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In the News, January - June, 2006

Breaking News:
June 18, 2006
 

John Reznikoff of University Archives
Expelled From IACC/DA For Ethics Violations

www.autographalert.com has learned that John Reznikoff, owner of University Archives, has been expelled from the International Autograph Collectors Club & Dealers Alliance. His membership has been terminated effective immediately.

Mr. Reznikoff was a president of the IACC/DA. He resigned that position on May 6,2002.

On May 18, 2006, a complaint regarding ethics violations was filed against Mr. Reznikoff.

This complaint was sent via regular and certified mail to Mr. Reznikoff. The mail was signed for an opened. Both pieces of mail were marked by hand "refused" and returned in an envelope with a Westport, CT postmark.

Mr. Reznikoff had been given an allotted period of time to respond to the complaint. His refusal to respond to the complaint caused the termination of his membership and his expulsion from the club.


 
 
Breaking News:
May 30, 2006

 

Hair
Some Have Problems Without It, Many have Problems With It!


Hair has been a problematic with many for centuries. Nearly every time you pick up a newspaper, or see a television commercial there are stories about people losing their hair. There’s a new switch to this age old problem. Many collectors and few autograph sellers who got caught up in this foolish craze of collecting celebrity hair are glad when they unload it!.

Many seasoned memorabilia collectors we spoke to recently do not take the collecting of celebrity hair seriously. Just this week, one seasoned collector from Hackensack, New Jersey stated most of that stuff is sold by "snake oil salesmen". Another major dealer recently wrote: "...doesn’t almost everyone know of these hair scams by now?" Very few respectable dealers will even handle this commodity. The reason being, the more you know about this subject, the more you want to stay away from it.

Collecting celebrity hair became somewhat popular during the last 15 years only because it was promoted by a few autographs and memorabilia sellers. Some of these entrepreneurs have made small fortunes selling these perceived collectibles to gullible collectors.

It was during the early 1990's when a noted New York based autograph dealer who fell on hard times called and asked if we wanted to be partners selling some of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s hair. We purchased one of each, just to see the quality of what was being offered. Good sized locks were being offered for quite reasonable sums. They were nicely matted with a picture of the president and a reproduction of what most could possibly believe was the original authentication written by someone basically unknown. It was difficult to trust this person selling these supposedly new acquisitions because it was a dealer who just filed bankruptcy.

After several phone calls it became evident this dealer was determined to create hundreds of collectible hair displays. The seller needed financial backing. That’s when the conversation got interesting. I was told: "this hair collecting game is a new found gold mine" and "as long as there are orders, we will not run out of inventory." In addition: "...the original lock of hair can be kept and almost any hair can be put on the collectible card..." That conversation alone was enough that I never want to own a piece of celebrity hair!

My next call was to Bob White. A collector/dealer who dabbled in hair. My question to Bob was "In all the years of collecting autograph auction and dealer catalogs in only a few instances has celebrity hair appeared for sale, where is this new found hair coming from?" His response was "excellent question, the obvious seems obvious." Bob also stated that he felt a good portion of the hair he had collected had problems but "it was fun collecting it." He also stated " I had two great days, it’s like owning a boat, it’s a great day when you buy it and a greater day when you sell it."

A recent program on collectibles and autographs televised on PBS warned of the dangers of collecting hair, suggesting to stay clear of this type collectible.

A Chicago auction house, well known for not making refunds on items they auctioned, refunded a six figure amount for some of Elvis Presley’s hair. The buyer went the extra mile to have the hair DNA tested. The results were that the hair he had successfully bid on came from several different heads.

Another recent spin in this "hair raising" collectible business concerns the famous astronaut Neil Armstrong. Much press was given to the purchase of Neil Armstrong’s hair. A website www.thesmokinggun.com states the barber as saying "he did not initiate the hair sale, but rather was approached by Todd Mueller, a Colorado memorabilia dealer." In fact Todd Mueller personally visited the barber shop in Ohio and struck a deal with the barber. Yet, John Reznikoff boasted to the press that he had a lock of Armstrong’s hair. The manner which John Reznikoff spun the Armstrong hair tale, most news reports listed Reznikoff not Mueller as the purchaser of the hair. When the truth about who actually bought Armstrong’s hair was discovered, phone calls from the Gazette to Reznikoff were not returned. This is just one example of how "provenance" can be misconstrued.

It is said by some that even if a genuine lock of hair appears on the market with believable documentation, what is to stop an unscrupulous dealer from switching that hair with other hair thus the supply could become endless.

One supplier of celebrity hair has found what they believe is the perfect way to dispose of hair into the marketplace and not be held accountable. Their comment to another dealer was: "Once it leaves my hands I can’t control what someone in an auction house or collector may do with the hair." Clever way out? Not really, just a gimmick not to be held accountable.

