- SHOCKING NEW INFORMATION
- PSA/DNA Legal Troubles
From: SWEET SPOT MAGAZINE,
Volume 13, Number 3, December/January
HOBBY TO UNDERGO LEGAL SCRUTINY
Judge Sheila Fell of the Superior Court of California ordered
attorneys for a victorious Bill Miller, a former executive with
PSA/DNA and a plaintiff in a case against his former employer,
to retract a statement that celebrated a reported $10.5 million
jury verdict against Collectors Universe. The news triggered
speculation on the companys stock-related message boards
about how the company would absorb the multimillion charge and
possible class-action suits. The stock actually finished up on
the day, at $12.94 a share. Its dipped slightly since then,
but generally has traded in the same range.
Phone calls to Collectors Universe
and Millers attorneys have gone unanswered. Judge Fell
in a statement called the news release by Millers law firm,
Boudreau, Albert & Wohlfeil LLP, "misleading."
The law firm earlier in the day announced that an Orange County
jury found for Miller and that awards "could total in excess
of $10.5 million against Collectors Universe (NASDAQ:CLCT). The
jury found that Collectors Universe used Millers name on
14,060 Certificates of Authenticity without his permission.
Judge Fell acknowledged that
a jury did reach a verdict on Nov. 7, finding that 14,060 certificates
of authenticity were issued by Collectors Universe, Inc., using
Millers name and awarding him only $14,060 for "disgorgement
Meanwhile the judge announced
Nov. 18 that a final ruling on the award will be made on December
1. In a "tenative ruling," however, the judge indicated
that a judgment of $10 million against Collectors Universe would
be excessive and that the case presents a number of "novel
legal issues. "The ruling Nov. 18 stated that the court
declared a mistrial only with respect to the determination of
damages, but that the court "adopts the verdict of the jury.
"The judge suggests that the matter will receive yet another
day in court, with the issue covering damages, not wrongdoing,
which has already been determined. "The court chooses to
follow the law of the case in this instance and leave the ultimate
analysis to the courts of appeal. Notwithstanding this choice,
the court declines to perform the ministerial task of simply
multiplying $750 by the number of unauthorized uses amounting
to 14,060. This would result in a civil penalty of $10,545,000,
which appears to this court to be excessive under the circumstances
in this case.
"It is respectfully suggested
that in the event of a retrial, that the jury be allowed to quantify
the damages and be given further guidance in connection to the
statutory reference to 'unauthorized acts' and 'harm' as well
as the several other factors that should be considered to aid
it in arriving at a fair amount of damages with respect to the
circumstances of this case.
Judge Fell stated in her Nov.
9 news release that the jury has not rendered a verdict for $10.5
million or any amount other than $14,060. She added that the
jury was discharged on November 7, and that "the Court will
determine the amount of damages awardable under Civil Code section
3344." The Judge also ordered the plaintiffs attorneys
to retract the misleading headline, contained within their press
release, announcing the $10.5 million verdict.
Millers suit alleged violation
of his right to privacy by misappropriating his name. Under California
Civil Code section 3344 compensatory damages of $750 per unauthorized
use are presumed. In addition, court costs and attorneys
fees are recoverable. The jury found that Miller had been harmed
by Collectors unauthorized use of his name. The court has
previously ruled in the first phase of the trial that for each
unauthorized use of his name, Miller may recover $750. The jury
also awarded Miller Collectors Universes profits made through
the use of his name. Attorneys fees may also be added to
On Nov. 7, the jury made a finding
of fact that Collectors Universe had issued 14,060 certificates
bearing Millers signature without his consent. The jury
also found that the profit attributable to the Companys
use of those certificates was $14,060, or $1 per certificate,
and that the company must compensate plaintiff for that profit.
The law firm, in its statement
acknowledged that despite the jurys finding, the case is
not yet concluded and no judgment has been entered. "The
Judge in the action must still rule on the question of whether
the California statute entitles plaintiff to recover amounts
in excess of the $14,060 in profits," the release stated.
PSA/DNA also stands to endure
more scrutiny as a result of a lawsuit by dealer and collector
Bill Daniels of Lebanon, Ind. Daniels named MastroNet and PSA/DNA
over a lot containing approximately 2,000 autographed photographs.
Daniels is alleging fraud on the part of the defendants. The
suit was filed last January and depositions have been taken.
