After listening to all of the feedback and suggestions on Twitter, Facebook and the forum regarding topics that should be covered in the blog, this was the most overwhelming response.
People want to know what to look for when purchasing a belt. Many are unaware of the bootleggers and the foreign scammers. Others know a little about this, but not enough to differentiate between them.
This is a very broad topic, but an important one. I want to try to be as thorough as possible in order to better educate everyone. Because of this, I will break down this topic into numerous parts. The first part will be a basic understanding of the topics and terms to be used. The second part of this article, to be published at a later date, will get into depth regarding the bootlegs, and specifically the problem with Pakistan and eBay.
Let’s go over some commonly used terms first, so everyone is on the same page. This will help keep the confusion to a minimum, and might answer some questions you’ve had.
What Do I Consider an Authentic, Bootleg or Kayfabe Belt?
These terms are commonly thrown around, but many get them mixed up.
Authentic: An authentic belt, is one that was either made by the original beltmaker or someone granted permission to make the belt. Usually it involves using original artwork, logos and features of the “original” belt. These belts are approved by everyone that has intellectual property involved. Sometimes, this requires paying a logo or license fee. Other times it does not. It is a belt made on the “up and up”.
Bootleg: A belt made without the permission of the original beltmaker, or using logos without licensing. An “illegal” belt.
Kayfabe: A kayfabe belt is one which is not meant to be known about. Simply, it is a belt that “does not exist”. Kayfabe belts can be authentic. They can be belts done as favors for people. Most commonly though, kayfabes are bootleg belts. Some collectors kayfabe their collection, because they do not wish to answer questions about where they bought them, who sold it to them, how much they paid, etc. Other times, when bootlegs are involved, the belts are hidden in order to keep people from getting in trouble. A kayfabe could be an illegal reproduction, or it could be that someone did not want to pay a logo/license fee on a belt. It is a very broad term, and despite it’s negative connotation, it is not always a bad thing. Certain people for example, only collect ring used belts. Making all of that information public could jeopardize the sources in which they are acquired, thus kayfabing them is the best solution for all parties involved.
Copyright, Trademark and Licensing
Copyright usually refers to the artwork in which the belt was made from. The holder of the copyright maintains the right to reproduce it at their digression, and can so for their lifetime +50 years after. Most belt art is not filed with the Government, but it is still copyrighted. Also read up on Poor Man’s Copyright.
Trademark can be a logo, or unique feature of the belt, used to easily distinguish themselves from competitors. Trademarks are usually filed with the Patent and Trademark office. The WWE logo is an example of this.
Licensing: Certain companies do not let their intellectual property (Trademark or Copyrights) be used without financial compensation. There are certain belts that require the collection of additional fees in order to comply with this.
Common Examples of License Fees:
NWA Logo $150
ROH Logo $400 originally, now less
WWE Logos (Includes WWE, WWF, WCW and ECW): 25% of the normal cost of the good. When the WWF license deal belts first came out, Midwest bumped this up to an even $1,000 on certain belts. J-Mar bumped it up even higher. The logo fee is not $1,000. The license fee is taken out of that extra monies and paid to Fig Inc, who then pay WWE.
Now, if we put this all together, we can understand the answer to a commonly asked question; Why did Reggie Parks stop making belts for WWF in the late 90′s?
According to Reggie, WWF wanted the copyright to the designs of the belts (Winged Eagle, Intercontinental, etc). This would prevent Reggie from using those designs as bases for other belts. If you look at his website, you can see the influence these designs had on other belts. This would have cost Reggie a huge amount of money in lost sales, and thus was not something he would allow to happen. Reggie owns the copyright to the belt designs, but cannot make them with the WWE trademarks (logos), without the licensing fee being paid. In turn, J-Mar agreed to this stipulation. All of the belts he has made for WWE are either original designs in which he gave the copyright to WWE, or they are designs WWE came up with, and just have J-Mar produce. I hope this makes much more sense now.
How Do We Tell These Belts Apart?
To new or novice collectors, this might seem like a lot of information to take in, but it is an important fundamental baseline to prevent you from getting ripped off.
Before buying a belt, do your research. Ask questions, ask for pictures, and compare these pictures to other pictures of known, legitimate work. Ask around. Does the person have good feedback? What is their reputation among the belt community? This alone, can save you a headache.
If a belt is too cheap, or an auction looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Style of Belt
Cast Belts: Cast belts are a style of making belts that involve either a sand or wax mold being used to replicate a belt, or from an original design. A melted metal is then poured into the mold and allowed to cool before being cleaned up and finished. Both real belts and now some new replicas are being made this way. Some classic cast belts are the NWA 7 plate Tag Team and WWWF Heavyweight Belts held by Pedro Morales and Superstar Billy Graham. Some of the new Fig Inc replicas such as the AWA Heavyweight, Andre 87, Spinners, Divas, and Master Series line are made this way. Cast belts are very heavy, cannot be curved, and have a reputation for cracking and breaking with regular ring use depending on type of metal used.
Etched Belts: Etched belts are the common method belts are made from today. Acid eats away the base metal of the plate, putting the design into the metal. Etching only has 2 heights. Either it is etched, or left alone. 2 depths. Some people can “double” etch to give added depth. Double etching adds a 3rd depth. Etched belts cannot give the same amount of detail as a 3d engraved or cast belt, but they are more durable, lighter and can be curved. A way some beltmakers get around this, is by using “relief pieces”. These are individually etched pieces of various thickness, that are then stacked on top of each other, to give added dimensions.
3d Engraved Belts: This is a process exclusive to J-Mar thus far. An engraving machine removes the material of the base metal at an infinite number of possible depths. This makes for an amazing amount of detail, curves and rounded parts to be put into a belt design. This process is much more expensive, and thus the 3D engraved belts are 3-5x more expensive than a regular etched belt. Examples of 3d engraved belts are the WWE Big Gold, WWE Raw Tag Team, All the spinners, and WWE Divas.
In Part 2, I will go into detail about how to tell the difference in the types of belts, as well as expand on the problem with Pakistani belt manufacturers causing confusion in the marketplace.
I am always available if someone has a question or concern. If you have more information you wish to share, contact me!
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