15 July 2006
Heads up for all ebay bidders- there are lots of fakes for sale, and you should really read here what to watch out for! Some sellers can be trusted, but there are way too many more that are deceptive. Some use wording such as UACC member, or COA Included; when anyone that has money to spend can join the UACC, which does not mean they are honest or reliable, and anyone that has a computer & printer can make a phony COA. Some sellers state the item contains a signature of a celebrity, but they don't actually state the celebrity signed it themself, or their wording leads you to believe the autograph is real when the SELLER DID NOT ACTUALLY STATE THIS. Many people have written a famous person’s name on an item- and sellers believe the celebrity signed it, when in reality it was not signed at all, it is just a name written by a fan. If you have a question of the seller's wording- ask them BEFORE BIDDING.
WATCH OUT for felt-pen signatures which are very common tricks- it’s easy to fake a signature using a felt pen. Think about it- an old autograph could not possibly be real when done in felt pen- they didn’t exist back then! Felt tip pens were first sold in the 1960’s, if the celebrity or politician was older than that, the signature must be a FAKE! An ink pen has to have been used if the signature is older than 1960.
If you see an auction that is a PRIVATE AUCTION- BE WARY- this is often times a ploy to hide the sale. Any reputable dealer will not HIDE behind a Private auction, they will give you a lifetime guarantee on the autograph you are buying, and if you as a buyer wish to remain anonymous so you & your purchases are kept private, you can simply request a reputable seller to not give you feedback on the item.
Sellers that use your privacy as an excuse should not be trusted- they are the ones who are trying to hide. Do not bid on any auction that the seller has made THEIR OWN FEEDBACK PRIVATE, even if it looks as if they are all positive- chances are that they have hidden negatives that they have PAID EBAY TO REMOVE the negative so it doesn’t show in their rating, the bad comment remains on their record and ebay only removes the rating number in the negative column, so they hide their feedback to cover it up. Most buyers don’t know that ebay does negative rating removal for a fee.
CUT signatures are risky, anything that has been cut away from the rest of the document has a good chance of being a fake or a printed signature, or taken from a reproduction. It was popular during the 1976 Bi-Centennial of the US to sell REPRODUCTIONS of famous documents that were made on ONION PAPER, which looks old but is not. Some sellers are known to purchase printed complete repros just to cut the printed signature out & attempt to sell it alone as real. Avoid foreign seller's cut signatures for the same reason. And check the seller's auction list- if the seller HAS THE SAME SIGNATURE OR SAME ITEM LISTED MANY TIMES it surely is not real. Check seller's ended auctions too, their PAST HISTORY can be very revealing. Have they sold the same item again and again? This is commonly found with celebrity signed photos. Look closely at the seller's feedback including feedback they gave to sellers they bought from. You might find the same item they bought cheap as a repro is for sale by them for big bucks advertised by them as real.
WATCH OUT for signed INDEX CARDS, most are not real- if you were President for example, would you sign your name over and over on meaningless index cards? Why would anyone want to? Why would one seller have so many of the same?
BE WARY of signed baseballs, especially Politicians- most of which are printed or stamped signatures. Can you really sign your name on a curved surface to look exactly the same as on a flat surface? It's not easy at all. Again, why do these sellers have a history of selling so many of the same balls?
Many sellers are novices that are simply not educated or knowledgeable enough to know the autograph they are selling may be a PRINTED or AUTO-PEN signature. The majority of John F. Kennedy signatures are either autopens or printed, including Jackie Kennedy's response notes after JFK was assasinated to the thousands of condolence letters she received. Evelyn Lincoln was their secretary, and many of her letters were form letters with her printed signature. And of course- the countless White House photos of JFK and Jackie with their printed signatures are often thought to be real signatures but are not real, they are all exactly the same.
Many common documents such as 1860’s Civil War Volunteer Service documents that were genuinely printed in the 1860's contain PRINTED signatures of Abraham Lincoln & Edwin Stanton as part of the document- but they are many times thought to be real autographs. It has been a common fact of Presidents signing letters & documents, that this is such a time-consuming & tiring task that so many devices and alternatives have existed to take the place of actually autographing. Since time began, important people have always had secretaries write letters for them, and sometimes the SECRETARIES WOULD SIGN the person's name for them too. Most LAND GRANTS after the 1830's and up to the present would be signed in the President's name, but done by his secretary or an appointed official. Sometimes the politician’s wife would sign for them.
