered company one of the most recognized memorabilia companies in the world. Zobie (uniquely named after his daughters Zoey and Colbie) has been around since 2016 and has quickly grown into a household name amongst fans and collectors. From his daughters helping choose box themes to his wife Jenny being the boss behind the scenes, this family provides a personal touch to all of their products that is unrivaled by any other company. (Fun fact: Jayare says Jenny is like Wilson from Home Improvement: She always provides good advice, but you never see her face.)
Since I have been a Zobie fan and customer for the past few years, I thought it would be great to pick the brain of the man revolutionizing the industry with his quick shipping times, his uncanny transparency to the collector, and his infectious personality capable of landing some big names for private signings. His knowledge of the hobby is seemingly infinite, and I think that whether you’ve been a lifelong ‘graphing enthusiast or you’ve just acquired your first signature, Jayare has something to offer you.
Some questions on autograph collecting in general:
JM: For someone who is new to collecting signed memorabilia, what advice do you have for them?
JG: “Go by the model that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful! Always look for a third party authentication–meaning one of the three leading third party authenticating companies. You have JSA (James Spence Authentication), Beckett, and PSA/DNA. A lot of the comic cons nowadays are having these companies set up within those shows in the U.S. to authenticate items. Just going to eBay and typing a celebrity’s name and putting autograph at the end of that search, you will see some things at a low price. You are like, ‘Oh, my god. I can get a Tom Cruise autograph for $20!’ Most likely, that is going to be fake. Look for third party authentication because at least there’s a professional with a database with that person’s signature, and they can state on their opinion that the signature is genuine based on those examples.
JM: Many would agree that attending conventions is great for meeting celebrities and obtaining autographs, but what benefits do private signings give the collector?
JG: “Just take a step back; you work so hard for your money. You want to make sure your autographs are genuine. A celebrity’s signature can change between signings, so authenticators have databases acknowledging those changes. Look at it like this. I’m a father with an eight year old and a four year old. In order to take a family of four to a comic con nowadays, it’s like $200 for a weekend pass. Plus, you have parking, travel expenses, and concession prices for the kids. There are long lines for the celebrities, and some can even be three to four hours depending on the celebrity. What our company does is brings the comic con experience to your door or mailbox. What if I tell you that instead waiting in long lines or paying for tickets and travel, I could do all of that for you for a fraction of the cost. If you just want the autograph for your office, I can make that happen. I also have a third party authenticator at all my signings to verify those signatures.”
JM: What are some tips you have for preserving autographs for those who like to display them?
JG: “Right now, Funko Pop! Collectors are going to get the celebrities or the voice actors to sign the Funkos. If you are collecting for the long haul, you want to preserve the signature. Choosing the proper pen or marker is extremely important. I’ve seen people at comic cons go buy a Funko and go get it signed in a permanent marker as opposed to a paint pen. Over time, due to the plastic and the way the Sharpie sticks to the plastic, that Sharpie signature will probably fade within two years.”
JM: One of the largest problems within the hobby is forgery, and most companies, like Zobie, often do everything they can to give the collector a piece of mind when it comes to an item’s authenticity. In your opinion, what should collectors look for when it comes to a COA?
JG: “There are a lot of sellers on eBay, which is the most popular marketplace, who make generic, fake COAs. They print them at home off Microsoft Word and use a regular pen to write in the celebrity’s name. Those letters will say something like, ‘My company gives a life-time guarantee’ and so on. I have questions for those people who are selling that Tom Cruise autograph for $20 and have the print off COA. Like, where did you get Tom Cruise to sign? He doesn’t do comic cons. It is always good to start asking questions before buying anything. Where did you obtain the signature? What kind of COA? Can I see a picture of the COA? For someone who cannot answer or is hesitant, that is obviously a red flag. One of the other common things forgers are doing deals with the printed photo. When you go through a store or an online company most will print your name and order number on the back of the photo, so they are covering up that information by sticking that COA on it. I’ve seen this a lot with oversees or UK sellers. They print these forgeries and cover this information, and it has been especially popular with Star Wars memorabilia. I’ve learned that tip from all of the business we do with JSA.”
As Jayare noted several times in the interview, a lot of these third party authenticators have a quick opinion option on their websites. If you want to buy something online, just go to the site and request the opinion. Every one of them has a person on the staff who sifts through the databases to provide these quick assessments. Now, a more thorough review comes when you want the item certified with a COA, but such quick opinion can help if you are in a pinch for time.
JM: Some larger authentication companies even have the “witnessed” or the “in the presence” sticker. What qualifications must a piece meet to receive such authentication?
JG: “The only way to get those certifications is that a person from that company was in the room witnessing that signing. You are telling the customer, ‘Someone from the company whose only job was to watch the signing take place was in the room making sure those items are genuine.’ To me, that is the best type of COA. It says, without a shadow of a doubt, someone from the company saw that celebrity sign all the items in the room. Some of those higher profile celebrities will never do a comic con, so you are relying on these companies to make that signature possible to obtain in a private setting.”
JM: There seems to be a divide over the topic of personalization. Personally, I think it adds a specific uniqueness to my collection, but what do you think? Are you for or against autograph personalization?
