Autograph Dealers Fake vs Real - 12 Things to Consider (and Not) November 04 2022
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced autograph collector or simply a casual buyer looking for an autograph as a gift, you need to consider if the sellers are reputable, honest autograph dealers.
Below we list some of the key things you need to know in order to evaluate who you are buying from. We also consider some of the factors that are not relevant to your decision-making, though some may think otherwise.
The seller is an identifiable business or person. They are not selling under a nickname, such as those used on eBay. The nickname could be the name of an established business, in which case it is an identifiable seller. Check their website, contact information, business experience, and customer service availability.
Lack of poor reputation. This can be checked online by looking at Google Maps, BBB, associations the business belongs to, Amazon, and eBay if the seller is active in those markets, as well as other business review sites.
No CoA (Certificate of Authenticity) or even invoice when you request. Any serious seller should be able to provide this either without request or upon it. CoA’s tend to be of little to no use nowadays, and they can be easily faked. However, if you request a CoA, a dealer should be able to provide, especially for more expensive items.
[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Famous British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) shown at his private residence "The Red House" -photograph signed by him and dated in 1969.
Pricing too low. If you see amazing items that are seriously underpriced compared to past prices of similar items, then there is a problem. It is hard to find consistency in the pricing of items that are unsold and still being offered on the internet. But it shouldn´t be the same case with similar items that were sold.
Bad return policies/No Guarantees. A seller should stand behind what they sell. If they don´t, then this is a huge red flag, and it is probably better not to buy.
Authenticators reject material. A rejection does not in any way mean the dealer is bad or unreliable, but if this happens with many items it should raise your suspicions. You don´t need to buy first, then get the item authenticated. For what is usually a small fee, you can request a quick opinion from an autograph authenticator you trust, then make a final decision on whether to purchase or not. If you are going to rely on external authenticators, make sure you select really good ones (see our article) and that they have expertise in the area or category of your desired autograph (film, sports, politics, music, etc.).
Time in business. Sellers who have been in business for a shorter period of time usually do not have the experience needed, nor built enough reputation, to properly evaluate autographs. Dealers with 10 or more years of experience in the business and a clean reputation for a long period of time are much more reliable.
No website. If the autograph dealers don’t have a website, the seller is not a professional dealer. This relates to point 1 above, and with how easy it is for you to verify reputation and expertise. Fake dealers tend to hide behind nicknames, do not have their own website, and try to operate anonymously.
Inventory consistency. Signatures of the same person on different items sold on the same site should show a decent amount of consistency. There should also be some consistency in the category of material sold. Someone selling autographs next to used shoes or vintage furniture is unlikely to be a professional autograph dealer.
No account on any of the big markets. If the seller is a fake autograph seller, there is a good chance that they are already banned from big collectible platforms such as eBay.
[CLICKABLE IMAGE] American actress Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952) shown as Mammy in the famous 1939 film "Gone with the Wind"
No enlarged pics of the signatures. You should be able to clearly see the autograph, allowing for a proper evaluation. Red flags include if the autographs are shown in small thumbnails only, which you can´t magnify, or if they are in frames with big mats and decoration, where you can see the whole picture but can't truly see the autographs. A now defunct company in Las Vegas used to do this. Everything they sold was framed and you could not enlarge any of the pictures on their site. Not showing autographs properly is one of the biggest indicators that there is something they are hiding.
Shaky and rushed signatures (very simple scribbles, done in a rush) abound. Sellers with lots of these autographs will usually use the excuse that “he/she was very old or in a rush when this was signed”.
While a real, reputable autograph dealer may fail in 1 or 2 of the above points, a fake one will fail in more.
To further help you, we list below some of the factors that are not, in our opinion, reasons for a dealer to be considered dishonest or a fake autograph seller.
They do not want to provide specific information on provenance. Identifying provenance is desirable, and most dealers will give you a good idea of where they got the autograph from upon your request. But most are reluctant to give you names and exact provenance information since this can lead to customers contacting their sources and trying to get more autographs (this is called “scooping”), as well as a breach of the sources’ privacy.
[CLICKABLE IMAGE] Booklet for the premiere of the film "Cleopatra" on Broadway at the Rivoli Theater, N.Y., on June 12th, 1963, signed by Richard Burton on the front cover, and Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison in the internal pages.
Large inventory. This doesn´t mean the inventory is bad. They might have many copies of the same autograph simply because dealers go to signings and take many copies of the same photo to get them all signed.
They loath autograph authentication companies. The seller may have good reasons for this, a personal opinion that is negative about a service should not be a reason to earn the title of fake seller.
Little or none of the inventory has been verified by third party authenticators. Good, experienced, and professional dealers tend to rely on their own opinion about what is authentic, they do not want to use the opinions of others all the time in order to run their business.
Is there a List of Fake Autograph Dealers?
This list doesn´t really exist, but you can find pieces of information around the internet if you browse enough, check for reviews on each dealer.
Autographlivemagazine.com has a wall of shame, but mostly focused on authenticators than on dealers, see more of the same about authentication companies at theautographplanet.com/3rd-party-authentication, where more is discussed about authentication companies.
Remember to always exercise caution and take your time when buying autographs; there is no need to rush into any sale. We hope the above lists will help you in evaluating your autograph purchases.
RELATED BLOG ARTICLES:
- Autograph Value - How to Find It and Other Questions (Blog Article)
- Where to Get Autographs Authenticated (Blog Article)
- What Are the Factors that Determine Autograph Values? (Blog Article)
- Where to Sell Autographs: Things to Keep an Eye On (Blog Article)
- Glossary of Autograph Terms (Blog Article)
- Autograph Collecting 101: A Beginner’s Guide (Blog Article)
- Autograph CoA: Facts You Should Know (Blog Article)
- Facsimile Autograph: How to Detect Printed Signatures (Blog Article)
- Ten Things that Make a Signed Photo Perfect (Blog Article)
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