As stated, very little hair was offered to the market until a few started to push this new wave of collectible. Since then it’s amazing that a potential uneducated collector can basically get hair from the head of anyone they desire. In recent years hair claimed to be from the heads of the popularly collected celebrities have almost magically appeared for sale. Just some examples that come to mind are, George and Martha Washington, Abraham and Mary Lincoln, Mary Surratt (Lincoln Conspirator), Lord Nelson, John Brown (Harper’s Ferry Fame), Alexander Hamilton, Charles Dickens, Jenny Lind, Robert E. Lee, Andrew Jackson, Napoleon, William Quantrill, Jefferson Davis, Edward VII, Ludwig von Beethoven, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and of course Geronimo.

One of the greatest hair stories was told by a California dealer, who jokingly called another dealer, offering locks of hair by many of the celebrities of the 1930's and 40's. Speaking with an Italian accent he stated that he was a barber for the celebrities and had hair from the likes of Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo, George Reeves, The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Vivian Leigh, Judy Garland, The Marx Brothers and Humphrey Bogart and more. By this time the dealer was salivating and dying to get to the end of the conversation so he could begin to discuss a price for the collection. The conversation continued about all the celebrities hair that was included in the collection and the potential buyer finally said, "Just tell me what you want for the collection." At this point the seller said there may be one problem! The potential buyer asked "what could that possibly be?" The seller answered: "All the hair is in one bag!"

A few persons in this hobby were discussing about how this area of collecting has gotten so far out of hand. One stated: "Name a person and within weeks we’ll have a sample of their hair." As an obvious joke, the name Yul Brynner was thrown into the conversation and within weeks a well documented sample of Yul Brynner’s hair miraculously appeared! As for authentication, what turned up was a vintage photo of Brynner (bald) containing a beautiful bold genuine signature (see below). Typed above Brynner’s signature: "Dear John, a most unusual request which is impossible to fill. I send you a small sample of hair, from a more private area with the hopes it can still be used in your collection." Great documentation, genuinely signed by Yul Brynner. If you believe this is genuine Yul Brynner hair, we have a bridge in Brooklyn we can sell you.

There was recent conversation not long ago between a mid west autograph dealer and one of those east coast sellers of autographs who try to flood the market with hair. The conversation went something like this...mid west dealer asked "If you have what you truly believe what may be a genuine sample of celebrity hair, well documented, and while examining the sample a few strands of your own hair fall into the pile and get mixed in, what can you do?" The reply from the east coast seller was "well, s_ _t happens!"

If you invested some of your hard earned dineros for what you believed to be a celebrity’s lock of hair, you are probably getting very nervous or saying maybe the author of this article is just having a bad hair day. If that is the case, let’s take a moment and go to class. Let’s choose a recent sale of a celebrity’s hair that sold for a large amount and walk through the description point by point. Then you decide.

In a recent February 2006 sale held by Heritage Galleries in Texas, item # 26644, being offered for sale was two strands of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Hair. For the record Beethoven died in 1827. The description states: "Two strands of hair taken from a larger lock probably clipped the morning after his passing. The hair was housed in a carved, dark wood frame along with a lock of Niccolo Paganini’s hair; the antique lignum vitae frame can be dated to c1845. The composer’s hair was purchased from Robert C. Eldred, an antique dealer and auctioneer in Massachusetts, who confirmed that it was obtained from a well-known musician’s family residing in Rhode Island. This large collection also included a Toscanini letter which was consigned to Eldrid. It was customary in Beethoven’s time to snip a lock of a loved one’s hair to keep as a tangible reminder after their passing. Although it is unknown how many locks were originally taken, it has been ascertained that at present only a few remain in private collections. Only a few presentations of Beethoven’s hair have been prepared, when they are dispersed, no more will be offered. Each is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from University Archives and a video tape recording the first opening of the frame since it was originally sealed. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.

Let’s start at the beginning of the description, keeping in mind Beethoven died in 1827. Two strands of hair taken from a larger lock "PROBABLY" clipped the morning after his passing. Who created this fabrication? Probably? Don’t you know? This statement of fiction was created by a recent cataloguer. Moving forward: "..frame can be dated to c1845.." What does this mean? If the hair was removed in 1827, and we still don’t know by whom, where was the hair for 18 years?

Was the hair not important enough to protect it for nearly two decades. Also we must keep in mind that a frame from 1845 can be purchased today in many antique shops. To continue: "...the composer’s hair..." now we are calling it the composers hair, are you convinced? Where up to now has that been determined? Continuing: "was purchased from Robert C. Eldred, an antique dealer in Massachusetts.." This sale was not held long ago, the dealer is still in business, where has the hair been since 1827? Moving forward: "who confirmed that it was obtained from a well-known musician’s family residing in Rhode Island." Did anyone consider asking the name of this well known family? I guess it’s more believable that it came from an unidentified musicians family rather that a well known plumber’s family. Besides, Rhode Island is as good a place as any in the United States for Beethoven’s hair to appear. The description goes onto say: "...this large collection also included a Toscanini letter...." What does this have to do with authenticating the Beethoven hair? To cloud the description and create a lengthy story taking your mind of what they call Beethoven’s hair they continue: "It was customary in Beethoven’s time to snip a lock of loved one’s hair to keep as a tangible reminder after their passing." This could be true but what here tells us this is Beethoven’s hair? Now it’s time to break up this lock of hair and it is stated: "only a few presentations of Beethoven’s hair have been prepared..." They think by now with their created description you are actually believing this is Beethoven’s hair. Moving along: "each is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from University Archives." A COA based on what? Continuing: "And of video tape recording the first opening of the frame since it was originally sealed." Now we have a video tape of the opening of a frame that contains whatever you want to believe from the flimsy description. The frame is from c1845, but when was it originally sealed? The hair could have been put in this frame a century later!