A trial date is scheduled for April 2006, according to Daniels.
PSA/DNA also stands to endure
more scrutiny in a lawsuit from dealer and collector Bill Daniels
of Lebanon, Ind. Daniels named MastroNet and PSA/DNA in a suit
concerning a lot containing approximately 2,000 autographed photographs.
Daniels said he paid about $20,000 for a lot in a December 2004
auction containing 2,000 photographs. The description stated
that the signatures graded a 9/10 and the photographs were in
mint condition. "But when I received the lot in the mail,
I discovered that most of the photographs were severely damaged,"
he said. "Probably 50 of the autographs were smeared. The
photos were smaller than the 8x10 size that was written up in
the description. A few were bigger than 8x10. On maybe 15 to
20 percent of the autographed photographs, the signatures were
signed on the darkest part of the photo, so they were difficult
to read and not marketable for resale." Daniels said he
called MastroNet and said he was rejecting the lot. "They
told me they wanted more information," he said, "but
it was as if they were stalling me."
Daniels said he called Steve
Grad, a PSA/DNA authenticator and one-time dealer, whose name
was on the companys certificate of authenticity. He figured
Grad, known for being a no-nonsense individual, would give him
direct answers. He asked him the condition of the photos. According
to Daniels, Grad said hed never looked at the photos in
the lot and that no one at PSA/DNA had looked at them.
Calls to Grad and Joe Orlando,
president of PSA/DNA by Sweet Spot have gone unanswered. Daniels
said he asked Grad the same question three different ways and
the answer was the same. According to Daniels, he asked Grad,
"How can you issue a Letter of Authenticity without inspecting
something?" "Well, I dont want to talk about
it," Daniels said Grad told him. Daniels said MastroNet
treated him "coldly," wouldnt answer questions
about the lot and authenticity, and was told, "You got what
you paid for. Were not doing anything about it."
Daniels said he recognized the
lot in the MastroNet sale as having "great breakout value;
it was a great load of autographed photographs." Its
conceivable that such a lot, as advertised, could eventually
bring sales totaling $50,000. He said hes been a six-figure
customer with MastroNet and never had a problem until this incident.
"The only thing weve been able to pry out of them
(MastroNet) is that Zach Rullo, one of PSA/DNAs authenticators,
owned the lot," Daniels said. "Now in the event that
it was looked at by PSA, how can I get an objective evaluation
when one of their authenticators was the owner of the item?"
Lot 2322 was promoted as being
the "motherlode of autographed 8x10 photographs. Daniels
said a Michael Jordan photo was "ripped, there was a slash
in the middle of the photograph." He added that a Mantle
photo had a crease on a corner; 90 percent had bent corners,
he said. Daniels said all he wanted was his money back. Daniels
says hes spent $20,000 on legal fees so far and is willing
to take the matter to "the bitter end."
In the meantime, both MastroNet
and PSA/DNA have retained the legal services of Michael Limrick
of the firm McTurnan and Turner in Indianapolis. Limrick did
return a phone call, but said he could not comment on the case.
Both defendants apparently offered Daniels a full refund on the
lot, but Daniels subsequently declined in the face of mounting
legal costs. In his suit, Daniels is asking for the amount of
money that the memorabilia, as advertised, would have brought,
plus three times that value as compensatory damages, punitive
damages and legal fees.
Daniels said he bought two other
lots in the sale, one a lot of 600 old-time baseball player photos
and a lot of autographed guitars, both of which arrived in good
order. But he claims that he paid more than $130 in insurance
and $461 for shipping and handling for all three lots. "Yet,
when the statement came, it noted the quoted total less
insurance, so I was paying insurance for something that
wasnt insured." He claims that based on his years
of experience as a memorabilia dealer the $461 shipping charge
for the three lots was "exorbitant."
The news release widely distributed
by Daniels law firm triggered an onslaught of speculative
messages on a Yahoo message board on other Web logs, or blogs,
that comment on the Collectors Universe stock. The tone of the
blogs changed later in the day when Judge Fell ordered a retraction
of the "misleading" headline.
In the days that followed, blogs
tended to drift from heavy criticism and predictions of doom
to wistful recollections. "I have been an autograph collector
for 18 years now and the Collectors Universe age has been
the worst era of all," one blogger wrote. "They have
tried to influence every aspect of my hobby even so far as to
twist eBay to their will. Im sure this is true in the case
of coins, sports cards and so forth. They have eBay warning buyers
that unless PSA/DNA says so, nothing is authentic.
