About The Founders

Nowhere else will you find the level of detailed instruction, expertise, and personal coaching on the subject of luxury authentication, nor do any other Institutions offer certification and credentialing. With only several thousand experts worldwide the luxury resale sector is valued at over $50 billion. This whole industry is dependent on the authenticity of the goods being traded. Without trust and transparency, there is no circular economy. AIA’s training builds skills and confidence to enter the marketplace in many different roles, depending on your interests.

Through video recordings, training guides, exams, essays, and a final live assessment our proctors gauge your comprehension and acumen of the art and science of authentication. Attention to detail, a passion for research, and a lust for the truth are all requisites to this program.

You can choose to take the path to certification or independent brand modules for curious learners. Certification requires the completion of 10 brand courses, 5 pre-determined, and 5 electives. Each of these is accompanied by a compliance test. You will then be asked to write an essay on methodology and complete a live virtual assessment reviewing real products.

You may also take any course at any time, for your own education. Whether a mini-course for beginners or an expert level geared towards practitioners, the AIA platform is dynamic to work for your needs.

Deanna Thompson, Co-Founder

Deanna Thompson is the creator of Closet Full of Cash, the first blog dedicated to the luxury resale industry which was acquired in 2021 and which she re-acquired back in October 2022. . Deanna’s past work includes her time as Business Development Manager-BDM at Entrupy and Co-Founder of Marque Mentor. 

Throughout her time in the luxury resale industry, her opinions have been published in Fashionista, Reader’s Digest, Her-Age, Southern Jewelry News and Apparel News. She has spoken on authentication and the luxury resale industry to audiences at the National Pawnbrokers Association Pawn Expo Conference and NARTS several years in row. She is also the first person to publish 13 authentication guides on luxury handbags, including Chanel and Louis Vuitton, along with creating e-courses on luxury handbag authentication for 30 brands through her time at Marque Mentor.

Deanna is passionate about the luxury resale industry and is driven by her desire to share what she has learned in the authentication space. She is currently supporting the collaborators here at AIA and continues to publish authentication books available on Amazon). Deanna was also the recipient of the 2022 Industry Partner of the Year award from the National Pawnbroker Association.

Graham Wetzbarger, Co-Founder

Graham Wetzbarger is the Founder and CEO of Luxury Appraisals & Authentication, an expert advisory consulting firm in the designer Resale space. As a member of the Appraisers Association of America, Costume Society of America, and International Trademark Association, integrity, accuracy, and compliance are integral to his work. Over the past 15 years, Graham led the growth in authentication and valuations for The RealReal and Bag Borrow or Steal, positioning himself as one of the world’s leading experts in counterfeit detection. A broad education includes a BFA from Pratt Institute, certification from the Gemological Institute of America, Fashion and IP law at Fordham Law School, and Appraisal Studies from NYU SPS. 

Graham is regularly asked to speak on the state and growth of the Resale sector. He has participated in Wells Fargo’s eCommerce day and held teleconferences for Needham, GLG, AlphaSights, and China Certification and Inspection Group. He has spoken on the Resale industry to audiences at Stern Business School, Southern Methodist University, The Federal Bar Association, The Fashion Law Institute, and SXSW. His opinions have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Insider, The Robb Report, and fashion publications: WWD, Business of Fashion, Elle, and Vogue.

The AIA Content Course Creators

James Firestien
James FirestienAuthentication Instructor
James is a professional luxury accessories authenticator with a decade of experience working at leading auction houses and technology-focused, luxury resale startups. During his tenure, he has personally authenticated over 200,000 handbags and accessories. He also has contributed his expertise by writing pieces for auction catalogs and industry blogs.
Torie Rufolo
Torie RufoloAuthentication Instructor
As a luxury resale expert, Victoria (Torie) Rufolo has spent the better part of the past decade studying and authenticating luxury fashion brands. She is deeply passionate about the resale industry and what it offers in terms of sustainability and accessibility with accuracy and authenticity at the forefront of her focus. Victoria has worked with many companies to provide expertise on the resale industry and countless determinations of authenticity. She has also aided in launching authentication programs and providing training for some of the world’s top resale platforms. Victoria has created numerous in-depth training materials and extensive digital archives for many luxury brands.
Deanna & Graham
Deanna & GrahamCo-Founders of AIA
Deanna Thompson and Graham Wetzbarger continue to share their extensive breadth of knowledge of authentication by creating and recording courses for the Authentication Institute of America.

With over 30 years of combined experience, Graham Wetzbarger and Deanna Thompson are recognized as leaders and mentors in the luxury goods authentication space. Breaking down the information silo, AIA is uniquely positioned to educate, train, and credential authentication experts. By agreeing to act in accordance with our Code of Ethics, both individuals and companies can share in the consumer trust built on this platform.

To Learn More About

Authentication Institute of America