We save the best for last: "accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA." If this hair was actually given to this company who advertises they authenticate autographs, let’s take a guess regarding how many samples or scans of Beethoven’s hair PSA/DNA had in their file to be able to determine that the hair from this frame was from Beethoven’s head based on their usual claim that they "thoroughly examined" and that the hair is consistent because of color, angling, spacing and size and it did conform to known exemplars.

Interestingly, other offerings of celebrity hair by University Archives, that come with a COA signed by John Reznikoff have similar problems with "provenance credibility." We have attempted to contact Mr. Reznikoff on multiple occasions regarding this issue. He refuses to respond! Adding to this most unfortunate issue, many auction houses are very much aware that a large amount of this hair being fed into the autograph market is extremely questionable, yet they continue to take these items on consignment. The best way to answer this is the hair offered above as Beethoven’s sold for more than $8,000 with little or no credible provenance. It’s all about money.

Basically, it all gets down to credibility of the seller of anything. This is where collectors have to do their own homework. One cannot listen to a seller promote himself. Many in the industry will tell you there are basically two well respected autograph dealer organizations. PADA and the IACC/DA have a listing of their dealer members. Before investing another nickel on your collection, it is always wise to check these organizations to determine whether the dealer you are about to do business with is a member in good standing. If they are not, start asking why!

As in all areas of collecting, it is the opinion of www.autographalert.com to be extremely cautious in what you collect and especially from whom you buy. Do not be taken in by those with full page self promoting advertisements.


 
Breaking News:
May 23, 2006
 
James Spence & Steve Grad of PSA/DNA
Re-Write WWII History
Authenticate Pacific Fleet Admiral Nimitz
Signed German Surrender Dated 10 Years After His Death

This is an amazing story that needs to be told. It is mind boggling that it took about 60 years for us to finally learn the truth. This is a "War Story" that needs to be told.

We start by going to eBay item number 6589943097, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Terms of Surrender Certified by PSA/DNA.

Illustrated (right) is the item for sale, a copy of a souvenir German Surrender Document signed and dated by Admiral Karl Dönitz, 27.7.76. Immediately after Hitler’s death suddenly and to his great surprise Dönitz became head of the German State. It fell to Dönitz to negotiate the surrender of the German forces to the Allies.

The signature of Karl Dönitz is very common and it would be near impossible to find an auction house or dealer who has not sold his signature at one time or another. Exemplars are plentiful.

However, the "experts" James Spence and Steve Grad sign off on a PSA/DNA Certificate of Authenticity dated Thursday, April 24, 2003, Re: CU14136-27, PSA/DNA Certification Number B16187 (see below). These "experts" state this Surrender Document was signed by Chester Nimitz. This is the first time we discover that it was our own Admiral Nimitz who surrendered the German Forces to the Allies in the European Theatre. An amazing historical discovery. Incredibly, he also managed to sign and date this copy over ten years after he died.

The signatures of Dönitz and Nimitz are by no means similar. A novice in the field of autographs can easily tell you which is which without looking at exemplars. The only way we can even stretch a similarity is that both signatures end in "itz."

This mistake is beyond ludicrous. This is the ultimate display of incompetence! How serious is this mistake? This authenticating company is one of the choices of eBay to authenticate autographs. They do so without seeing original documents and give "opinions" based on a scan.

What can one learn from this story?

1) How can these people who are called authenticators also be called experts?
2) Authenticators with this talent should be called "opinionators."
3) These opinionators cannot recognize common signatures.
4) These opinionators cannot be looking at exemplars as this would never of happened if they did.
5) How much research could have been done to get this so wrong? The document was dated by Dönitz on July 7, 1976. Chester Nimitz died on February 20, 1966.
6) The uninformed collector learns how useless are the many COA’s being offered in the market.
7) Most informed dealers are aware who are the professional authenticators. It’s time to start looking at some of the dealers who continue to support certain authenticating companies. These dealers and auction houses have become part of the problem.
8) Based on PSA/DNA’s Certificate of Authenticity, the eBay seller issues his own COA with this item. Two COA’s for the price of one.

The document offered here teach the world that American Fleet Admiral (Pacific Fleet) Chester Nimitz surrendered the German Forces to the Allies, and he came back from the dead to do it. History re-written, authenticated and certified by PSA/DNA all for the low cost of $429.00.


