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What Role Can Artificial Intelligence Play in Collectible Markets?

What Role Can Artificial Intelligence Play in Collectible Markets?
January 26, 2023
Dylan Dittrich

This article was featured in our newsletter, Alts & Ends. Click here to subscribe for free and receive the best collectible market insights straight to your inbox on a weekly basis!

We'll tell you straight up: we're not sure we like the cut of ChatGPT's jib. And Dall-E? Not for me.

Like anything else, they're "just tools," you say? No no no my friend, a screwdriver is a tool. A paintbrush is a tool. These are something different altogether.

Have you seen Terminator? Or 2? Or 3? Or 4?

Can't blame anybody for feeling anxious about what the future holds for these AI-powered phenomena and the implications for...well...humanity.

When it comes to collectibles, though, AI could actually be a source of reduced anxiety.

Collectible markets are persistently ravaged by counterfeiting, fraud, and forgery; authenticity remains a severe issue, and monetary destruction follows in its wake. Every time a hole is plugged, halting the seepage of inauthentic product to market and dollars to waste, a new one seems to open. AI though, used as a tool, offers new ways to plug holes with greater efficiency and accuracy.  

Take machine vision software company Alitheon for example. Alitheon's FeaturePrint is an Optical AI technology that digitizes a physical item's "fingerprint," using a camera to algorithmically identify and codify the item's unique attributes. Emphasis on unique. The "FeaturePrint" can then be used by consumers to authenticate the item later, in the wild, simply using cell phone cameras.  

Using that type of technology, sports card manufacturers could create a card's fingerprint during the manufacturing process, enabling consumers to irrefutably identify a product as authentic later on in the secondary market. The same applies for sneaker manufacturers. Nike has a massive counterfeiting problem on its hands, and for that matter, so do consumers and resale marketplaces.

Or think about grading companies themselves. With the ability to fingerprint specific cards, cards that fraudulently find their way into slabs or find themselves under new, higher-graded labels could instantly be identified as phony. As it turns out, graders are already all over it. PSA acquired Genamint in April of 2021 to work on just these types of matters.  

The friction around AI-generated art is clear from our earlier discussion, but there are also strides being made in AI-based art authentication (not without consternation from the authenticating establishment). Swiss-based company Art Recognition trains an algorithm on hundreds of images of works from an artist's oeuvre. The algorithm is then used to identify specific characteristics and visual compositional elements (i.e. brushstrokes) in an analyzed work.  The system is said to have an 85% accuracy rate in verifying authorship; it's ultimately only as good as the collection of images used, which come from museum collections and catalogues raisonnés.

Going a step further, researchers at Case Western Reserve University are using 3D imaging to detect forgeries with accuracy of up to 96%. Their optical analysis attempts to understand and identify the ways in which the artist's brain patterns and nervous system movements are applied onto a canvas. That type of analysis would potentially allow observers to understand where artist's assistants - or forgers - contributed to a work.

Even the people behind these technologies agree, though, that they're just one tool among many that can be used by human authentication experts to make a determination with a greater degree of objectivity.

AI's infringement on human functions is a slippery and steep slope that will only sew further discomfort in years ahead, but over the shorter-term, it's hard not to be optimistic about the relationship between AI and collectible markets....

...until the AI starts collecting us. Get your tin foil hats on people!

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