Similarly, a 17-year autograph
collector who identified himself as someone whos been selling
autographed memorabilia full-time for six years, concurred with
the previous blog, adding, "They have used clever marketing
and spin to create a completely undeserved reputation for authenticating
autographs, when in fact the reality is they provide nothing
more than educated guesses. Case in point, golf is a specialty
of mine and I probably have gotten Tiger Woods in person more
times than anyone in the last three years. I have seen dozens
of PSA/DNA authenticated Tiger Woods autographs, and nearly half
of them are either questionable or obviously fake. There are
several on eBay right now that are forgeries.
Meanwhile, a customer just returned
a Michael Jordan jersey because PSA/DNA sent him a letter with
10 reasons why its fake. Its too bad that its
100 percent real because I watched MJ sign it, and I even have
the date, location and witnesses. Im glad this lawsuit
is finally shedding light on PSA/DNAs highly profitable
scam operation masquerading as a service for collectors."
One blogger came to PSA/DNAs defense, saying, "This
Company is gonna be around a long time. Most of the posts on
this board are unbelievably stupid."
Richard Simon, a dealer/authenticator
and one of the organized hobbys most critical players,
asked, "Why would PSA put facsimile signatures on their
COAs of people who never looked at the item? Now the question
is, did Jimmy Spence, Steve Grad, Zach Rullo, Bob Eaton, John
Reznikoff, etc. look at an item that has their signature on the
James Spence created PSA/DNAs
autograph authenticating division in 2000 and his five-year contract
expired April 30, 2005, without being renewed. Spence told Sweet
Spot he did not know whats going on with PSA/DNA since
last May. "During the years I was there, everything was
done to my expectations," Spence said. "Everything
that carried my letter of authenticity, indeed, were items that
I examined. Whats happened after the end of April, I have
no idea. Ive been paying attention to my own business."
Spence has returned to evaluating autographed sports memorabilia
on his own as James Spence Authentication.
Autographalert.com Note: Autographalert.com has access to an
email from PSADNA's CEO Michael Hayes dated April 15, 2005 stating
in part: "We consider it a conflict of interest for a
seller to be the authenticator because this places the seller
in a position of bias. Our employee-authenticators do not buy
or sell and our company does not buy or sell...."
The above article is reprinted with permission from Sweet
Spot Magazine. December 2005/January 2006 issue, Volume 13,
Number 3. Subscriptions are $30.00 per year for six issues. For
more info email: email@example.com
- Former Publisher of
Autograph Collector Magazine
- Sues PSA/DNA Parent
- Miller found harmed by unauthorized
use of name on 14,060 PSA/DNA COA's.
- During August 2004, a lawsuit
was filed by Bill Miller former publisher of Autograph Collector
magazine. Mr. Miller filed suit against his parent company Collectors
Universe which is also the parent company of PSA/DNA. According
to Mr. Miller, thousands of PSA/DNA COAs (Certificates
of Authenticity) were issued with his printed name and facsimile
signature. Five other printed names and signatures also listed
on the Certificates were Bob Eaton, Steve Grad, John Reznikoff,
Zach Rullo and James J. Spence Jr.
- Mr. Miller claims he NEVER authorized
his signature to be placed on these COAs and he also stated
that he never examined or authenticated an autograph for PSA/DNA.
- Boudreau Albert & Wohlfeil
of San Diego were the attorneys representing Mr. Miller and they
deposed the owner and the CEO of Collectors Universe as well
as Joe Orlando the President of PSA/DNA. John Reznikoff of Connecticut
whose name also appears on the PSA/DNA Certificates of Authenticity
was hired by Collectors Universe as their autograph expert witness.
Mr. Reznikoffs deposition was also taken at the same law
- Bill Miller hired Stephen Koschal
of Colorado Springs, Colorado to represent him in court as his
autograph expert witness.
- During November 2005, the case
was heard before a Superior Court judge and a twelve person jury
in Santa Ana, California. It lasted about two weeks and Stephen
Koschal testified on the stand for two hours and fifteen minutes.
