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Breaking News:
December 23, 2005
 
 
SHOCKING NEW INFORMATION
PSA/DNA Legal Troubles Continue

From: SWEET SPOT MAGAZINE, Volume 13, Number 3, December/January 2006 issue
www.sweetspotnews.com


HOBBY TO UNDERGO LEGAL SCRUTINY
— Newport Beach, Calif.
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 company’s 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. It’s dipped slightly since then, but generally has traded in the same range.

Phone calls to Collectors Universe and Miller’s attorneys have gone unanswered. Judge Fell in a statement called the news release by Miller’s 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 Miller’s 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 Miller’s name and awarding him only $14,060 for "disgorgement of profits."

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 plaintiff’s attorneys to retract the misleading headline, contained within their press release, announcing the $10.5 million verdict.

Miller’s 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 attorney’s 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 Universe’s profits made through the use of his name. Attorney’s fees may also be added to the judgment.

On Nov. 7, the jury made a finding of fact that Collectors Universe had issued 14,060 certificates bearing Miller’s signature without his consent. The jury also found that the profit attributable to the Company’s 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 jury’s 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 company’s 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 he’d 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 don’t want to talk about it," Daniels said Grad told him. Daniels said MastroNet treated him "coldly," wouldn’t answer questions about the lot and authenticity, and was told, "You got what you paid for. We’re 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." It’s conceivable that such a lot, as advertised, could eventually bring sales totaling $50,000. He said he’s been a six-figure customer with MastroNet and never had a problem until this incident. "The only thing we’ve been able to pry out of them (MastroNet) is that Zach Rullo, one of PSA/DNA’s 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 he’s 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 wasn’t 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 Collector’s 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. I’m 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 who’s 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 it’s fake. It’s too bad that it’s 100 percent real because I watched MJ sign it, and I even have the date, location and witnesses. I’m glad this lawsuit is finally shedding light on PSA/DNA’s highly profitable scam operation masquerading as a service for collectors." One blogger came to PSA/DNA’s 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 hobby’s most critical players, asked, "Why would PSA put facsimile signatures on their COA’s 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 COA?"

James Spence created PSA/DNA’s 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 what’s 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. What’s happened after the end of April, I have no idea. I’ve 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: charlesok@cs.com


Breaking News:
December 5, 2005
 
Former Publisher of Autograph Collector Magazine
Sues PSA/DNA Parent Company
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 COA’s (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 COA’s 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. Reznikoff’s deposition was also taken at the same law offices.
 
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 trial.
 
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 Miller’s name.
 
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.

 
Breaking News:
November 5, 2005

Apologies to the UACC Membership Due?????

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 the results?

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 pay for.

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 news.


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 book.

Autographalert.com As with your last book, will the collecting public be offered the opportunity to participate with this new venture?

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.


 
Breaking News:
October 25, 2005
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.

Breaking News:
October 23, 2005
The Autograph Hobby's Newest Reference Book

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 and dealers.

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: find4u@se.rr.com

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 work. WOW!!!"

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."

 
Breaking News:
October 13, 2005
You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up!!!!
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 it.

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."
"Trash."
"You even have to ask."


Another comment from a very high profile dealer is unprintable.


 
Breaking News:
October 12, 2005 
Authenticating Insanity???????

Is it just the knowledgeable people in the autograph industry that knows what's going on? These people are talking and are in disbelief.

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.

Breaking News:
October 3, 2005
 
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.

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