- June 26,
Spence Goes Beyond The Point of No Return!
We dont mean to continue to pick on those who claim
to be authenticators. However, most of them continue to make
many sophomoric errors. With these errors being exposed, the
end result is collectors and many dealers are no longer using
most of the third party authenticators. In the real autograph
industry there is now only one or two auction houses still using
third party authenticators and this is where you will find many
bad items passed as genuine. The handful of auction house still
using third party authenticators are basically specializing in
sports autographs. Enough said!
The following description and authentication leaves quite a bit
to be desired. This item appeared in the June 5, 2007 Sothebys
Auction Important Sports Memorabilia and Cards. Lot
number and description are directly from the catalog. Illustration
of the lot not included as it is not relevant to the topic at
ONLY KNOWN GEORGE DIXON AUTOGRAPH, THE FIRST BLACK BOXING
5,000 - 7,000 USD.
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyers Premium: 3,600 USD.
Legendary 19th Century Bantam and Featherweight World Champion
George Dixon, known as The Little Chocolate fought
extensively in America and Europe. Dixon was the first black
boxing world champion in any weight class, while also being the
first ever Canadian-born boxing champion. Born in Halifax, Nova
Scotia, he stood 5'3" tall and weighed only 87 pounds when
he began his professional boxing career. George Dixon claimed
the world bantamweight title in 1888 and was officially considered
the champion after knocking out Nunc Wallace of England in 18
rounds on June 27, 1890. The following year, on May 31, 1891,
George beat Cal McCarthy in 22 rounds to win the featherweight
title. In all, George won 78 fights, 30 by knockout, and lost
26. He lost his title in a 15-round decision to Abe Attell on
October 28, 1901. Offered here is a 3" x 4" slip of
paper, bearing Dixons signature in pencil (10/10). Just
beneath the signature the original owner of the autograph page
has written 1870 (the year of Dixons birth) Worlds
Featherweight Champion. On the bottom of the page, the
British actor E. Story Grafton has also signed his
name. Dixon died at the age of 38 in 1909. A great rarity,
as we know of no other authentic Dixon signature known. LOA from
Most of us love to read about rare items but this description,
if accurate, does raise some very interesting ideas.
If this claim is true, it is the only known authentic example
of Mr. Dixons autograph....how exactly does one go about
This being a slip of paper, we are not afforded the luxury of
it being notarized, dated, witnessed and so forth where we can
make an educated assumption and in fact research the circumstances
in question as to when and why someone would sign a legal document.
This item is simply a piece of paper with no other identifying
mark on it to trace.
Since this is an on the fly signature, that is to
say signed when someone allegedly met (and whose opinion is this
100 years later) Mr. Dixon, then James Spence who authenticated
this signature as genuine must have then used exemplars on hand
for comparisons sake. How else could he have authenticated
this signature as genuine? Oh, wait, the catalog
description clearly states no other authentic examples
are known to exist. So what could James Spence have
done to substitute for exemplars in this situation?
With nothing available for comparisons sake how could one
who claim to be an authenticator accomplish this remarkable feat?
How could he sign a statement (LOA) that conveys a preponderance
of opinion that the signature was more likely than unlikely to
have been accomplished by Dixons hand?
Just how does anyone go about authenticating "The Only
Known Legitimate" anything?
Apparently James Spence of JSA thinks he can! This is the same
James Spence that appeared on Fox News authenticating a baseball
as genuine that was deliberately faked by a Fox News
graphic artist. After examining a Mike Schmidt signature on a
baseball, Spences comments about the signature are classic.
Its got good speed, good letter formation, shows
authority and spontaneity. Typical of what he would sign like!
At that point the reporter from Fox News told Spence the signature
on the ball was forged.
Spence could not look at the reporter, avoiding eye contact and
while fidgeting with the baseball and its holder said to the
reporter in a breaking voice it (authenticating) is pretty
As far as authenticating autographed items where no other example
exists, we know of no professional autograph authenticators that
would do this. One authenticator we talked to stated this
clearly proves to the autograph community that some of these
third party authenticators will not turn away an item to authenticate.
Its all about money and selling another Certificate of
In this case, James Spence has literally told the autograph
community that he authenticates signatures without using exemplars.
This alone proves that he is not familiar with the protocol for
authenticating autographs. He has taken it upon himself to issue
a COA and eliminate probably the most important step in the authenticating
We recently spoke with an east coast autograph auction house
who was talked into trying one of these third party authenticators.