The attorneys for Collectors Universe
decided not to cross examine him. Mr. Reznikoff was not asked
by the attorneys for Collectors Universe to appear in court for
- The jury found that Mr. Miller
had been harmed by Collectors Universe unauthorized use of his
name on 14,060 PSA/DNA Certificates of Authenticity. The judgment
provides Collectors Universe to pay monetary damages to Mr. Miller
as the jury found that profits were made by the use of Bill Millers
- A copy of PSA/DNA Certificate
of Authenticity #B54833 is illustrated (right) was submitted
as evidence and used in this court case. The item listed on this
specific certificate is a handwritten and signed Oath Of Office
by Ronald Reagan. Months before the above case came to court,
the collector who owned this piece sent this same item to "PAAS"
another authenticating company. The autograph authenticators
at "PAAS" easily determined that this item certified
by PSA/DNA as Genuine was unquestionably a forgery.
Apologies to the UACC Membership
Autographalert.com has decided to hold an interview with one
of the autograph hobby veterans. His name is Stephen Koschal.
His name is high profile Internationally in this field. Mr. Koschal
has agreed to the interview however wanted to keep the interview
somewhat short and limited to only a handful of questions.
Autographalert.com Many in our hobby are talking about your latest
book written with Lynne E. Keyes, tell us about it?
Koschal: The title of the book is The History of Collecting Executive
Mansion, White House and The White House Cards Signed By the
Presidents of the United States and Their First Ladies. It turned
out to be an instant success. We thought the book would have
limited readership however dealers started purchasing multiple
copies and the word has spread around the International autograph
community and books have been ordered from collectors and dealers
from Canada, England, Germany and as far as Australia. At this
early stage it's has received excellent reviews and within a
month of publication we realized that we will need to go into
a second printing.
Autographalert.com So, it sounds like you are overwhelmed with
Koschal: Not exactly. There have been many disappointing phone
calls and letters from collectors and dealers about this book.
Long before publication of this autograph educational book, a
press release and a reminder went out to the Universal Autograph
Collectors Club (UACC) requesting notice of the publication be
placed in their club magazine. Any club member who submitted
information about these collectible cards or those who sent in
illustrations from their collection would be acknowledged in
the book This information was not published in their magazine.
Many members of the UACC have since contacted me about this disturbing
situation as they would liked to have been informed about the
book. The club does claim to foster education and work with all
in the autograph community. What puzzles me more is the current
president of the club asked someone who bought the book how they
liked it. When he was told the book was excellent, he ordered
a copy for himself. A very strange situation, but I think the
membership of that club is due an apology from the Board of Directors
for keeping information about educational material from them
and also for not allowing its membership to participate in the
production of this book.
Autographalert.com While we are on the subject of the UACC some
collectors are aware there have been problems between this club
and yourself in the past. Is this a fact?
Koschal: Without a doubt. Twice I was voted by the club membership
to be a Director of that organization. The membership voted me
in and I was determined to work for the membership. I was shocked
what I witnessed at club Board meetings. Just scratching the
surface, many of the complaints I have brought before the Board
has since been corrected. Many were serious complaints. At the
last Board meeting I attended in Chicago I was disturbed when
the current president of this club, who was then representing
the Ethic's Board, missed much of the meeting spending his time
in the hall keeping members of the club who traveled long distances
from attending the meeting. These were members who have attended
the meeting in the past. It also troubled me why an autograph
club needed to pay a policeman out of membership dues to keep
the membership out. It still troubles me that the club continues
to count its own votes during elections. Members need to seriously
think about that! I also think the membership should be outraged
that the club does not respond to all ethics complaints filed
with the club. This has been and continues to be a major problem.
Autographalert.com Why didn't you stay with the club and try
to work things out?
Koschal: I was told I was not a team player and that was true.
I was fighting for the membership and not going along with the
games the Board of Directors wanted to play. I made known many
of the problems in the organization and within a short period
of time I believe about one third of the membership who became
educated about the situation did not renew their memberships.
The club needed to rebuild and went out of the country looking
for new blood. They found the new blood in England gained some
membership which has since caused problems and one only needs
to look at the foreign membership to see how many have either
resigned or been removed from the club. You don't have to be
too sharp to understand what is happening when you have a club
who tries to convince you that their dealer membership has been
screened and within a year or so some of the same dealers have
been removed from the club.
Autographalert.com Would you consider rejoining the UACC.