1920’s thru 1950’s Postmaster Appointments have very real looking signatures, most of which are printed. Awards, Military Discharge documents signed by the President, Appointment Certificates for Military Service, and even US Paper Currency all have printed signatures that look real, but if you think about how many exist, tens and hundreds of thousands, you will realize & agree that no President or Official had enough time or effort to actually autograph each & every one. Of, course there do exist some genuine autographs, but these are few & far between, surely to be in museums, private collections, CERTIFIED as genuine by reputable authenticators, or offered at their true value on ebay by reputable dealers that GUARANTEE THEM FOR LIFETIME.
A commonly mis-represented item found too much on ebay is a Presidential letter or card including Christmas cards. Many FACSIMILE signatures are White House Cards which clearly state, usually on the rear, that it is a facsimile signature, though some are not marked, and very few are genuine autographs.
LETTERS are the most commonly produced, they were done by the hundreds & sometimes thousands especially during elections, and with the invention of the AUTO-PEN MACHINE, signatures are hard to distinguish from the real thing. Again, a buyer's common sense should tell you, if the letter's content refers to a general thought such as a political contribution, that even though the recipient's name & address may be typed on the header, no candidate had the time to personally sign the thousands of letters sent out, many have the exact same date and say the exact same words, the same applies to political photos- including those that have a person‘s name in dedication which are done by a machine.
PHOTOS that have a signature are included in the above warnings. People have requested autographs and signed photos of nearly every popular celebrity and politician. Many contain a signature that was printed as part of the photo. BOOKS are a common source of photos that were PRINTED with real looking autographs.
Another practice has been having the celebrity AUTOGRAPH A NEGATIVE if his photo, so that when it is printed it appears to have been signed but it is not- this is usually evident by the COLOR OF THE SIGNATURE IS SILVER on the photo, from being developed from a negative, and mass-produced. With today’s COMPUTERS, faked autographs has been taken to a higher level of deception that is more difficult to distinguish.
A general rule of thumb is, if the photo is GLOSSY, and the subject is dated- it is probably a MODERN COPY. Glossy photo paper has only been available in recent years. Also look for the manufacturere's name on the back side of photo paper, if you see this then it is recent- not old. Some fakers have been SCANNING a genuine autograph onto their computer, and then TRANSFERRING it to a photo or other paper item with their printer. These can be hard to identify as fake. The rule of thumb on this use to be- if you look closely and see tiny dots then it was a printer-generated image or signature, but the high-quality printers have eliminated the dot process, so it is harder to tell a fake.
Authentication services have been a reliable source for determining genuine from fake, though they have been coming under fire recently. Some including ebay's recommendation PSA/DNA, and UACC have been thought to have mis-identified or mistaken true for fake autographs, some have been thought to be questionable because they not only authenticate, but sell autographs as well which could be thought of as a conflict of interest. Every business that performs a service such as this, especially at the prices they charge, should be a BUSINESS YOU CAN TRUST, and they should offer a GUARANTEE to you, though many do not as they will not accept a competitor's opinion contradictory to theirs. The UACC will NOT consider a member's investigation unless the BUYER IS ALSO A MEMBER, though they do have a difference of joining as a member which anyone can do, or joining as a registered dealer, a REGISTERED DEALER should advertise that they are a registered dealer as oppose to simply stating they are a member, and they should STATE THEIR REGISTRATION NUMBER. Again this does not prevent one from selling questionable items.
Ebay's feedback rating system cannot be relied upon either, a negative comment can be removed by the seller paying ebay money to do so, and as mentioned earlier, a Private Auction listing can not only hide the buyer's comment, but ALLOWS THE SELLER TO UP THE BID AMOUNT ON THEIR OWN AUCTION secretly by bidding on their own auction using another user profile. The practice is against ebay rules, but ebay does not actively seek out these activities, they only take action if the perpetrator is found out, and how is that possible when the bidders' id's are kept private?
Bottom line on autograph auctions- if it looks to good or too cheap to be real, it probably isn't. There are many ebay users that search 24 hrs. per day for good deals if one genuine good deal comes along- with the intent on re-selling at a higher price. Watch out for Private auctions, watch for deceptive wording, research the seller's feedback & past auctions, and also look at ebay's closed auctions for similar items as a comparison.
A final note, ebay BIDDERS have created some of the problems that occur by not being knowledgeable enough, they BUY FAKES and printed signatures not realizing they have been taken for a ride in at least the purchase price they paid, they leave positive feedback when they are not even sure what they received is genuine, the high cost of authentication is prohibitive, and this all adds up to unreliable sellers encouraged to continue taking bidders for the almighty dollar. This makes ebay a risky venue to purchase, the buyer really needs to be aware.