The auction house was told by the authenticating service that
their items would sell for more if the items came with the authenticating
companies COA. It didnt work, the auction did not do better.
Matter of fact, many people refused to bid on the items in the
auction because the auction house chose to go the route of using
a third party authenticator. More and more collectors will no
longer bid in an auction or purchase autographs from a dealer
or store that uses a third party authenticator.
Www.autographalert.com has once again contacted the James Spence
Follow the Leader Authenticating Company with an
attempt to interview him on this subject. He has not honored
The story above was written by a reader of www.autographalert.com.
The author chooses to remain anonymous.
- June 15,
- John Reznikoff of University
Archives, Red Faced again, and again, and again and...
Whats with this guy
some ask? You would think after his involvement in the Kennedy/Monroe
forgery scandal the last thing JR would do is to
continue to attempt to authenticate autographs. The list of his
mistakes seems endless, basic errors you would expect from a
novice! Hopefully you have read some of the stories of his errors
on www.autographalert.com which just scratch the surface. We
wonder just what University would accept the following
The Reznikoff Archives
The most glaringly obvious folly was the Kennedy / Monroe autograph
scandal. John Reznikoff hits into a double play and proves himself
ignorant in two collecting fields; one field he claims to have
been dealing in since age eight. Not only does he fail to properly
authenticate signatures of, among other notables, John Kennedy,
Marilyn Monroe and Sam Giancana which were forged, they were
forged in some cases on letterheads that claimed zip codes where
the zip code had yet to be invented. The logical conclusions
1) As a self proclaimed autograph expert, he constantly has
trouble authenticating signatures from exemplars, nor does he
make use of exemplars in a proper fashion to reach the appropriate
2) Reznikoff originally started in the postage stamp field moving
into autographs. As a stamp expert he did not know
when the Zip Code was invented!
Yes, you heard it here first! Here we have a stamp expert
and he did not know when Zip Codes were first used in the US
and sold the Kennedy/Monroe letters. Shouldnt he be the
first to figure out that a letter dated 1961 cant be typed
on a letterhead containing a Zip Code? Every other US Stamp dealer
over the age of eight probably has the ability to quote chapter
and verse when the Zip Code was first used. Combining these two
blunders in one bundle should be enough to shame one into early
retirement from both fields. But not in this case!
Apparently, Reznikoff took his store of knowledge and attention
to detail he learned in the stamp industry and moved to autographs,
with predictable results. Among his other notable achievements:
A totally embarrassing authentication of a blind George III
signature being sold illustrated upside down.
Authenticating machine signed signatures as genuine.
Mis-identifying a sons signature for his father in a Heritage
Auction and certifying is as the fathers signature.
Having two separate chances to authenticate a Ronald Reagan handwritten
presidential Oath of Office and getting it wrong
Authenticating signatures on items where a signature does not
R&R Auction, May 2006, lot #586. The item offered was a Scientific
pamphlet signed by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky was a
Russian physicist and rocket pioneer. The description goes on
to state: ...Scientific pamphlet, in Russian, 6.75 x 10,
22 pages, dated 1898. Signed in Cyrillic on the front cover in
fountain pen by Tsiolkovsky.... The problem here is, there
is some writing in Cyrillic but in fact Tsiolkovsky did not sign
his name on this pamphlet. This shameful beauty came with a COA
John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and another COA from the rocket
scientists at R&R.
American Memorabilia Catalog, April 2005, item 12. Game used
Ernie Banks Bat.
American memorabilia and collector Jim Caravello agree that the
bat is unsigned. A LOA from Taube and Malta confirms the bat
is unsigned, or at least the rest of humanity, cant see
a signature of Ernie Banks on the bat. However, a PSA/DNA certificate
disagrees. They state that at least two of the named people on
their certificate looked at the signature and think it is genuine.
Yes, Reznikoff and Eaton are two of those named on the certificate.
PSA/DNA are the only people to find a signature on the bat. Apparently
it is signed in an ink color visible only to them.