Koschal: I have been asked by two Board members to rejoin the
UACC. My answer is no, the club as it stands offers nothing to
me. Several changes would have to be made within that organization
before I would reconsider joining. As a start, in my opinion,
the entire Board needs to be changed. I guess when you have what
they call themselves "volunteers" you get what you
Autographalert.com What do you consider some of the current problems
are within the autograph industry?
Koschal: Two problems trouble me the most. One is the lack of
information offered to the autograph community by club publications
and magazines. There is a lot of autograph knowledge out there
not being supplied to the collector. There are some terrible
persons selling autographs, yet publications will take their
full page ads for the advertising money. There are high profile
law suits against full page advertisers and the publications
will not inform the collecting public. I think it's the responsibility
of trade publications to inform their readers on the current
Secondly, the big problem
is with autograph authenticating companies. Most are not qualified
to authenticate autographs. Collectors see the full page advertisements
yet don't go the additional step to find out who is actually
looking at the autographs. The mistakes that have already been
made are numerous and many collectors will be shocked to someday
find out that their very expensive item is not genuine. Sadly,
it came with a useless COA from a high profile authenticating
company. Collectors need to be educated about the authenticating
companies. It's a very sad state of affairs.
Autographalert.com Every once in a blue moon the words "controversial
figure" come up when your name is mentioned. Why do you
think that is?
Koschal: Our industry has changed dramatically. It wasn't long
ago that most every person who sold autographs had the best interests
of the hobby in mind. During the late eighties, some very greedy
individuals learned about this industry and got in it strictly
for the buck. When they are exposed, they fight back dirty. For
example, there are auction houses who continuously sell items
that are not genuine. They are advised in advance of the final
day of the sale items are not genuine. They are also sent educational
material such as a signature study written by a known expert
that the item is not genuine and they still sell the item to
the unsuspecting public. This type of person running the auction
is likely to call me a controversial figure. When leaders of
the autograph community are trying to run down a forger, getting
hot on the trail, have located several forgeries by the same
forger in nine different catalogs and every dealer but one is
willing to disclose who the consignor is, that one dealer would
call me a controversial figure. It seems, if someone is saying
that I am a controversial figure, it's usually the one who does
not have the best interests of our hobby in mind.
Autographalert.com On the brighter side, anything positive you
have to report?
Koschal: Two things come to mind. I'm looking forward to a new
auction business which is in the works. Todd Mueller Autographs
who may presently be the largest seller of autographs on eBay
will restart his autograph auction business. I believe his goal
is to have an auction in January 2006 and run several a year.
In my opinion, this can easily grow to be the largest autograph
auction house in the country. I can see how it will easily become
the most respected and look forward to getting a copy of catalog
number one in the near future.
Secondly, I am pleased to announce that Lynne E. Keyes who co-authored
the book with me mentioned above, has agreed to work on a new
project. This is very exciting as Lynne who has been called by
many "The Autograph Ambassador of Good Will" is probably
the most recognizable female name in the industry. I am presently
not aware of any other woman who has the background, the longevity,
the autograph credentials and the knowledge in this industry.
I can assure you with the help and guidance of Lynne's talents
the new book will be another success. Lynne for many years has
lived and breathed researching and studying autographs. She has
already set the title of the new book and it will be called How
Do You Doodle Mr. President?
Autographalert.com Tell our readers a little about this book.
Koschal: Doodles of the Presidents of the United States are highly
collectible and getting very expensive. Some forgers have already
taken steps of creating Presidential doodles. Art work by our
Presidents is most interesting and the book will illustrate many
of the known examples of presidential doodles. The idea of the
book actually came from one of my many visits with President
Nixon. I don't want to say much more, you will need to read the
Autographalert.com As with your last book, will the collecting
public be offered the opportunity to participate with this new
Koschal: Absolutely. Anyone who has a doodle or sketch drawn
by a President of the United States is encouraged to send a copy
of that sketch to Lynne E. Keyes. Her address is Post Office
Box 52, Keystone Heights, Florida 32656. Everyone who participates,
there name will be acknowledged in the book.
Autographalert.com Any words of wisdom for the novice collector
Koschal: Only deal with seasoned autograph dealers and auction
houses. Don't settle for their self promoting credentials but
check them out with others in the industry before you spend a
dollar. Read every word of their return policy, try to deal with
those who offer a lifetime guarantee. Those who offer 7 day returns
or 21 days returns usually know they are selling bogus items.