JG: Personally, if the celebrity is open to it, I think it’s the way to go. All of my personal pieces have my name or my company’s name on it. It’s for me, and I’m never going to sell it. It really just depends on the person who is signing. Sometimes it’s more of the amount of time or how many pieces have to be signed. If they aren’t rushed, most celebrities don’t mind personalizing. It does affect resale value. Most people who collect 8x10s do so because you don’t have a lot of wall space, so you want to make it all about the experience. I would say 30% of the people who buy from our website want it personalized.”
Jayare operates Zobie Productions with the mindset of marketing products he can stand behind. As he put it, “You could have the best product, but without the experience or promotion, no one will know about it. I want to add those personal touches to truly make a difference.” And make a difference he has. Jayare admitted to getting nervous before every one of his mystery box launches because he puts so much effort into the smallest details. He truly goes all out for his supporters, and if one person loves those small touches, he views the entire process as worth it.
Some information on Zobie Productions:
JM: How long have you been collecting autographs?
JG: “I started when I was 13, and I’m 32-years-old. I started collecting musician autographs first. I used to go to a concert venue back home and try to wait for the band to come out before they hit stage. I tried to get them to sign my CD and tape covers.
JM: Do you remember the first person you ever met?
JG: Yeah, the first person, or the first band, I ever met was Pantera.
JM: As a collector, how does your passion for the hobby drive your brand?
JG: “It’s everything. I want to be the best memorabilia company in the world. I obsess over it. I work 18 hour days doing this. I do this for my family, my employees, and those who believe in the company. It’s important for us to get the feedback when we send the items and improve on it. As a huge collector, I never want to cut corners. Other companies look at the pop culture scene or the horror scene and don’t care about the quality. It’s all about the quick money. This company is more than that to me. I love collecting, and I love talking about pop culture. Deep down, I’m just a nerd who likes eating donuts and likes talking to agents and promoters all over the world.”
JM: How has the company grown?
JG: “Zobie started in 2016. I had a different business and business partner before that, but I wanted to go solo and just build something with my own hands. Everything I do, I do it for my family. It’s the most important thing in my life, aside from my family. So we started in 2016, and the first two years we did a lot of the celebrity signings for the bigger companies, the ones who do celebrity auctions or subscription boxes. We never marketed what we did because it was pretty much wholesale accounts. Last year, 2018, we released our first mystery box, which is our Zobie Fright Pack horror box, and it changed everything. YouTube unboxing videos changed our business. If it weren’t for YouTube, we wouldn’t be growing at the rate were growing. I have a staff, or a decent sized team, now, so we do a lot. We do wholesales, mystery boxes, online sales, and Zobie Cares, which is our fundraising side of the business.”
JM:I love the concept of mystery boxes, and Zobie offers some great ones. What is your goal when it comes making and distributing such products?
JG: “It’s a lot of work, believe me. My philosophy in business is that you can have the best product in the world, but if you do not make it an experience, if you don’t promote it heavily—and that doesn’t just mean social media—nobody is going to be able to know. Like what we experience with our Zobie Box and our Zobie Fright Pack, our mystery boxes, I feel like we have a superior box. But so much work goes into creating the box that you forget, ‘Hey, you have to market more on the different social media platforms.’ We add the personal touch them. I get very nervous before every launch. Matter of fact, one of the guys asked me how [I felt] about the February box. And because I’m doing so many things to it, I really went all out on the littlest details, which obviously drives my cost up. But if one person that buys it, tells me they really liked it or that the little, fine detail really made a difference, it is worth it. I want the value to be there.”
JM: I know you are rather candid when it comes to announcing potential signings, but what does Zobie have in store for collectors and fans in 2019?
JG: “In order to make it a better experience for everyone involved, you have to continue to have better shipping and better customer service. It’s always evolving. I’ve learned a lot by being a buying customer from other companies online. I’ve seen from that aspect what I like, what I don’t like. I put so much into it—literally blood, sweat, and tears—into it, there is a lot of pressure to be innovative or at least creative, to bring something really cool each month. In 2019 I want to focus on a lot of the people who don’t do public appearances or comic cons. We have some really big things—cool signings—planned this year. I hope people enjoy it when I announce it.”
Speaking of those announcements, you have to check out Zobie’s Collector’s Community on Facebook. It is made of some great collectors, and Jayare and his team always give updates on sales and signings there. If you want to check out Zobie, visit their website here. Information on private signings and mystery boxes are fairly easy to find. The Zobie Fright Pack and the Zobie Pop Culture Box are bi-monthly mystery boxes that do not require subscription. For you wrestling fans, Zobie also launched its “Rasslin” box! They also have mystery packs for different genres and photo sizes available regularly or until sold out. All of their products are on the website, and future private signings are also available for pre-order. Go check them out!
Thanks to Jayare for giving up some time to answers my questions and for the photo credits from his website and experiences. Happy collecting!
Jon Maus is a high school English Language Arts teacher and an all-around pop culture enthusiast. He has a B.S. and a M.E. in English. Some of his favorite fandoms include The Walking Dead, Marvel, Disney, Back to the Future, and the Karate Kid.