Reznikoffs latest entrance
through the gates of being wrong is the Pope Paul V document
presently being auctioned in the R&R Auction. The auction
is over on June 20 and the item is #280. The description reads:
Manuscript DS on vellum, in Latin, signed PP testa
[confirmed]. Those with knowledge of these documents understand
that documents of this type and papal bulls were not usually
signed by the Pope. Pope Paul V did not sign this particular
document. The signature that Reznikoff attests is the Popes
bears no resemblance to a genuine signature of the Pope Paul
V. One has to believe that JR is attempting to authenticate
signatures without at the minimum looking up genuine exemplars,
or using them properly should he have access to them. Of course
this mis-described item also comes with a COA from your friends
at R&R Auctions.
This alone is a perfect example why collectors should not put
any weight into the Certificates of Authenticity provided by
most of the third party authenticators.
Several we have spoken with believe it is long over due that
John Reznikoff should just JR (Just Resign from authenticating).
There is no law from anyone calling themselves an
authenticator. A mistake can be made by anyone. A professional
authenticator makes few. They are usually right as long as they
have the proper reference material and know how to use it. They
make their decision based on the high volume of reference material
they have on hand. Of course, new information can come out at
a later date which can change the authenticators view of an item.
In the above cases, those calling themselves authenticators like
John Reznikoff and R&R Auction should be crying out for help
from their peers. Both these companies take a different approach!
R&R who is tired of being told and proven that items in their
catalog are not genuine, removed us from their mailing list.
John Reznikoff takes it to another level. He not only blocks
you from visiting his website where he has his inventory for
sale (this is where the now famous altered Clinton free franks
were discovered) but he also blocks your emails so you cant
help educate him. A very sad state of affairs!
- June 12,
- John Reznikoff Authenticates
- an Autopen Signature
R&R Auctions Sells
the item for $567.63
- Anyone who purchases a machine
that sells in the thirty thousand dollar range and they think
this machine could help them authenticate autographs, will probably
never admit buying it was a mistake. One only has to go back
several stories on www.autographalert.com and read the story
Signatures and Science You Be The Judge to learn about this machine.
Several seasoned autograph experts agree that a $20 black light
and a few dollars spent on a magnifying glass will do basically
the same and possibly better, depending on the experience of
the person doing the examination.
The machine which has already been jokingly called the Lollapalooza
machine does not determine whether an autograph is genuine or
not. This machine is certainly not living up to the spin of its
John Reznikoff of University Archives claims to be an autograph
authenticator. This is the same Mr. Reznikoff who was the sales
agent representing Lex Cusack, the purported forger of the archive
of autographed material that linked John F. Kennedy to Marilyn
Monroe during the years 1993 through 1997. During those four
years investors paid seven million dollars for the forged items.
Many in the autograph industry would like to know if everyone
of those investors received a refund! It remains most interesting
that Mr. Reznikoff claims he saw the autographs he was selling,
but he did not authenticate them!
A book was being written about these documents/letters entitled
The Dark Side of Camelot. NBC television paid around one million
dollars for the rights to a documentary based on the documents
and the book. NBC hired their own experts to examine the papers
and dropped the project based on their findings. Cusack used
lift-off typewriter correction tape on some of the items which
were written before the tape was available. He also used Zip
Codes on letters before the Zip Code system had been adopted.
Both these obvious errors got by Reznikoff.
It is known that any autograph authenticator can make an error
in judgement when authenticating an autograph. However those
at www.autographalert.com who have discussed this matter with
collectors and dealers are totally perplexed how anyone who claims
they are an authenticator be capable of looking at so many autographs
of JFK in one collection and not get it right.
After this autograph industry debacle, Mr. Reznikoff is still
authenticating autographs. A JFK letter he recently authenticated
as genuine has later been rejected as not genuine
Mr. Reznikoff is one of the autograph authenticators for PSA/DNA
and is also a UACC approved member of their Appraiser and Authenticator
The latest major authenticating embarrassment is of a machine
signed signature examined and authenticated as genuine
by John Reznikoff. This can be found in the R&R Enterprises
Auction of January 2007. Catalog # 317, item # 134, Richard Nixon.
The description reads as follows: Heavyweight gilt edged presidential
card with embossed eagle, 4 x 2.25, signed in blue ink, Richard
Nixon. The reverse of the card bears a printed two-language
presentation, Commemorating the visit by the President
of the United States to the Peoples Republic of China,
February, 1972, with the gilt-stamped name Fritz
Roland, the official videographer during the historic diplomatic
visit. The card is encased in a block of Lucite measuring 4.5
x 2.75 x 1. Accompanied by a letter of provenance from the previous
owner, former congressman James E. Rogan, who explains that the
item was produced at Nixons direction for presentation
to the members of the official party who accompanied him to China,
and notes that this particular example was on loan to the Smithsonian
Institution from 2002-2006 as part of their traveling exhibition
on the American presidency. Light scratches and surface wear
to Lucite, otherwise fine condition. LOA (Letter of Authenticity)
John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and R&R COA.
