Helpful information on sports memorabilia buying tips and authentication!
Do not buy memorabilia without photo proof. All our shirts, balls, gloves come with a photo of the sports person signing the item and have individual serial numbers telling the buyer what date it was signed, where it was signed, and what pen it was signed with. All our products are photographed at the time of signing.
Autographed sports memorabilia is identified by the authenticated, certified signature of a professional athlete. The most reputable method of obtaining authentically autographed memorabilia is, obviously, personally obtaining the autographs yourself. This, however, can be extremely difficult to do. Alternatively you can buy from well known, established licensed companies or their authorized dealers. These licensed companies enter into contracts with the superstars, and the athletes sign exclusively for their company for the duration of the contract wether short term or long term. The company then provides certification, numbered and registered tamper proof holograms for the autographed items with a company witness at private signings or through publicly held, company sponsored major signing events. Some items may also be authenticated further by a professional league representative such as MLB, NFL, etc. Because of the stringent standards applied to the autograph certification process by these companies, collecting autographed memorabilia can not only be a fun hobby, sometimes it can also be a good investment.
- Courtesy Zipper's Fakes & Frauds -
Very often autographs are not authentically
signed by the individual in question. "Fakes" come in several forms:
A mechanical device that "signs" flat objects such as photos, cards, letters, etc. A writing instrument is inserted into the mechanical armature and the device "signs" a name using a preprogrammed pattern (matrix) that simulates the person's real signature. Almost any type of pen can be used by an Autopen. (Note: Autopen is capitalized because it's the brand name of the device.) Good Autopens can be difficult to detect, but there are some tell-tale signs that an Autopen has been used. "Shaky" signatures - A signature that appears unnaturally "shaky." This happens when the Autopen armature vibrates as it signs. Here is an example of a shaky Autopen. The vibration appears most prominently on the "W", "R" and "G."
Exact matches - Autopen signatures match each other exactly. This does not occur with real signatures. Sign your name a million times and no two signatures will be EXACTLY the same. If two signatures match exactly they are Autopen signatures. Of course you need 2 samples of the signature to conduct this test. Publications like Pen & Quill, Autograph Collector and Autograph Times frequently publish known Autopen patterns. Buy and save these magazines for reference. There are also many online sources where you can see Autopen patterns. If you're checking out scans on someone's web page and their signature matches yours, guess what? You both have Autopen signatures. Importantly, size of the signature and pen type don't matter. George Bush typically sends Autopenned photos -- some signed with a fine point marker, others signed with a thicker Sharpie. At first glance they may appear to be different signatures, but they match exactly. It's just a different type of pen that was used in the Autopen machine. Also, be aware that some celebrities -- most notably Nolan Ryan -- use several different Autopen patterns.
Lines are all same thickness - An Autopen holds the writing instrument at a 90 degree angle from the writing surface. This means that, in an Autopen signature, the lines are all the same thickness. When signing, a real hand holds the pen at a 50 - 70 degree angle to the paper. This makes some of the lines in the signature slightly thicker than others. This phenomena can be seen most visibly when a thick tipped pen is used and there are loops in the signature. Abrupt starts and stops - When a human hand writes, there are often "drag" or "lift" marks left where the pen was raised from the paper. This can often be seen best at the end of a signature where the last letter "tails" off. With an Autopen, this doesn't happen. An Autopen lowers and raises from the surface straight up or down at a 90 degree angle. This means Autopen signatures often start and end abruptly leaving a dot of ink where the pen lowers and raises. The George Bush Autopen signature is a good example. Note how the signature is absolutely uniform in thickness throughout, and how the signature starts and ends abruptly with a dot. (You can also see the "shaky" "B.")
Preprints are usually fairly easy to detect. A preprint is simply a photographic copy of an original signed photograph. On a preprint, the signature often appears to be below the surface gloss of the photo and the signature is often very "flat." To test, hold the photo up at an angle to a light source -- a real signature is written on the surface of the photo and should have a different level of reflectivity than the rest of the surface. A preprint will blend right in with the surface because it's underneath the surface gloss. Obviously, preprint signatures will match exactly, AND the signature will be in the same exact place on each photo. Depending on the background color and contrast in the photo, some preprints are easier to detect than others. The Jim Carrey "Spank you very much" is a notorious preprint that has fooled many people.
Secretarials are perhaps the most difficult to detect. A skilled secretary can emulate signatures very well. In some cases, a secretary may have been signing for so many years that even experts can't tell the difference between real and secretarial. Sometimes a secretarial signature may appear to be more "deliberate" and slowly written. Also look for loops -- sometimes secretarial loops are looser and more "feminine" than authentic. (This assumes it's a female secretary signing for her male boss, of course.) If there is an inscription, does it match signature? Sometimes secretaries let their guard down when writing inscriptions and you can tell the inscription handwriting doesn't look like it came from the same person who signed the item. Often publications like Pen & Quill, Autograph Collector or Autograph Times have articles which will focus on the differences between authentic and secretarials for particular celebrities. Buy and save these articles -- they are valuable reference tools. Some online sites also publish authentic vs. secretarial comparisons.
Perhaps the crudest of all fake signature types, stamped signatures are simply signatures applied with a rubber stamp. They are usually easy to detect. Look for these signs to detect a stamped signature. Uneven ink distribution, the ink may "pool-up" in part of the signature. Bleeding or smudging may occur when too much ink is put on the stamp. In a real signature, you can often see a "brush stroke" in the direction that the pen moved - especially with felt tipped pens. A stamp will not have this. This ink is simply laid down on the surface, there is no directional stroke. Of course, stamped signatures will all be identical.
A forgery is when one forges a signature for the purpose of selling it to another under false pretenses. Unfortunately, there are many forgeries on the autograph market today. Some forgeries are excellent and can fool the most knowledgeable experts, however, most forgers are as unskilled as they are greedy and unethical. To detect forgeries go through this checklist: Compare it to samples known to be authentic. While everyone's autograph varies slightly from signature to signature, there should not be major differences in any part of the signature. For example, a person whose real signature has a pointed "A" is unlikely to use a rounded "A." Compare the letters within the autograph in relation to each other. For example, if Babe Ruth's real signature always has the "B" and "R" twice the height of the other letters, be wary of a signature where the "B" and "R" are the same size of the rest of the letters.
Also look for the tilt and size of the signature. Most people are very consistant in the size and tilt or angle of their signature. Stay away from a signature that varies greatly from known authentic exemplars. Be wary if the signature looks like it was written slowly and deliberately or it looks like the pen stops in the middle of the signature. This happens when someone is trying to imitate or trace the autograph from another source. Make sure there are no anachronisms in the autograph. Forgers often make stupid mistakes. Is the paper and pen type appropriate? I've seen "Einstein" typed signed letters printed with a laser printer. Einstein was dead for 30 years before the laser printer existed! I've seen "Humphrey Bogart" signed with blue Sharpie. Bogie was dead for many years before the blue Sharpie was introduced. Astonishingly, forgers sometimes misspell the name! Don't trust Certificates of Authenticity (COAs). They aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Anyone with a printer can make a COA, and if they're going to forge an autograph, they won't hesitate to make a COA.