Experts offer tips to protect you from getting duped into buying bogus Royals memorabilia

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Signed bats, balls, jerseys and even champagne bottles; all mementos of momentous season for the World Series winning Kansas City Royals.

But for fans the glory comes at a cost.

Experts like Nathan Halter of MO Sports in Liberty said an Eric Hosmer signed bat has more than tripled in price since the championship. Shortstop Alcides Escobar's signature jumped from $30 to $80. Third baseman Mike Moustaskas and catcher Salvador Perez will set you back $100.

High demand for star players has hurt those who hang outside the Royals clubhouse waiting for freebies.

"Years ago you used to get a lot of autographs," said 91-year-old Charlie Blyscone.

The day FOX 4 was there, only one player stopped to sign. Even those who have paid big for a signature are having trouble collecting.

"Our family loves Salvy," said Wendy Crawford.

Crawford spent more than $500 for a two-toned Salvy-signed bat commemorating the World Series. She ordered it from Bit Time Bats in November. She still doesn't have it.

"The representative contacted me and said they were having some issues with getting Salvy to sign all the bats," Crawford said.

When it does finally come at least she'll know the signature is real because she went through a legitimate company. But experts say that's not always the case.

"Now that they are of value there are a lot of fakes," said Halter of Mo Sports.

Problem Solvers found first baseman Eric Hosmer-signed bat on eBay for $25. That's suspiciously cheap. Most sell for nearly $200.

So how do you protect yourself from getting taken?
You could buy from the Major League Baseball's own store, which never takes its eye off the ball. Justin Villareal, manager of the Royals Authentics Store at Kauffman Stadium, said the MLB won't resell a foul ball that ended up in the stands.

"We will never be able to do anything with that," Villareal said. "The minute it left the field and ended up in somebody's hands there is no way to authenticate it."

It's called chain of custody and the Royals hire off-duty Kansas City police officers to keep watch over every ball, bat, base and even champagne bottle -- making sure they don't leave sight before they are ready to sell.

Even World Series dirt gets the same Royals treatment.

"Somebody has to watch us collect and seal a bucket of dirt," Villareal said.

Then a hologram sticker is attached to each artifact.

"It's what we consider a tamper-proof sticker," Villareal said. "If it gets peeled, it falls apart."

Each hologram has a code that can be typed into an MLB website showing the item it belongs to.

MO Sports in Liberty has its own Hologram. So do several other large scale memorabilia vendors, including the one Wendy Crawford bat her bat from -- a bat Crawford still hopes she'll one day see.