Breaking News:
April 6, 2006
 
 
Foolish Forger
Can Dupe an Autograph Authenticator
But Not Seasoned Dealers

What is the goal of a forger of autographs? Basically they try to forge a signature and make their creation resemble an original. Some forgers are not happy with trying to duplicate a simple signature on a souvenir item such as a baseball, photograph or first day cover. Many of these forgeries eventually get Certificates of Authenticity from the companies who claim they authenticate autographs. One of the reasons for this, you simply have to look at who is doing the authenticating. Many of the names are not recognizable. Autograph authenticating has become a big business and it’s all about money!

The autograph market is flooded with forged autographs with COA’s stating they are genuine.

This recent phenomenon of non genuine autographs being accompanied with COA’s stating the item is genuine is now an epidemic.

Some forgers get very greedy and are not happy making a few hundred dollars for one of their creations. Usually the greedier they get the sloppier they get. For example, a forger decided he wanted to create a treasure that would sell for over $100,000. Instead of using his creative mind, this particular forger went to Charles Hamilton’s book American Signatures, Volume one and chose to duplicate, word for word, including corrections, a John Hancock letter. A fabulous content letter stating: “I do certify that John Paul Jones was duly commissioned and appointed to command the armed Sloop called the Providence and that this Sloop is now employed in the service of the thirteen United States of North America witness my hand October 29th 1776 John Hancock.”

Such a high profile item, illustrated in a major autograph reference book was able to make it into our market because of a few unconscious persons in this industry. A seller of autographs in California actually sold this item to a collector in excess of $100,000.

This item could have remained buried in a collectors vault for decade’s however the collector decided to put the item up for sale.

Only one individual in the autograph industry claimed the item was genuine. John Reznikoff of University Archives, who promotes himself as an “autograph authenticator” said in his email of Saturday, October 23, 1999: “Looks perfectly OK to me....”

This very high end item was easily identified as a forgery by many professionals when the collector decided to offer this item for sale. Some of the dealers and auction houses who identified this as a forgery was Joe Maddalena and Brian Chanes of Profiles in History, Paul Richards, Superior Galleries, Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles, The History Buff and a few others.

One autograph professional stated: “Don’t know how this letter got this far, anyone doing the slightest bit of research could see this was copied out of Charles Hamilton’s book!”

The collector was trying to sell his apocryphal letter with the hopes of getting $125,000.

If there is one lesson to be learned when buying autographs and that is to stick with the seasoned dealers. They usually have a very good track record. Many of them are low profile and not self promoting with high profile advertisements. Avoiding the opinions of most “autograph authenticators” can save you a major headache in the future.

 
Breaking News:
March 30, 2006
 
Is Your Autograph Genuine?
Your "Guess" May Be As Good As The "Guess"
The So-Called Experts Make, Maybe Even Better!

The scathing article on autograph authenticators in the Saturday, February 25th edition of Barron’s magazine may have played a major roll causing the stock of Collectors Universe, parent company of PSA/DNA to drop to a low of $13.88. A year ago, the stock was $20.60.

Why did this happen? Barron’s article which scratched the surface of the authenticating problems was advising investors what many autograph collectors and dealers already know. Those who tout themselves as "autograph authenticators" are continuing to be exposed.

The Barron’s article refers to a horrific James Spence incident! Spence was then the lead autograph authenticator at PSA/DNA. A Fox news television station forged several signatures on baseballs in their studio and brought them to James Spence of PSA/DNA to authenticate. The result seen on the 11:00 news was extremely embarrassing for Spence. This very popular news report of Spence, on camera, authenticating forged signatures as genuine, was taped and copies of this embarrassing report were sold on ebay.

How and why has the autograph industry gotten into this quagmire? Everyone is beginning to understand that PEOPLE AUTHENTICATE AUTOGRAPHS NOT COMPANIES! Who are the so-called authenticators?

Fifteen different educational courses have been held in the United States over the last ten years. Some were within driving distance of Jimmy Spence’s PSA/DNA office in Pennsylvania. One of the major courses was attended by the representatives of the Autopen machine. One of their machines was on display and the operator not only explained the use of the machine but each person attending received a beautiful ball point blue ink signature of John Hancock as a souvenir. Everyone who attended has the knowledge of the operation and ability of the Autopen. Records of the course on file with the International Autograph Collectors Club and Dealers Alliance who sponsored the show indicate that Mr. Spence did not take the course. Also on file with the IACC/DA are Certificates of Authenticity signed by Mr. Spence authenticating autopen signatures "as genuine!"

In a recent article in Sweetspot magazine, January 2006 issue, Mr. Spence states: "During the years I was there (PSA/DNA) everything was done to my expectations...everything that carried my letter of authenticity, indeed were items I examined." The files of the IACC/DA contain a huge volume of mistakes made by Jimmy Spence. Autopens, secretarial, rubber stamped signatures, printed signatures, laser printed signatures and forgeries all authenticated "as genuine" by Jimmy Spence.

In a 2005 interview with Sports Collectors Digest, Spence admits when authenticating for an auction house he may have to look at an item for a second as the auction can have hundreds or thousands of items to be inspected and they only want to pay him for one days work. He has to use his "gut" feeling to make a determination on items. Are uneducated bidders, so ignorant as to be bidding thousands of dollars on a single item based on a split second look and gut feeling? With someone making so many documented errors, in the same article Spence was asked "which of the other authenticators do you trust?" There was a long pause with no answer. Wouldn’t one surmise that Spence would have answered with at least one of the several other names that their preprinted signatures appear on the thousands of PSA/DNA Certificates that also bear Spence’s signature? That speaks volumes!