Don't be tricked into thinking just because a seller of autographs
is a member of an organization that their material is genuine.
Last but not least, you can throw away most of those COA's but
keep a properly worded bill of sale from a respected dealer who
offers a very good guarantee for their merchandise. The bill
of sale is the legal document you will need should the time every
come to return the autograph.
- Sticker Shock!!!!!
It wasn't a few years ago when the world of autographs were awakened
with the news that a high profile company who authenticates autographs
would be placing "stickers" on some items that they
will authenticate. For the last few decades every professional
dealer has known never to place any foreign item on anything
that has been signed. In some cases, dealers who wrote notations
and even prices on an item a century ago have damaged an item
which has affected the value of the piece.
Now to place a "sticker" on a photo or worse a leather
baseball is unacceptable to those professionals autographalert.com
has interviewed. Time will tell the damage that will be done
by the various glues and adhesives used on stickers.
A recent article in Autograph Collector magazine was read in
dis-belief by many. Now, it appears the process of adhering "stickers,"
a foreign object, to your valuable items continues with the blessings
of an autograph club. The article states: "The UACC handed
out over 3,000 provenance stickers to collectors at the New Jersey
show. The stickers had the UACC logo on them indicating that
the item they had was signed at a UACC event. The stickers were
handed out by UACC officials free of charge, and many collectors
took advantage of the club's latest benefit....."
Autographalert.com was somewhat pleased to read that not all
the collectors took "advantage" of the stickers. There
is no way to know how much damage any foreign matter will do
when affixed to an autograph item. However, time will tell.
It is the opinion of autographalert.com that no one should ever
adhere any foreign item to something that is autographed.
- The Autograph Hobby's Newest
The History of Collecting Executive Mansion, White House and
The White House Cards Signed by the Presidents and their First
Ladies. Authors and autograph hobby pioneers Lynne E. Keyes and
Stephen Koschal have written an in depth study of these highly
collectible cards. After collecting these cards for nearly forty
years, the authors discuss this subject with many of the prominent
dealers and noted collectors who were most helpful sharing their
knowledge. The authors have also dug into their own massive autograph
reference libraries to produce a book that is the first major
reference work on this subject.
One hundred thirty-six pages, heavily illustrated, this book
has already become the standard reference work for collectors
The initial printing, available to the autograph community, is
limited to only 100 numbered copied signed by both authors. Another
printing of 26 lettered copies signed by the authors was issued
for the presidential libraries and the five living presidents.
For those interested in obtaining a copy of this book, email
Lynne E. Keyes at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some comments about this book by autograph professionals:
Andreas Wiemer of Kelkheim, Germany. Noted expert on U.S. Presidential
signatures. "...thank you very much for the fantastic book...the
book is very, very good and there are information I never read
before. The illustrations are perfect...I'm fascinated from this
Harris Schaller, long time collector/dealer of Presidential signatures.
"...Koschal and Keyes, you've done it again. This is my
favorite book on Presidential autographs. No dealer or collector
should be without this knowledge. Thanks for your continued contributions
to this wonderful hobby."
John Reznikoff, University Archives. "I bought 5 copies
of the book, I love it, I love it."
Michael Nott, autograph collector. "I received the Executive
Mansion book and have enjoyed it very much. A great reference
book and a lot of information that will be very helpful to me."
Elwin Fraley, The History Buff. "I finished the book late
last night. It is a great piece of work and will become a standard
reference in the field...I just loved the WHC book."
Jerry Rancourt, Rancourts Autographs. "I loved it and that
may be an understatement."
William Butts, Main Street Fine Books and Autographs, book reviewer.
"..handsome production, and much needed at that....in any
case, thanks (and thank Lynne for me too, please) for writing
such a useful, informative text. You two really gathered an impressive
number of superb illustrations which, combined with your many
years' study of the subject, makes for a most worthwhile contribution
to autograph literature."
- You Just Can't Make This
- Traced Maris Signature
to be Auctioned October 20th!
The autograph community is buzzing and finally we can report
a story that make even the most die-hard serious collector loose
Autographalert.com first became aware of this situation a few
days ago and could not believe what we heard. We tracked down
the information and sure enough what we heard was not someone
playing a joke on us but the story is unbelievably true.