- See Illustration Below
- To many of those with experience
handling presidential signatures, it is known that the signature
of Richard Nixon on these cards was signed by the Autopen machine.
This continues to say volumes for the relative worth of Reznikoff/PSA/DNA
and R&R certificates of authenticity.
How can something like this continue to happen? These cards have
been around since Nixons presidency. Its certainly
obvious, some who claim to authenticate, do not have a sufficient
amount of reference material. Its also obvious a $30,000
machine that was created to detect alterations made to currency
or passports cannot differentiate a genuine Nixon signature from
one that was signed by a machine.
- Illustration Below is a similar
card signed with the same Autopen signature.
This identical machine signature was signed in black ink.
- www.autographalert.com would
like to thank Harry McCormick of Georgia for information that
led to the writing of this article. For years, Mr. McCormick
is well known in the autograph community for dealing in presidential
autographs, specializing in material signed by John F. Kennedy.
- June 4,
- Civil War Autographs Recovered
of 164 items~
A 40 year old intern at the National Archives made off with 164
items of correspondence from the Civil War. Denning McTague,
of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty on April 4, 2007 to stealing
the government documents. By this time he had sold 70 of the
164 letters/documents on eBay.
At the National Archives, McTague was responsible for organizing
the collection in preparation for the upcoming Sesquicentennial,
the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. McTague is also the owner
of Denning House which deals in rare books, maps, and autographs.
Court documents indicate that McTague made $30,000 selling the
stolen items on eBay.
Of the letters stolen was one valued at $5,000 written by J.E.B.
Stuart on April 18, 1860. Another item was the War Departments
announcement of President Lincolns death. Law enforcement
raided McTagues home and found most of his records including
eBay receipts. These records assisted authorities in recovering
the sold articles. All but three of the stolen items have been
McTague ebay records indicate he had 364 transactions with 100%
He is free on $25,000 bail and may face up to 18 months in jail
when sentenced on July 12, 2007.
- May 15,
- UACC Takes One
Giant Step Backwards
For those readers who may still be members of the UACC, an organization
that has been plagued with problems, you may not be aware of
a recent decision made by the members of the board of directors.
Many are aware that a good portion of the members of this club
dont read the clubs journal. Historically they simply
look forward to the list of celebrity names and addresses listed
in each issue. It is important for the membership to know what
goes on behind the scenes of this organization. The clubs
board of directors are constantly making changes to the clubs
Constitution. A recent change to Article III, Section 1 is troubling
numerous collectors and dealers.
This change provides that Ethics Board members be appointed
by the Executive Board rather than elected by the membership.
To many, this is an incredible step backwards for this troubled
organization. Even two old time Directors voted against this
sudden change. One has to ask themself, why does the Board of
Directors want control over the Ethic's Committee?
The UACC has a long history of not acting upon all complaints
filed with the Ethics Board, especialy those filed against
Board members. Now, the board members have total control
over the members of the Ethics Committee.
To make matter worse, the same Board voted to raise the membership
dues from $30 to $35.00 to those in the United States who continue
to be members of the club.
Both these decisions will not help improve the continued declining
United States membership in this organization.
Since November 2006, the club gained only one new dealer but
lost ten dealer members.
- May 15,
- Winston Churchill
Rubber Stamp Signature Discovered
A rubber stamp of Winston Churchills signature has been
discovered. It is unknown the date of manufacture or the period
of time that this stamp was used.
Illustrated below is the rubber stamp and copy of Churchills
signature produced from the stamp:
Collectors/autograph dealers who may have items that were signed
using this stamp are requested to email email@example.com
us of the date on your item. Your input in this educational work
is most appreciated.
Another example of a rubber stamped Winston Churchill signature
that was used as early as the turn of the 20th century can be
found at www.isitreal.com
Our thanks to El Fraley of www.ehistorybuff.com for supplying us with
the Churchill rubber stamp illustrations.