The SCD interview continued with questions regarding the many of Spence’s errors in authenticating. Spence has recently broken away from PSA/DNA and has gone out on his own under a different business name.

While on the subject of credentials or lack thereof, a high profile company lists the name of one of their new persons hired to authenticate. They state the authenticator has gained invaluable experience handling millions of dollars worth of collectibles. Our investigation found this statement to be absolutely correct. This individual worked in the mail room of an auction house. He wrapped the collectibles for shipping, therefore handled millions of dollars worth of collectibles!

In a January 2006 SCD article, Justin Priddy of Global Authentication was interviewed. We checked the records of the IACC/DA to see if this "autograph authenticator" had taken any of the 15 autograph educational courses. He did not! We also checked the membership directories of The Manuscript Society and all other autograph organizations. He was not a member of any autograph organization. These organizations issue journals filled with autograph educational material and signature studies. In the interview, Mr. Priddy claimed he had been authenticating for only 5 or 6 years. He told SCD he’s only 24 years old. His response to one of the questions was: "it’s more about experience, how many autographs you’ve actually looked at, not how long you’ve actually been professionally authenticating." Experience????

Seasoned collectors are more informed about the numerous amount of worthless COA’s issued by authenticating companies. What’s worse is the fact that there are so many more mis-diagnosed autographs on COA’s that will not be recognized until the collector decides to sell their item!

Frequently, collectors are very upset with the authenticating companies after they have attempted to get a thorough/correctly worded COA stating the item they obtained in person is genuine. Many of these in person signatures get a turn down letter by the authenticating companies.

Collectors, dealers and some websites are inquiring "who is actually pushing the use of these authenticating companies?" The answer is clearly the auction houses! We interviewed some auction houses whose responses should not surprise anyone. One major auction house said it best. "We don’t have to know a thing about autographs. We can sell anything as long as it comes with a certificate from a high profile authenticating company. No matter how embarrassing the mistakes in authenticating, no one can blame me for selling bad material. It’s simply a mistake by the authenticator." Another major auction house who uses PSA/DNA as their authenticator clearly states in their catalog that all items have been examined by this authenticating company. It did not surprise us to find out that the authenticator who examines many of the items is an "ex-employee" of the auction house. Oh by the way, no refunds for any reason!

To make a point, this auction house was contacted about a misidentified historical document they sold with a Certificate of Authenticity from PSA/DNA. The person who signed the document was not the person who they claimed in their catalog description. The auction house was told that a signature study exists regarding this person, written by a known autograph expert.

The head of the auction house stated "I’m not getting involved in a battle of experts!" The response to that statement was "How could it be a battle when we are talking about two different persons and there is a published signature study proving your document was signed by a different person." Didn’t matter, no refund, the item was examined by their "expert" before the auction. This is by no means an isolated experience!

As mentioned earlier, COMPANIES DO NOT AUTHENTICATE, PEOPLE DO!" In many cases it’s hard to determine who the person is who supposedly examined the autograph submitted for authentication.

A representative of www.autographalert.com contacted Marsha Dixey in the political memorabilia and Americana department of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas. This was the most recent major autograph auction being held. The two volume set of auction catalogs are most impressive, as was the assortment of the material being offered. PSA/DNA was the autograph authentication company utilized to authenticate the autograph material being offered for sale. Since companies do not authenticate people do, we asked Marsha who was the person who physically examined their items. Her answer was John Reznikoff. Reznikoff is one of several names whose printed signature appears on PSA/DNA Certificates of Authenticity. We informed Marsha that there were numerous mistakes with items that were authenticated in this sale. She replied that some of the items had already been pulled before the sale.

We contacted Marsha after the sale asking for information about a specific item. Item #25371, "Samuel Sewall, Salem Witch Trial Judge, autograph endorsement signed. Estimate $750-$1,000." This item came with a Letter of Authenticity from PSA/DNA. The item was inspected and authenticated "as genuine" by John Reznikoff. Days later we emailed Marsha to find out what this lot sold for. Her response was $1,341 + change. This includes the BP (buyer’s premium).

This particular item, being sold "as genuine", signed by Samuel Sewall, is without question an inexcusable mistake! Signatures of Samuel Sewall are not scarce. Illustrations of Samuel Sewall’s signature can be found in common autograph reference books and several of his signed documents have been illustrated in auction house catalogs during the last few years. The signature on the document sold in this particular sale is clearly the signature of Stephen Sewall, brother of Samuel Sewall. Their signatures are not even similar. How can this terrible and costly mistake be made by anyone who has the slightest bit of expertise authenticating? This specific incident has raised many questions regarding the expertise of highly promoted individuals who are presently authenticating.