Some catalog descriptions of autographed items during the last
several years have become outstanding pieces of literary genius.
Up to now, one of our favorites went something like this: "...the
letter has been trimmed along the bottom and also along the top
removing most of what was once an engraved letterhead. The letter
is also broken in the folds, water staining throughout obliterating
the first name of the signature however the last name is partly
legible otherwise the letter is in fine condition...."
The recent buzz is over a Roger Maris item being offered by AmericanMemorabilia.com
of Las Vegas, Nevada. The item number is 308 and the auction
ends October 20, 2005. The description reads in part: "....This
Kansas City A's book has tape to reinforce the binding and the
dust cover has a few rips. But the centerpiece on this intriguing
book is the Maris signature, which has been traced over by Maris
himself. PSA/DNA confirmed with us that Maris did trace over
his signature to make it a true masterpiece.....the autograph
would rate a strong ("9") and border on ("10").
COA: PSA/DNA, James Spence Authentication."
We finally gained our composure and emailed several of the most
recognized autograph experts in the field. Real true to life
experts who have a well documented autograph background and not
persons who are hired and given the title of "autograph
authenticator" which is so common today.
This is just some of what they had to say:
"I would never accept a traced over signature."
"I like to call it as it is, an authentic signature that
has been enhanced, that has lost most of its value."
"Trace overs = worthless, unless they are trace overs by
the person who did the signing then they are almost worthless."
"You even have to ask."
Another comment from a very high profile dealer is unprintable.
- Authenticating Insanity???????
Is it just the knowledgeable people in the autograph industry
that knows what's going on? These people are talking and are
Up to a few years ago, full time legitimate autograph dealers
took autograph authenticating extremely serious. They spent time
researching each item before they attached their name to it and
guaranteed each item genuine. Few mistakes were made as each
dealer used the information available to date. As the dealer
purchased his latest treasure, each item would be thoroughly
examined, the paper, the ink, the feel of the entire piece. Of
most importance, holding the original item in their hand to examine
the ink under different lights and different magnification looking
for those tell-tale signs of stoppages of the pen strokes. Legitimate
dealers could spend hours even weeks determining whether an item
is genuine or not. SOME STILL DO!
Now, it appears authenticating has become a game. In July of
this year, a high profile company who is in business authenticating
autographs created a "P.S.A. World Series Of Autograph Authentication"
scheduled during the Sports National Convention".
The person who wins the competition will earn a year of bragging
rights and a cash prize. This was a computerized test of knowledge
and skill about autographs to be held at the high profile authenticating
companies booth in Rosemont, IL from July 27-31. Each contestant
had 10 minutes to examine 30 autographs on a computer screen
and determine their authenticity.
Many have asked who at the company was able to determine whether
the signatures scanned were even genuine or not. But the most
intelligent of the industry were more concerned about any company
who claims to authenticate autographs and create a game about
authenticating and assume it's acceptable to "guess"
about the authenticity of any autograph without seeing the original
item. The company charged a $25 entry fee and found some people
to play the game.
It is still the opinion of most that authenticating autographs
is a very serious business however times have changed and maybe
that why the market is flooded with items that have been submitted
to companies and the wrong call was made. Too many collectors
are sitting with autographed items, some with a value in excess
of $100,000 with Certificates of Authenticity and will find out
in the years to come that the authenticator was not qualified
to pass judgment and made the wrong call.
Too many collectors have already left this hobby after finding
out the treasures they have purchased
are not genuine. The COA's that accompanied the autographs were
wrong and their items were worthless. Lucky for some, the authenticating
companies who are still in existence, when pressured bought the
items from the collector.
Sadly, it is not a rare occurrence to see some authenticators
and authenticating companies scrambling around trying to recoup
there COA's to avoid embarrassment.
Authenticating Armageddon may soon be just around the corner
unless the collecting public begins to get educated.
- Autograph Thief
Goes To Jail
Howard W. Harner Jr., 69, of Stauton, Virginia was handed down
a two year prison sentence by Judge James Robertson of the U.S.
District Court in Washington, DC. Harner was also sentenced to
two years supervised release and in addition he was ordered to
pay a $10,000 fine. Harner stole over 100 Civil War and historical
documents from the National Archives between 1996 and 2003. Most
of the stolen items have not been found and the several that
have, had the signatures cut from them.