How do you authenticate an autograph
While you really cannot authenticate an autograph yourself for many of us this is a reality every day. The best way probably is to submit to a nationally recognized publicly traded authentication company. These are known as TPA’s. Many of the TPA’s (third party authenticators) have prohibitive pricing structure that prevents the common collector from submitting many items for authentication. Leading companies charge up to $100 or more for premiere athletes. This non refundable fee is theirs to keep whether your autograph is deemed authentic or not. Many offer quick opinion services which are really YRMV it seems at least based on more and more conversations I am having with people. For those of you who want to learn to decide for yourself continue as we try to answer the question: How do you authenticate an autograph ?.
Step 1: Provenance aka (Where does this autograph comes from?)
We recently purchased a Joe Dimaggio 13 x 10 with no COA. The piece did come with a notary stamp by the name of Marie Cupo with a date of February 1st 1994 on the stamp. A little googling determined that Marie Cupo was the notary featured on a particular series of autographs including the highly desirable Carlo Beninati Seriagraphs. It occurred one month after his exclusive release from a (at the time) record setting exclusive contract to sign only for score board inc. Now because of this we were able to determine EXACTLY when the item was signed which coupled with examination of the signature being consistent with our examples we were able to reasonably authenticate this item. Now most items will not have a trail that you can follow so lets move along to step 2
Step 2: Basic Signature Construction (LOOK!… at the signature)
Now one of the best things about today’s information savvy era is that even someone sitting at there house who doesn’t own a collectible has access to a massive library of exemplars on the internet. So it is easy enough to pull a couple of examples that have been TPA Authenticated and are highly credible for comparison. It helps to PRINT a couple of examples out. Use tracing paper in addition to regular paper if you have with a really light stock. Print out the examples and use a scissor to cut them down. On a well lit surface line your signatures up and see how closely they compare. There are little things to look for on some people. Mickey Mantle for example, his second M usually starts on a higher plane than the first M. This is due to the position where the Y in Mickey ends leaving his hand above the original starting point.
Look at the thickness of the lines and determine where a letter starts and stops or transitions to the next letter. While signatures tend to evolve for some players over the years typically if someone begins an “S” at the top will always begin their “S” from the top. If there is something present in every example autograph you look at it that is or is not present in the example you are looking at that would call an authentication into question for me. I decline to make a decision on some things I am offered if I am not very clear that it looks consistent with the most mainstream version of the autograph. It helps to split the autograph up letter by letter or section by section.
Step3: Flow and Slant (You have to BE the signature)
This is what many collectors and autograph experts will define as the “feel” of the autograph. Look at the spacing of letters. We had a Lefty Gomez that looked pretty good. The only thing was that the signature was missing a line transitioning from the G in Gomez to the o. All of the examples we saw had it. Than we noticed none of the letters transitioned properly. The angles were wrong the “feel” was off. A real autograph should be fluid and nimble. Forgeries are often shaky or have a drawn look to them that is the anti-thesis of the “feel” we are currently discussing. 1980s Joe Dimaggio authentic examples usually feature a visible loop at the bottom of the “D”. The bottom and usually smaller bottom loop of the “J” will normally overlap the top loop at 2 locations. His spacing is erratic and many felt jolting Joe signed somewhat sloppily. If I see what I call a stiff Dimaggio I know it is likely not any good.
Step4: Practice: (Wash Rinse Repeat)
This means exactly what it sounds like. I like to play a game called Internet Autograph Roulette. You can print images from Google search without reading their source. Go ahead and print a few from the top couple or bottom couple images. Decide if they are real or not mark your answers down than check your sources to see if they are legitimate or not. When you are right basically all the time 90%+ over significant sample size move on to another player.
Now next time you ask how do you authenticate an autograph you will have some important facts. Good luck out there and lets all try and make a couple bucks!
We do provide a courtesy free Autograph opinion service you can find more information about that here: Collectibles NJ FREE Autograph OPINION SERVICE