- John Reznikoff of University
Archives Under Investigation
The following story is
exclusive to www.autographalert.com
- In May 2005 there was a fund
raising dinner held in Washington, DC and Bill Clinton was the
guest of honor. Long time friend and childhood buddy of Clinton,
Mr. David Leopoulos of Arkansas was attending the function. Mr.
Leopoulos was contacted by Gary Zimit who is well known in the
autograph industry as spending some time in jail for an autograph
related incident. Zimit was able to convince Mr. Leopoulos to
be invited to the event. During the event Gary Zimit had in his
possession of a few The White House envelopes. As a courtesy
everyone attending the event was told not to ask the former president
for autographs during this dinner. However Mr. Zimit did ask
former President Bill Clinton to autograph the envelopes. This
did not go over well with Mr. Leopoulos.
According to our exclusive interview with Mr. Leopoulos he told
he did see the envelopes after they were signed. One envelope
had a ink signature in the upper right corner of the envelope
and the other signed more towards the middle of the envelope.
Other than that, there were no other markings on The White House
Two of the envelopes were sold to John Reznikoff of University
Archives. They recently appeared on his website. The envelope
with the Bill Clinton signature in the perfect free franking
position is illustrated on the website as Stock Number-38240-001.
The description reads: Rare Bill Clinton free frank on mint green
White House stationery. Undoubtedly a favor frank
that was hand carried. Date: February 1998 - Place: Washington,
DC. White House envelope. 7.25" x 3.5", franked Bill
Clinton, as president. Postmarked Washington, February
The other envelope on University
Archives website is Stock Number-38239-001. The description
reads: A Rare Bill Clinton free frank on a mint green White House
envelope. Date: Feb. 1998 - Place: Washington, DC. Wonderful
Clinton free frank in the middle of the envelope. The envelope
is not addressed. Clinton was more likely asked to sign this
as a favor. It appears to have been hand-carried. In excellent
Upon examination of the recently affixed and backdated postmarks
on both envelopes it is quite apparent they have the same identical
flaws. The postmarks on both envelopes are identical. Although
University Archives does not mention it in his description the
first envelope has Mr. David Leopoulous name and address typed
on the envelope. Many collectors know that Mr. Leopoulous and
Bill Clinton have been friends since childhood. The recent addition
of his name and address typed on the envelope gives it sort of
an appearance of legitimacy.
As stated earlier, these envelopes did not have anything typed
on them nor did they contain February 1998 postmarks when Bill
Clinton signed these envelopes in May 2005.
Postal inspectors are investigating this case.
It is most interesting that the Ethics Committee of The Manuscript
Society recently issued a Statement of Adulteration in The Manuscript
Society News, Vol.XXVII, No.2, 2006. The statement reads in part:
The Manuscript Societys Board of trustees believes
the manufacture of an historic document is an adulteration
or unscrupulous enhancement of an original autograph or document.
By adding content that was not seen by the signer when his/her
signature was originally affixed, the owner has created a fraudulent
manuscript that is designed to attract a heightened market value.
It is the position of the Board of Trustees that such adulterated,
enhanced or manufactured manuscripts are not authentic
and members should treat them accordingly. Article 4 of the Societys
Code of Ethics states the following: No manuscript which
is not authentic shall be knowingly purchased, sold or exchanged
by a member of the Society unless all elements relating to its
lack of authenticity are described in writing, provided to other
parties to any transaction as an essential element thereof, and
accompany the manuscript in question at the time of its delivery
to the new owner. The Society takes the position that adulterated,
enhanced or manufactured documents should not be
sold, purchased or exchanged by members without a clear description
that notes the likelihood that the content was added to a pre-existing
signature and that the signer was likely not aware of the current
format of the item.
The Manuscript Society issued the above statement and lists John
Reznikoff of University Archives as one of its members.
A Premier Autograph Event Called
The Magic of Handwriting
By Stephen Koschal
Miami, Florida, USA
The German Autograph Club better known as the AdA held its first
autograph show on March 17, 2007. The event took place in the
picturesque county town of Aalen which is halfway between Stuttgart
and Nuremberg. Two floors of the 16th century Fachsenfeld Castle
were used for educational displays and dealer and auction tables.
Every dealer exhibiting was friendly and knowledgeable about
their inventory which was very refreshing especially after my
last few show experiences in the United States and England. Autographs
in all fields of endeavor were available for sale with many items
that would be of interest to United States collectors.