During a recent lawsuit, Miller vs Collectors Universe, parent company of PSA/DNA, one of the exhibits used in court was a presidential oath of office authenticated as handwritten and signed by Ronald Reagan. This item should have been a very high valued piece of Americana. The item was authenticated as genuine by John Reznikoff. Actually PSA/DNA issued two different COA’s regarding this item. The reason for this is the first COA was so poorly worded it did not properly identify the item. When this item was sent to PSA/DNA a second time an email from Steve Grad (head authenticator of PSA/DNA) dated 16 September 2004 stated: "John(Reznikoff) just wanted me to take another look at it. As of today and the scan he saw, he asked how much you wanted for it. He could change his mind but as far as he’s concerned it’s Reagan."

How much do you want for it????? This item was being submitted a second time for a properly worded letter of authentication! We also refer to an email from Michael Haynes, CEO of Collectors Universe dated April 15, 2005 stating: "our employees do not buy or sell and our company does not buy or sell." In another email from Mr. Haynes dated April 16, 2005 he stated: "...sometimes errors happen, as a matter of public record Collectors Universe paid over $300,000 in the 12 months ending June 30, 2004 for errors..."

These payments are for errors that were uncovered in one year. How many more errors will turn up as collectors decide to sell their autograph treasures in the years to come? They won’t know that their item may have been mis-diagnosed and their COA is worthless until they try to sell.

Referring to the above mentioned Reagan handwritten Presidential Oath Of Office that had two letters of authenticity issued by PSA/DNA, it was determined by another authenticator that the item was a complete forgery.

Continuing our investigation of Mr. Reznikoff, over the last several months we find he had been advised of many errors he had made. In some cases he did correct the problem. He arranged to pull items from auctions and he removed a common photograph of Ronald Reagan, signed by the autopen, from his website, that was being offered for $300.

Another documented and very embarrassing blunder that Mr. Reznikoff made was his listing of a King George III signature for sale on ebay. The description stated: "We think this is a signature of George III when he was mad." This authenticator was either unfamiliar with or simply had no clue as to the signature he was offering for sale. Signatures of King George III late in life are common. Illustrations of this type signature can be found in numerous places. This common signature was so unfamiliar to this authenticator that it was illustrated on his ebay site UPSIDE DOWN!

The above examples are just a few of numerous errors exposed. Major mistakes in the $100,000 plus range are not mentioned, as this information may appear in separate articles at a later date.

In a recent issue of Sweetspot magazine, Bill Daniels paid approximately $20,000 for a collection of signed photographs in a December 2004 Mastronet Auction. The items came with a PSA/DNA Certificate of Authenticity. According to the article, Daniels is suing PSA/DNA and Mastronet. During discovery "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." According to the article, Daniels called Steve Grad a PSA/DNA authenticator. According to Daniels, Grad said he had never looked at the photos in the lot and no one at PSA/DNA had looked at them." Calls to Grad and Joe Orlando, president of PSA/DNA have since gone unanswered!

Daniels also 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. Court date is set for April 2006.

There are many professional autograph dealers who are willing to offer collectors advice regarding an autograph. Exemplars of celebrities in all fields are illustrated in hundreds of reference books. It is imperative that collectors start doing much of their own homework regarding authentication.

To help protect collectors, there is a movement in the hobby of collectors and dealers who are avoiding participating in auctions that use the services of authenticating companies. The heat has already been felt, as some auction companies are calling potential consignors for items and are being told they will get nothing until they stop using the authenticating company and start offering a guarantee for the items they auction. The same is true for many who no longer bid at auctions that use authenticating companies. A large auction company can put heavy pressure on an authenticator. If a questionable item isn’t authenticated "as genuine" chances are the authenticator will loose future business. After all, the hobby has changed and it’s basically all about money.

It is the opinion of www.autographalert.com that collectors need to do their own homework regarding authenticating items in their collections. After reading about who the identified "experts" are and the common mistakes they make regularly, you may realize that your "guess" may be much more accurate that those who have labeled themselves as autograph authenticators.

This article does not intend to single out any individual authenticator, company or auction house. It merely illustrates current news and recent documented transactions.


Breaking News:
February 20, 2006
 
 
Next Generation Of Autograph Deception
Transcribed Beatles Signatures on Sgt. Pepper Album Cover Threaten Hobby

The hobby of autograph collecting is still in turmoil over the removal of signatures from baseballs Many are calling this a deceptive practice. It will just be a matter of time before it becomes the first time an unethical dealer will knowingly offer one of these balls as a “single signed ball.”

On Valentine’s Day 2006 a Beatles Sgt. Pepper Album Cover was offered on ebay with the following remarkable description. You may need to read this twice to believe what you have read!

