"How do I know if an autograph is authentic?"
Authenticity is the most important thing to know about autograph buying!
Let's say you purchased an autograph of your favorite artist from a "reputable" dealer or private party. You spent more on it than you would ever admit
and it is proudly displayed on the wall where everyone that comes over has to see it. It is your prized possession. It could be a month later or it could
be years later, but in a series of events you come to find out that it is a fake. Auto-penned, reprinted or forged - it doesn't matter, it's all bad news.
Your money is now long gone and the seller won't return your calls.
This happens EVERYDAY. It is estimated that over 90% of the autographs sold on ebay are fake. Buying from other sites doesn't improve your chances much. You want an autograph of your favorite musician for your collection but don't have the access to get one yourself. What is a buyer supposed to do? RESEARCH!
You don't need to fork out $200 to have it looked at by PSA. All these authentication companies have grown shady (more on that subject later). All you need to do is research.
Research the company: How long has the company been around? What do others say about them? Can they supply signing information? How is their autograph knowledge? These are all questions that can be answered with a little web browsing and a few emails to the dealer. If you are purchasing from a private party, how much information do they have to go with the autograph? Can they tell you the date and location of the signing? Do they have photos, ticket stubs, or passes?
Next is researching the autograph. This can be a bit trickier.
A good place to start is comparing known authentic samples, but this is not fool proof. A forger could have copied from an authentic sample while an authentic "run-by" signature may be unrecognizable and assumed fake. You can't make determinations like "this person never signed their "y" like that" or "they never connected these two letters". There are always exceptions, but you can get a decent feel of how the autograph should look and be able to rule out most forgeries.
There is also the "autograph timeline". An artist's signature usually changes drastically over time. Getting an idea of how the autograph has evolved over time can be a great tool. Take for example, The Beatles. Their early 60's signatures are completely different from their late 60's signature. You will be able to tell the difference right away. If someone is selling what looks like a very authentic early 60's signature, but the item it is signed on wasn't released until '68, then you know it is 100% fake. This method can be applied to all signatures.
Third-Party Autograph Authenticators
Don't be fooled by the big names!
There are some names in the authentication field that just about everyone will recognize. PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication, and Global Authenticators.
Dealers try to use these names to sell their autographs. If the autograph you are looking at has been authenticated by one of these companies, then "it must be real".
Wrong. These companies and others like them have been abusing their privilege for years. All have "D" ratings with the Better Business Bureau for not returning your item,
damaging your item, or sending back a different item among other things. Most importantly, they do not know how to authenticate. JSA has been caught
on television twice authenticating fake autographs and on numerous occasions have authenticated reprints and stamped signatures (two of the easiest fakes to spot).
PSA authenticated a check stating it was genuinely signed by G.A. Laurell (Laurel Tape & Film. Inc,), but the signature was actually George A. Romero (Director).
How did the signature make it through "extensive research and database comparisons" when it wasn't even his name? There is no excuse for a mistake like that,
yet they refused to take responsibility. (Thanks to www.autographalert.com for this information). Some 3rd party authenticators have even been caught taking money
from dealers to authenticate their forged autographs, while some are notorious for rejecting authentic autographs obtained by fans.
Collectors are beginning to realize the waste of money that 3rd party authentication is. That is why Global Authenticators filed bankruptcy. I am sure more are to follow. You do not need to rely on these companies when purchasing an autograph. You only need a little of your own research to determine the authenticity of the signature you want to purchase.