My first impression was that the people running this event were
more interested in collector relations and education with the
selling of autographs coming in third. Much was to be learned
from the conversations of collectors and dealers who were more
than willing to share their knowledge and experience.
The exhibits could easily have won educational
awards. On the first floor was a wall of exemplars of autopen
and facsimile signatures many unpublished in autograph journals.
The second floor contained an impressive collection of quality
framed items from the personal collection of Markus Brandes.
Unfortunately none were for sale. This floor also contained a
showcase containing a very important excellent content letter
by Napoleon. A side room was totally devoted to the autograph
of Albert Schweitzer. A most interesting educational display
convincing me that what I had read in autograph reference books
before was totally incorrect. I had believed from what I read
that Schweitzer seldom-indeed, almost never- signed any
letters or papers. In one of Hamiltons books he discusses
what he believes he found to be a genuine elusive,
actual signature of the great humanitarian. In this wonderful
display, Markus Brandes and the Albert Schweitzer Society Augsburg
clearly illustrates letters by both of Schweitzers secretaries.
He also has on display many souvenir items, letters, documents
and photographs that bear a genuine inscription and or signature
by Albert Schweitzer. You come away from this display thoroughly
understanding the difference of Albert Schweitzers genuine
autograph from those signed by his two different secretaries.
The icing on the cake is the new heavily illustrated signature
study of Schweitzer entitled From The Hand of Albert Schweitzer
by Markus Brandes. This study was published in time for this
There were other impressive displays such as handmade models
of sports cars made by the award winning model builder Olaf Spiegel.
Axel Schmolt Autograph Auctions had a table at the show with
some on the highlights of their next auction available for viewing.
Catalogs for this sale were available at no charge.
A special meeting was held for the members of the AdA and the
guest speaker was Georg von Humboldt a descendant of Alexander
von Humbolt. He spoke about the importance of autographs for
his research and asked for a better relationship between the
Humbolt research department and the autograph community. In the
past years, important facts which were not confirmed are now
supported through autographs. After his talk, I was asked to
come up to the main table and speak before Mr. Von Humbolt and
members of the ADA. It was a most enjoyable session which lasted
for about half an hour. The collectors attending were given the
opportunity to ask me questions regarding autographs, the state
of the hobby and the future of collecting.
During my travels around the rooms I had the great pleasure of
meeting for the first time such luminaries
as Rolf Ramseier, the noted dealer from Switzerland, Florian
Noller who specializes in space autographs and the noted U.S.
Presidential autograph expert and author Andreas Wiemer.
I was extremely impressed by the warm greetings from Harald Detlefsen,
President of the AdA and Dr. Heinz-Ulrich Kammeier, Vice President
of the club who is also an English teacher.
I was asked how this show could have been improved and had a
hard time coming up with any fresh ideas as spending a day at
this event was pure delight. My only response was the lighting
could be a little better but what can one expect in a castle
over 500 years old! Pictures of this 2007 event can be found
by going to the clubs website www.Ada1986.de
- Nachlese zur Ada Veranstaltung...
I cant wait for next years
event which will be held on March 29, 2008 in Rathenow, Germany.
Rathenow is just outside Berlin and very close to historical
I hope to see some of you there.
El Fraley, The History Buff, Inc.
Hordes of collectors have trampled
the grass flat in many fields of autograph collecting : but that
does not appear to be true of the genre of early American environmentalists.
With the increasing public interest in the earth's milieu, especially
in the United States, this field is an interesting and challenging
venue for the acquisitive autographist.
According to Edwin Black's book
Internal Combustion one of man's first assault on his surroundings
began as a result of the need to find sources of energy for industrialization
in England in the mid-1800's. Wood and coal were the principal
sources of power at that time and the need for both as energy
sources led to rapine of both the land and forests. In addition,
the mining of coal required a dangerous and unhealthy work environment
for the miners and the byproducts of coal use in homes and factories
produced a toxic atmosphere, especially for city dwellers. The
growing threat to both the environment and to workers was addressed
to some degree by numerous royal commissions as well as other
concerned groups and thus began the modern environmental movement.
