One of Apple’s First Employees Calls Out Fake Badge on eBay

fake Apple employee badge Sherry Livingston ebay
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It’s common to see all sorts of Apple memorabilia going for big bucks at auction houses. Signed Steve Jobs business cards can be more valuable than rare sports trading cards, and factory-sealed original iPhones have gone for record-settings six-figure prices.

So, it’s no surprise that scammers and crooks are trying to get in on the action with fake memorabilia and downright forgeries that try to convince people they’re legitimate enough to command high selling prices.

While it’s a safe bet that memorabilia and other Apple gear put on the block by professional auction houses is legitimate, you’ll want to be wary of anything that shows up on consumer auction sites like eBay, as one unfortunate buyer probably learned the hard way.

As shared by AppleInsider, a vintage Apple employee badge recently showed up on eBay claiming to be for the tenth employee Apple hired, Sherry Livingston. The seller described it as Steve Jobs’ employee badge in the title, which should have set off a few warning bells right away, but the pictures clearly showed what appeared to be Sherry Livingston’s badge.

Except it wasn’t. Instead, it was a clever fake, but not clever enough to deceive somebody who was actually there.

In a really fun twist, one of the best living sources to debunk this chimed in after Mastodon user Eric Vitiello posted the eBay link. Chris Espinosa, Apple Employee #8, who worked with Jobs and Wozniak in Jobs’ parents’ garage in 1976 (at age 14) — and still works for Apple today — called out the item as entirely fake and offered a play-by-play of everything wrong with it.

First off, Espinosa would have obviously known Sherry Livingston personally, so we can take him at his word when he says that the photo isn’t her. He then deconstructs the dimensions, the font, and adds that the included hand-drawn map of Apple’s office layout — which he drew — wasn’t his original sketch.

Espinosa explains that in those days, the team at Apple did “everything” on green National computation pads, which were pretty much the standard of engineers everywhere (I grew up with stacks of them in my dad’s home office).

Panic’s Cabel Sasser decided to join in on the fun and message the seller just to see what they’d say, adding that he “loves a good bamboozler.”

One of the most qualified people on planet earth to say this is a fake, is saying this is a fake. I had no choice at this point. I simply had to meddle.Cabel Sasser

Sasser called out the seller immediately, noting that “Apple employee #8, Chris Espinosa, tells me that both of these items are absolutely fake” and “He would obviously know.” The seller replied that he bought it from the German Red Cross and said he’d send a purchase invoice later when he got home.

The seller did exactly that, presumably creating a nice fake invoice and even staging some photos and adding some colorful comments that both made it apparent they were trying far harder than a legitimate seller would have been. For some more fun, Sasser decided to “engage the internet,” getting several responses on Mastodon that explained how there was no way this was a legitimate invoice from any German organization (isn’t the internet great?).

Sadly, as AppleInsider notes, the fake was still sold to some presumably unsuspecting buyer who likely wasn’t privy to the discussions on Mastodon. It went for just over $1,000.

It’s hard to be sure about anything you find on eBay, so it’s always a case of “buyer beware” when it comes to stuff like this. However, even legitimate memorabilia auction sites are sometimes duped. In 2022, an application filled out by Steve Jobs purporting to be for a job at Atari was pulled by RR Auctions when its provenance came into doubt after already selling in several prior auctions.

This is an excellent example of how far auction houses will go to ensure the provenance of any included items is unfailingly accurate. In this case, the application wasn’t actually a fake, but the details surrounding it were unclear. The application was penned by Steve Jobs around 1973–74, but it may not have been submitted to Atari. Jobs started at Atari in 1974, but the year before he did a stint as a part-time repair technician at Reed College’s psych lab, and with the possibility that the application may have been for that position instead, RR Auctions withdrew it from auction until it could establish the facts.

The “Atari” job application first appeared in a 2017 auction with Bonhams and later sold for £162,000 in early 2021 at London’s Charterfields auction house. It changed hands again in July for $343,000, along with an NFT version for $27,000 more. It’s a historic document written by Steve Jobs regardless of which company it was submitted to, but the idea that it was for Atari means it was sold under false pretenses.

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