“Offered is a very unique set of Beatles signatures!! This is a set of 4 Beatles signatures which all date from mid-1967 which have been ‘melded’ into an original UK Sgt. Pepper album cover. A top notch UK Professional Paper Restorer were given the authentic set of 4 Beatles autographs from 1967, which were on matching yellow paper, and they expertly transferred the signatures directly onto the inside gatefold cover!!! This was a superb job as you cannot tell when looking at the cover from a few feet away! Upon very close inspection, you can just see where the edges of the autograph paper is very lightly blended into the cover. If you look on the inside of the cover, there is nothing disturbed-the restorer only worked on the top surface of the jacket. It’s a marvelous job!!! This could not have been done except for the fact that The Beatles signed a yellow colored paper that matched the inside yellow color and texture exactly - so...the chances of finding another set of authentic Beatles autographs from 1967 that were signed on paper matching the texture and coloring exactly of a 1967 Sgt. Pepper inside gatefold cover is EXTREMELY slim!!!......The autographs themselves have not been touched or altered at all......If you cannot afford to purchase an authentic signed Sgt. Pepper for at least $75,000+ USED these days, this is the next best thing!!! Even if you had the money to purchase an authentic one, you would be hard pressed to find one for sale!!! They are that rare!!! This item was authenticated from the Number 1 Beatles autograph expert in the world....This is simply an incredible display item that will look awesome museum matted and professionally framed!!!”

It is the opinion of www.autographalert.com and those we have interviewed that although the seller is being quite frank, in this instance, about the creation of this piece, there are excellent chances that a future owner will try to sell this exact album (most likely at auction) as an original album signed by The Beatles. This practice will not end with this offering!

Can a “Three Language” Ships Paper be found in blank and a Washington signature be transposed on the document? How about finding a blank appointment? Take a genuine Abraham Lincoln signature and have it professionally added to the document by a paper restorer. Why stop there, while at it you may as well fill in the document with an important name of your choice?

It appears the time has arrived that we are able to sit back and create the historical document of our choice.

 
Breaking News:
January 9, 2006
 
The Katharine Hepburn Debacle

Queen of Hollywood, Winner of Four Academy Awards

www.autographalert.com
cannot think of another actor or actress where there is so much misinformation and confusion with regards to describing autograph material.

The question is if the so called “experts” cannot get her right, one can only imagine what can be done with others where less information is available. Collectors and purchasers of autographs should always do their own homework and know a little more about the item they are about to purchase. Don't solely depend on any dealer’s description. Also, it is in your best interests to only deal with dealers and auction houses who offer in writing a lifetime guarantee. Many of those who offer only a 30 day guarantee or purchases “as is” usually know they are dealing in some questionable items.

Thumbing through the reference files of Professional Autograph Authentication Services (PAAS) www.paasaa.com It was enlightening to discover how sellers of autographs have butchered autograph descriptions of Katharine Hepburn. It makes one wonder, if they can’t even describe properly the item they offer, how sure are they the item is genuine?

Katharine Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 12, 1907. Four dealers couldn’t get that right!

1) Steinitz Autographs in their June 1994 catalog states she was born in 1904.
2) Camden House Auctions in their May 1995 catalog, item number 153 lists Hepburn being born in 1909.
3) Steven Raab in his May 1995 catalog has her born in 1909 and in his September 01 catalog corrected his past mistake and still didn’t get it right by having her born a year earlier in 1908.
4) Alexander Autographs, Inc. In their May 1998 catalog, item #2473 has her born in 1909.

There’s little excuse for the above mistakes however it gets worse! Imagine selling an autograph of a major actress and the seller can’t even spell the celebrity’s name correctly? It happens often.

Alexander Autographs, Inc. mentioned above by not having the date of her birth right spells her name as “Katherine.”

Others in the same category of misspelling Katharine Hepburn’s name in their catalogs are:
Edward Bomsey, item #71, catalog May 1992
Max Rambod, item #73, April 1994 catalog.
Max Rambod, item #670, catalog Oct. 2005
David Schulson, item #72, catalog June 1993
University Archives, item #234, catalog May 1992
University Archives, item #115, catalog May 1994
University Archives, item #121, catalog Oct. 1996
University Archives, item #122, catalog Oct. 1996
University Archives, item #123, catalog Oct. 1996

Moving along and most interesting is how sellers of autographs describe their item. This can easily mislead a purchaser to think they better order quicky before the item is sold.

To set the record straight, it is the opinion of www.autographalert.com that the autographs of Katharine Hepburn are common and available in all forms. Abundant are signed album pages, typed letters signed, handwritten letters (A.L.S.) and signed Playbills. Photographs of all sizes are readily available with signed vintage photographs less common. Recently her signed checks have found their way into the market. Forgeries are abundant and usually are found in the form of un-inscribed photographs and signed books.

Nearly a dozen autograph dealers have claimed they are selling the finest signed image of Katharine Hepburn in private hands.

It’s safe to say from our investigation that almost every major seller of autographs has handled multiple items signed by Katharine Hepburn.

In the November 1999 catalog of Piece of the Past two items were offered in the same catalog yet the description stated “..scarce in any material.” Continuing this trend is:

Steven Raab, Catalog Jan. 1995 “...the rarest of the rare...”
Steven Raab, Catalog Dec. 1997, item #210, “...an excellent substitute for a signed photograph which is virtually unobtainable.”
Steven Raab, Catalog Feb. 1998, item #260, “..of extreme rarity in signed photographs.”
Steven Raab, Catalog Nov. 1999, item #141, “..exceedingly rare in signed photographs.”

