Autographs-Movie Posters- Are You Sure They’re Authentic?
Buying Rare Autographs & Vintage Movie Posters - Some Things to Think About
Last week someone who visited my web site contacted me asking about a very rare autograph of the “Rat Pack” members. Being an avid Frank Sinatra collector (and very skilled with his autograph ) for probably more than 30 years I suspected before even seeing them that it was highly UN-likely they were authentic. But I suggested he submit them to a third party authentication service like PSA or JSA. Not surprisingly they failed authentication. He told me he wasn’t concerned because the dealer in Las Vegas included her Lifetime Guarantee of Authenticity. What happened next is very important and what Everyone whoever buys high value autographs should think about. The dealer responded with “oh I don’t think much of JSA”.
Now I wasn’t so troubled with the fact she didn’t like JSA, but what I found so unsettling is that this is a serious problem within the autograph memorabilia industry. And, it essentially makes almost every autograph Lifetime Guarantee COA WORTHLESS! Yes, I said worthless! Why? Because what this dealer did is completely VOID her responsibility by issuing a COA that had NO criteria, no standard. So, no matter WHAT or WHO authenticated this autograph, all the dealer had to do was disagree with the finding. I guess for the past 20 years I assumed other dealers issued COAs that protected the customer and NOT eliminate all responsibility of the seller. I thought all reputable dealers did what I have done for the past 20 + years and that is specifically state in the COA “what constitutes a non authentic autograph”. Anyone who has bought from us can see on our COAs that we state “if it fails PSA or JSA authentication”. Hence, there will never be a question, if such a scenario should arise. No room for interpretation, no wiggle room for the dealer, no scamming the customer.
Meanwhile, after this conversation took place, I started going through all my COAs from other dealers, reputable dealers. And guess what? NO ONE, NOT ONE dealer specifies in his/her COA what constitutes a non authentic autograph. So, are these other dealers honoring their Lifetime COAs? And who do they accept as the “final word” on the autograph? Do some say PSA or only JSA , or maybe reject ANY third party authentication? Who knows? But, unless the COA specifically states who and what authentication is acceptable in order to honor a refund, it is a guessing game. And, surely not in the favor of the buyer.
Now I know there are reputable dealers that WILL honor a PSA or JSA finding. But, why leave it open for interpretation? Why not employ a standard directly on the COA, so the customer will not have to worry should the above situation arise?
So, below I have added about Ten top concerns and my own opinioned advice when investing in autographs. I hopes it helps someone out there.
1). Proceed with caution with ANY dealer that uses NO third party authentication, PARTICULARLY for high end items. Not that every item they offer needs to have PSA or JSA but that the dealer employs a standard. Although authentication services are not perfect, they are a skilled second opinion AND an opinion that is independent and has NO financial interest or bias as does the dealer selling the item. Also, think twice about any dealer that is against third party authenticators as it may signal they have something to hide.
2). Dealers who provide poor images or NO close-ups of the signature on their web site, so you cannot easily examine the autograph. They may have a reason why they do not want you to see close-ups. For example, dealers selling “clipped” signatures of high end items like Ben Franklin for $15,000 and not even post a close up image of it on their web site. AND, no third party authentication. Some of these dealers are relying on the inexperienced, vulnerable buyer (i.e. victim) to come along.
2). Never buy “clipped” signatures of high value autographs like Abraham Lincoln as MANY (if not most) are forgeries. Only invest in official documents like Presidential Appointments. Forgers are not likely to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an Abraham Lincoln document just to forge it (have never heard of such a case in 30 years of collecting).
3). Be very cautious of Group photographs like complete TV show autographs or autographed movie posters by cast members (i.e. Rat Pack), as many (if not most) are secretarial or outright forgery. It is very difficult to get an entire cast to sign a movie poster. And, as for vintage movie posters (prior to 1975) I don’t think I have ever seen an authentic one that included major stars. I noticed a web site that sells autographed movie posters like the Godfather, including Marlon Brando’s signature. They are all forgeries. A genuine Godfather autographed poster, with Marlon Brando, has NEVER appeared on the market.
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