Autograph collecting is a great hobby, but unfortunately, some unscrupulous users on eBay are selling forged or otherwise unauthentic autographs. By following some simple steps, you can minimize your risk and find some very good deals in the process.
Before You Start Buying
- Read Description Thoroughly - Make sure that the autograph isn't being described as a preprint, reprint, copy, facsimile, secretarial, stamp, or autopen. (More on how to identify some of these later.)
- Do Some Research - Search for known exemplars of signatures on Google or Yahoo! to help protect yourself from forgeries or secretarial autographs. Make sure the seller has a close-up of the signature in the auction description. If there isn't a close-up in the auction, ask for one.
- Look for the Money Back Guarantee - While a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) can be reassuring, they are easily made and many times are not worth the paper they're printed on. Make sure the seller guarantees the authenticity of his/her items and has a return policy.
- Know the Seller - Check the seller's feedback and history on eBay. What do others have to say about their merchandise? How long have they been selling on eBay?
- Ask Questions - Feel free to ask the seller any questions that you may have about the autograph. An honest seller will have nothing to hide and should respond to your inquiry.
After the Sale
Analyze the autograph to make sure that it is not a preprint or autopen.
- Preprint - mass produced pictures where the signature is part of the photograph
- Autopen - machines that can sign identical autographs quickly and sometimes accurately
Since preprinted signatures are part of the photo, the autograph usually appears to be below the surface gloss of the picture. To test, hold the photo at an angle to a light source. A real signature is on top of the photo and will have a different level of reflectivity compared to the rest of the picture. The glare of a preprinted signature will blend right in with the photo.
Autopens usually appear to be shaky because the autopen machine vibrates as it signs. With an autopen, there will also be abrupt starts and stops to the signature. Below is an example of Hillary Rodham Clinton's autopen signature:
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