Unique in catalog mis-descriptions for Katharine Hepburn is that Steven Raab in his Dec. 1997 catalog is the only one to claim that Hepburn is a five time Academy Award winning actress (she won 4 and was nominated 12 times).

Adam Andrusier’s catalog of Jan. 2000 states a Hepburn photo as “extremely rare.”

Not to be outdone we quote from the catalogs of a New Hampshire autograph auction house. After years of selling signed and inscribed photographs in all sizes of Katharine Hepburn, rrauctions in their April 2004 sale, item #1868 are offering a small 3x5" photo with the description “...Rare matte-finish...great opportunity to acquire a signed photograph as hepburn routinely refuses to sign any type photo...”

In other rrauctions they state:
Catalog Dec. 2001, item #1146, “uncommon glossy..”
Catalog Jan. 2001, item # 1192, “scarce in signed photos of any kind..”
Catalog Mar. 2002, item #1525, “rare matte-finish 8X10" photo...Hepburn routinely refuses to sign any type photo.”
Catalog July 2002, item #1212, “rare signed photo..”

It is nearly impossible to understand how any dealer can continually offer signed photographs of Katharine Hepburn and try to convince potential buyers that these items are scarce or rare. In the case of rrauction we investigated their sales and chose to only go back to January 2000. They have offered for sale forty-five photographs signed by Katharine Hepburn and they still claim she is rare in this format.

It was recently discovered by Todd Mueller, one of the leading autograph dealers in the United States that Miss Hepburn did send out some letters refusing to honor autograph requests during certain times when the requests became overwhelming. The letter contained a printed signature of Katharine Hepburn which is illustrated below. Occasionally these letters are found being sold as genuinely signed.

Studies of this type are created for educational purposes only, they are not intended to embarrass any seller of autographs. The above information has been taken directly from the dealer’s catalogs.
 
Katharine Hepburn Printed Signature


 
Breaking News:
January 5, 2006
 

Are You A Candidate To Become An Autograph Authenticator?

Take This Test

This Is An Educational Course,
See How You Finish As Compared To Those Who Claim
To Be Experts

This is the second in a series of educational autograph courses to be found on this site. We continue with these type courses as the first in this series was of Charles Schulz and Snoopy sketches which was extremely popular with readers of www.autographalert.com

We are in a time where some of the leading "high profile" autograph authenticators are only in their twenties. According to a recent interview in the January 6, 2006 edition of Sport’s Collectors Digest the lead "authenticator" (24 years old) for a high profile authenticating service is not even aware there were 14 autograph educational courses available. His comment "...there’s really no courses available for learning autographs, so it really comes down to experience." Experience?

We checked the history of this authenticator and found he is not a member of the IACC/DA nor is he listed as a member in the 2006 Directory of The Manuscript Society.

Anyone can take the following test, all should find it interesting. It is most important that you follow this test line by line. Do not scroll down to the bottom of this test until you examine the eleven illustrations. It is most important that you look at each illustration, compare the signatures to each other and make your final determination before looking at the facts.

Following Are Eleven Illustrations of Britney Spears For Your Examination

 
Illustration 1
Illustration 2
 
Illustration 3
 
Illustration 4
 
Illustration 5
 
Illustration 6
 
Illustration 7
 
Illustration 8
 
Illustration 9
 
Illustration 10
 
Illustration 11
 


**********************************
The Documented Results

Hopefully you have made some notes and also a decision regarding what you have examined.

Each and every signature you have examined was sold "as guaranteed genuine". The seller of these signatures was Bob Eaton of rrauction.com, R&R Enterprises Autograph Auctions of New Hampshire.

Each and every one of the above eleven illustrated signatures that were on photographs came with a certification of authentication from R&R Enterprises. Bob Eaton is also a member of the PSA/DNA authenticating team. Two of the other authenticators on his staff are Roger Epperson and John Reznikoff who are also members of the PSA/DNA team. Mr. Eaton and/or his authenticating team believe all eleven signatures were signed by the same hand.


Illustration 1, catalog 244, Dec. 2000 sold for $158.70
Illustration 2, catalog 261, May 2001 sold for $117.30
Illustration 3, catalog 284, April 2004 sold for $107.64
Illustration 4, catalog 286, June 2004 sold for $1,354.86
Illustration 5, catalog 286, June 2004 sold for $127.53
Illustration 6, catalog 287, July 2004 sold for $97.11
Illustration 7, catalog 288, Aug. 2004 sold for $141.57
Illustration 8, catalog 288, Aug. 2004 sold for $117.00
Illustration 9, catalog 292, Dec. 2004 sold for $119.34
Illustration 10, catalog 294, Feb. 2005 sold for $238.68
Illustration 11, catalog 296, Apr. 2005 sold for $244.53

If your answer was all eleven signatures were signed by the same hand then you agreed with the autograph authenticators. This same test was given to a handful of other autograph authenticators and dealers. Many of the opinions were that they were hard pressed to find two signatures that were signed by the same hand. How did you fare? You may be a candidate to be an autograph authenticator.

The next in this series will be on the signatures of Steve McQueen.


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