Autograph CoA: Certificate of Authenticity? Facts You Should Know January 28 2022
So, you're looking to purchase a genuine autograph, and you've heard that it's best to have a CoA.
But what is a CoA? An Autograph CoA, or Certificate of Authenticity, is usually a seal on paper intended to demonstrate that an item, in this case, an autograph, is authentic. Many autographs sold online will come with a CoA. However, just because it comes with an autograph CoA, this will not always mean that the autograph you are buying is authentic.
ARE CoAs ENOUGH?
Definitely not! They only certify someone's opinion. They are only as good as the person, service, or business that releases them.
The problem is that there isn't a standard, official, Certificate of Authenticity that we can all unequivocally call as such. Each person or company can create a certificate-looking piece of paper that says something is authentic and call it a CoA.
An autographed guitar sold with Certificate of Authenticity (CoA)
Since the selling party is getting a financial benefit by saying the sold item is authentic, this brings the problem of trust.
Today, CoAs are mostly worthless pieces of paper since they can (and sometimes are) be easily faked. This is why authentication companies provide serial numbers or codes that can be checked online and compare your autograph item with a photo online.
When making a purchase decision, most knowledgeable buyers rely on their own experience and who they buy from. Buying from a reputable autograph dealer - such as us - goes a long way, and also getting them in person or even using an artist's official website as a source is a good idea. See our article on WHERE TO BUY AUTOGRAPHS.
ENSURING YOUR CoA IS AUTHENTIC
So what can you do to ensure that your CoA is genuine and that the autograph you have bought is genuinely by the person advertised? Here are some steps you can take to have the highest possible chances of not being scammed or defrauded.
Do some checks on the company selling the autograph. Use Google to check their background and look for feedback that doesn't come from their own websites, such as on Amazon, eBay, or TrustPilot.
WHO PRODUCED THE CoA?
Having a CoA is no guarantee that an autograph is authentic. The general expectation is that autographs are sold with a CoA; a forger will also forge the CoA and create a fictitious company to back it up. They will put a lot of effort into making sure that the CoA looks real, so look into the name of the company that will appear on it.
However, some companies are well known for producing CoAs. These companies have an established long history of CoAs for autographs, are well known for their track record, and are more reliable.
Beckett Certificate of Authenticity
We recommend the top 2 mostly for sports autographs (the most popular category in autograph collecting), the 3rd for other areas, especially entertainment, and the 4th may be for modern music autographs. It is important to note that this is our personal opinion, which is not necessarily shared by others and certainly not by these companies.
Beckett Authentication Services
James Spence Authentication
If you want to have the greatest chance of receiving a genuine autograph, stick to those that have a CoA from one of those listed above. Of course, other companies may be genuine, but be prepared to do a bit more digging to verify.
AUTOGRAPH DEALERS AND THE OPINION OF THE OPINION COMPANIES
It is important to note that most autograph dealers do not offer authentication services as an external, independent service; only some do. Most would not buy items or take back sold items simply based on the opinion of one - and sometimes even two - of the above opinion companies, so read their return policy before you buy.
Tamino Autographs, our company, only takes returns based on the opinion of any 2 of the first 3 authentication services listed above, and the occurrence of this is close to zero in many years in business. We provide our own CoA upon request, and it can be in print or PDF formats. The PDF format is sent via email by request after the purchase and is more recommended for buyers located outside the United States.
If you're buying an autograph from a small store or a private seller on eBay, and they only include their own name on the CoA, this is a HUGE red flag. It is only their opinion that the signature is authentic. They probably don't have the experience to recognize the genuine article unless they have specifically attended signings with the signatory in question.
PSA-DNA Sample of a CoA
As we stated before, stick to the trusted names in the business. This will translate into the value of your autograph, too - a CoA from a local comic book store will translate into much lower pricing than one from one of the big names in the business.
Another point to consider is the reputation of the company that you are buying from. Say, for example, that you purchased a signed poster from a local memorabilia shop, and they're an established business that's been trading in for years. It's reasonably likely that you can go back to them and say that the autographed item you bought did not pass a PSA/DNA verification, and you will be able to get your money back. These sorts of businesses trade on their reputation and the trust of their clientele, so they are not likely to want to rip off potential repeat customers.
However, if you buy from someone on eBay whose account is less than a year old and has less than a hundred sales, this could be a warning sign!
QUICK ONLINE OPINIONS ARE NOT CoAs
If you are looking at buying an autograph and you're unsure, PSA/DNA has an excellent tool that you can use to check ahead of time to see if it's something they would certify. The PSA/DNA Quick Opinion Tool costs just $10 and can give you some degree of confidence. However, you should bear in mind that this is not a CoA. PSA/DNA, or any other verification service, cannot verify an autograph until they have seen and checked the physical product.
If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is!
Price is not an indicator of authenticity since there are fakes put at a high price, since they are being offered as real rare and expensive items, and there are sometimes genuine, authentic items that can be found at bargain prices (this is rare, though).
Tamino Autographs - PDF Certificate of Authenticity
THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS
In general, companies such as PSA/DNA have a four-stage procedure for issuing a CoA. These stages are:
Examination - a physical check of the autograph to compare it against other signatures from the same person.
Anti-counterfeiting - this can involve testing to ensure that the signature is not a forgery and checking its background and provenance.
Certification - the autograph has been accepted as genuine and can now be certified
Documentation - the CoA documents are issued to the owner of the item
Most certifiers will also grade the item according to its quality and condition. For example, the PSA has numerical guides ranging from GEM-MT10 (Gem Mint condition) to PR1 (Poor) and other qualifiers that will indicate factors such as if the item has marks, is miscut or has stains.
Certificate of Authenticity seal and sticker from Charles Hamilton, a famous New York autograph dealer and author
So hopefully, you now know a little more, and we have answered the question "what is a CoA?" to your satisfaction.
Certificates of Authenticity or CoAs for autographs are a limited guarantee that totally depends on who extended it. It is one more element in the balance of authenticity and has to always be complemented with a fair amount of your own judgment.
If you have more questions about autographs or just want to know a bit more in general, Tamino Autographs has it all for you
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