Several people have laid claim
to the imprimatur of "father (mother) of the environmental
movement in America"-- depending upon whose legacy or foundation
(money, money) is being promoted. That appellation could be applied
justifiably to any of the following individuals of the 19th or
early 20th century: George P. Marsh, John Muir, Aldo Leopold,
Henry David Thoreau or John James Audubon. Rachel Carson and
Marjory Stoneman Douglas were more contemporary figures but also
very important environmentalists. Among public figures, "Teddy"
Roosevelt is frequently touted as the first environmentalist
article will present examples of the handwriting of five of the
early members of our 'Green Team.' These autographs are part
of a collection The History Buff, Inc. assembled for a leading
George P. Marsh (1801-1882) represented
Vermont in the US Congress (1843-1849), until his appointment
by President Taylor as Minister to Turkey. President Lincoln
named him as the first US Minister to Italy in 1861, a post he
held for over two decades until his death. He was multilingual
and a prolific author. Perkins was one of the first to write
about how human activity was reshaping the ecosystem, often with
disastrous results. For example, he noted how deforestation was
extending the Sahara. His classic work Man and Nature (1864)
warned of environmental degradation and advocated reforestation,
watershed management and conservation. A revised and expanded
version of this treatise was later published as The Earth as
Modified by Human Action. Signed material of his is scarce and
expensive. Illustrated herein is Mash's signature and writing
applied to a presentation copy of the aforementioned book.
John P. Muir ( 1858-1913). John
Muir, a Scottish immigrant, is credited as being the " Father
of the National Parks System" and he was the founder of
the Sierra Club. His birthplace in Martinez, CA is a National
Historic Site and is maintained by the National Parks Service.
His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature,
and wild life, especially in the Sierra Mountains were read by
millions and are still popular today. His direct activism helped
to save the Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas. Shown
here is an ALS from his home written one year before he died.
Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) (right).
He was a U.S. ecologist, forester and environmentalist. He was
influential in the development of modern environmental ethics
and in the movement for wilderness preservation. Aldo Leopold
is considered to be the "father of wildlife management
" in the United States and was a life-long fisherman and
hunter. He had a home and farm in Baraboo, WI and that is where
his very active foundation is based. He is most famous for his
Sand Hill Almanac but that book was not published until several
months after his death so there are no signed copies. His autograph
is also scarce and pricey. His wife and members of his family
have signed copies of Sand Hill Almanac on rare occasions. Aldo's
handwriting and signature are shown on one of his first surveys
which he did as a forester.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964). Although
the international environmental movement may have slumbered for
a number of years it was rudely awakened like Rip Van Winkle
when Carson's book Silent Spring was published in 1962. She went
on to write much more including the well known The Sea Around
Us. Carson brought to light the potential dangers of pesticides
and the attendant publicity led to a world-wide ban
on DDT. Nowhere, however, is there a better example of the downside
of well- intentioned environmental activism than what happened
as a result of her work since the banning of DDT has led to millions
of deaths from malaria, especially in Africa. In fact, the growing
threat of malaria has prompted several African governments to
announce recently that they are going to re-institute the use
of DDT in their countries. As a result, the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund have threatened to cut their dole if they start
using DDT again. An unanticipated side effect of malaria is that,
by lowering immune resistance, it facilitates infection by the
AIDS virus and the converse is also true so that some of the
AIDS-related mortality in these countries also is related to
Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998) (right). This wonderful lady was
very active in helping to preserve the Everglades. Signed copies
of her classic book River of Grass are much sought after, especially
by Florida collectors. She was adamant about saving the Everglades
from drainage and over-development. In 1978 she founded the Friends
of The Everglades Association. One of her autograph treasures
is to find a signed copy of River of Grass as illustrated here.
So, the aforementioned individuals
are considered to be among the founders of today's American environmental
movement. They are delight to study and collect- in some instances,
to quote Shakespeare's The Tempest, 'the journey not the arrival
matters' simply because finding their autographs or manuscripts
is, in most cases, quite difficult. One of the benefits of this
hobby is that it often opens new, life-enriching interests which
is exactly what happened to me as a result of building this collection.
Many of these people have left us a priceless legacy, like the
National Parks and The Everglades, so we are obligated to be
good stewards of those gifts. The rub comes regarding how that
stewardship should be accomplished. To this point, a recent United
Nations study on the environment showed that the richer, more
prosperous nations have cleaner air and water and better forestation.
The real Inconvenient Truth, then. is that it is capital that
pays for a cleaner environment not good intentions. Destroy a
country's economy and pari pasu you destroy its environment.
