This guide should help you to be safe when thinking of purchasing autographed memorabilia and merchandise on eBay.
Unfortunately some individuals seem to think they can make easy money on the side by selling large amounts of signed photographs...that is signed by themselves at their home. They are ripping off YOU the customer and committing fraud. Sadly many of these sellers return under new accounts when shut down. The only way to stop them for good is to not buy from them at all!
How can I tell authentic items from fakes?
The first steps would appear simple but are not always the case.
Firstly check the listing, perhaps the seller has added some photographic proof. This is a good place to start. Many sellers will add a photograph of either the item being signed, a picture of themselves with the celebrity or a candid shot from the event. This is a good place to begin.
Then check the sellers' other listings. You will find people who do not sell autographs usually offering up one or two items they have come into possession of, but most sellers have many items for sale. See what else they have and at what price. Do they have several signed photos of tough mega-stars for sale? Are their prices too good to be true? Is the seller's location a place where they would realistically manage to get the items signed?
Those who claim to list low to avoid fees are ones to be wary of. We are talking about listing fees of less than £0.10 or $0.10. Would you be happy to list an item at $0.99 knowing it is worth $70 or $80? Do they have lots of the same sort of items up at low prices? Check their feedback for previous auctions, have they sold lots of the same before?
Is someone from the UK offering up autographs of US TV stars? Do they have a reasonable explanation, or do they say nothing at all. Some people list hollywood stars but live in South Asia, where these stars rarely visit.
Show caution at private listings. Why do sellers wish to stop others from seeing who is bidding? Because they dont want anyone putting them off! There are few good reasons to hide bidders IDs for most items. Better explanations really only exist for high-end pieces; if you are spending £1000 on something you might want some privacy!
Do your homework before buying.
Check current and completed listings to see what the market value is, and to compare the autographs. Try searching google images too, to compare them. Some of those who fake autographs dont even bother to check their copies are close! Why? Because people are still bidding in them! I contacted one bidder on a clearly fake item once, and they replied "Im only bidding because I like the photo"! It only encourages them!
Someone else obviously faked a multi-signed item, they claimed it was signed by one person twice because "someone else signed it for them, but then they showed up and did it themselves". When would that EVER happen?! Obviously they faked the autograph wrong!
Sports items can be the easiest to check up on, especially top US sports. Sports card companies have so many signed inserts now you can see what real autographs look like before you bid on something else. Infact, if you are not sure at all the cards are a great way to obtain authentic signatures. Living in the UK this is how I now get mine, its safest!
Also be ware of 'too perfect' signatures. Most top stars sign in a hurry and usually the autograph is a bit of a mess. If all a seller's autographs are really clear and slowly signed you might want to question how they managed to obtain them.
One of the harder things to spot, especially if you are not an expert is the way the signatures flow. Again, sloppy fakers don't always think about this, but obviously different people write in different ways. If the item is multi-signed, do all the autographs have similarly written letters? Do the autographs appear to have come from the same hand? Do the letters loop in similar ways for different stars' autographs?
Basically be careful and put in the effort to research properly. Remember, you are making an investment when buying memorabilia. And for that investment you should be willing to sacrifice a few minutes to be safe.
If you have any concerns, contact the seller at once. Good honest sellers reply to their mail and will answer any questions you have. Thats because they know the value of good business. Fakers will ignore you because they dont care, they are only trying to rip off as many people as possible.
If you still aren't satisfied, simply don't bid. Patience is a virtue, and if you wait eventually you will get the right item!