Buying Celebrity Autographs at Auction - How to Ensure Your Autograph is Authentic
Fakes are Everywhere
Ebay, and other popular auction sites, have been clamping down as best they can on auctions containing fake autographs. Still it can be notoriously hard to tell a fake from the real deal. The fakers are getting better, and if you don't know the tricks of the trade you can get caught out very easily.
It can be really disappointing to get what you thought was an authentic autograph only to find out later you were duped by a con-artist. This hub will give you a few tips and things to look out for so that you can separate the potentially fake from the authentic item.
Look for the words UACC in the Auction Description
The UACC is the Universal Autograph Collector's Club. They are a non-profit organisation, and their sole concern it to authenticate autographs whether they be celebrity, sports, or historical. They also support dealers who sell autographs, giving them their stamp of approval.
In order to be approved as a dealer you need to meet their rigorous standards. A forge will find it almost impossible to get their dealer stamp of approval, as they require proof af authentication beyond the photo itself. Each dealer has their own unique dealer number which should be displayed in each auction.
Their website can be found here. They also have their very own auction room, but their prices usually start higher than eBay, at least you can be assured you are getting the real item from them.
Examples of Authentic AutographsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some Other Things You Can Look For
1. Do some comparisons with other auctions - if the autograph looks totally different from other auctions with the same celebrity then the chances are pretty good you have a forgery on your hand. If you can find a UACC auction to compare with, all the better.
2. Go to the Celeb's Official Site - A lot of famous people now sell their autographs via their official sites. Even if you'd rather buy from auction than from them personally, they usually have examples on display for you to see. Look closely at the signature and see if it matches what you are seeing on the auction.
3. Look for an inscription, or a date - Some celebrities, if they have the time, will inscribe their photos. Some just do it for fun, and other habitually do it. If the photo you are looking at bidding on is inscribed in some manner then the chances are pretty good you have an authentic piece on your hands. If the handwriting in the inscription looks different, though, then you may be looking at a fake.
4. A Certificate of Authenticity - Especially if the certificate comes from a known or past convention company. Just remember, all it takes is a printer to make up a certificate, what you need is some other way to check on the company printing it. Use the certificate as a guide, but not the sole guide to authentification.
When a 'Fake' Might Not Be a Fake
It is up to you to check the wording on any auction carefully. There is some wording you should look for that will indicate you are not getting a real signature, but instead are getting a facsimile copy instead.
1. Autograph Scans - If the auction has a really low price, then take a look at the wording carefully. It is possible that instead of a real autograph. they are selling a high quality scan. This happens regularly on eBay and is not against their rules as long as it is stated that it is a scan.
2. Studio Printed Autographs - some studios get so much fanmail that they don't send the requests for autographs along to the actors. Instead they have postcards printed up with a second round of printing on them, which looks like the real deal. These are sanctioned by the studios and some actors who use this service as well. The auction should state is this is what they are selling. Believe it or not, these postcards are collector's items themselves.
3. Autopen - you don't see these around very much now, but around ten years ago it was very popular with celebrities. An autopen looks almost like the real thing, in fact even up close it can be really hard to distinguish from a real autograph. If the autograph being sold has been made by an autopen the auctioneer needs to tell you that. The easiest way to tell if an autopen machine has been used is to look at the back of the autograph - if an even pressure has been used, then a machine has most probably signed the photo on behalf of the celebrity.
It really is worth doing your homework before you go spending money on autographs. Most autograph dealers are selling you the real deal. If a dealer is caught out they could lose their eBay business and that serves no-one.
Do be aware when you are checking that a person's signature can change over time, and it can become more sloppy at the end of a large autograph session when they have a case of writer's cramp. Also when paint pens are used you usually end up with a more exaggerated signature. But there are still tell-tale signs you can look for. Everyone has their own way of signing, after all.
If you are careful you could end up with a great autograph collection, and over time it will become easier to separate out the real from the pretend autos.
Note: All scans of autographs used in this article are from the author's private collection, and are all authentic. They were either obtained in person, or via auction. Do not use without permission.