R & R Enterprises
- Auction Carelessness, Incompetence,
Can Cost You Dollars!
If you have been following www.autographalert.com (the autograph
educational information highway) since its inception you have
learned that you have to be the expert before placing your bids
in certain autograph auctions.
Believing what you read in the description of an autograph auction
catalog and then placing a bid can be a very costly mistake!
Www.autographalert.com strongly suggests if you are interested
in bidding on any item you must read and understand the terms
of sale first. In some cases this may be enough not to place
a bid. Should you decide you cant live without a certain
item in the auction, read the description of the item thoroughly.
As an example, we use an illustration from R&R Enterprises
Auction of September 2003. Catalog #277, item #38.
Description: Gerald R. Ford, ALS (autograph letter signed)
as president, one page, 6.5 x 8.5, gold embossesd personal letterhead,
August 14, 1979.....In fine condition, COA John Reznikoff/University
Archives and RR Auction COA.
The first tip that the description in R&Rs catalog
is not accurate is any presidential autograph collector or autograph
dealer with the slightest bit of experience handling presidential
signatures will instantly realize that just by looking at Fords
signature, it is not of presidential date. Obviously there are
a few dealer and authenticator exceptions who are still not familiar
with the difference in Fords signature as president verses
his post presidential signature. There is little or no excuse
for this mistake as the changes in his signature have been published
in several autograph related educational articles.
And above all, Gerald R. Ford was President of the United States
from August 9, 1974 through January 20, 1977. This letter was
written nearly two and one half years after Ford held the Office
of President of the United States. Is the description in this
auction catalog just carelessness or incompetence on the part
of the auction house?
Dont take anything that is described in an auction catalog
for granted. Before you place a bid, do your own homework. This
Ford letter would have sold for thousands of dollars more if
it was as described in this R&R Auction catalog. Handwritten
letters of Ford as President of the United States can be considered
Lastly, when it comes to COAs that accompany any item,
be familiar with who claims to be the expert issuing the certificate.
In some cases, that may be another reason for not bidding on
the item or at minimum to start asking some questions.
- James J. Spence, Jr.
Another Strike Out!
- For years we have been reading
about many of the serious mistakes made by James J. Spence authenticating
autographs during his years with PSA/DNA. Now that he is out
on his own, the problems continue.
It is well known that Mr. Spence was one of the authenticators
with PSA/DNA authenticating the 11"x14" color Muhammad
Ali limited edition prints of 1,000 signed copies as genuine.
Unfortunately, the 1,000 signatures of Ali were not signed by
Ali but instead by his wife. Mr. Spence spent much time trying
to locate the prints that were sold with PSA/DNA Certificates
of Authenticity in an attempt to get the COAs out of the
James Spence was also one of the main targets of a Fox News Special
on autograph authenticators. Fox news graphic artists forged
a Mike Schmidt signature on a baseball in their studio which
James Spence later on camera authenticated as genuine!
During the television interview, Mr. Spence speaks in detail
how the signature shows good speed, spontaneity, good letter
formation, and shows authority. Spence continues with: typical
of what he would sign like.
These type problems continue to escalate as the numerous mistakes
of third party authenticators some called opinionators
are starting to affect other businesses. Such is the case with
what is called eBays largest autograph seller.
When we last checked eBay, Todd Mueller Autographs had 109,000
feedbacks overall. The site usually has about 1,000 items listed
weekly. On numerous occasions, this site was suspended for selling
some autographs that eBay authenticators stated were likely not
genuine. In each and every case the authenticators were proven
wrong! Recently, Mr. Mueller listed on his eBay site a vintage
Frank Sinatra autograph. James Spence and other eBay authenticators
labeled the Sinatra a fake and Mr. Mueller was suspended from
eBay for seven days. Mr. Mueller knowing he purchased the signature
from someone who had obtained it in person wanted
to prove to eBay the signature was genuine. To get this accomplished
Mr. Mueller had to use another eBay authenticator to get a new
opinion. Mr. Mueller chose to use Global but eBay wouldnt
let Global examine the signature as Mr. Mueller is an authenticator
for Global. Mr. Mueller had little choice but to contact James
Spence for a re-authentication. Mueller had the opportunity
to discuss the Sinatra signature with Spence explanining the
details of the in person signing and forwarding the
opinion of another autograph authenticator (outside
of the eBay dynasty) stating the signature was genuine. James
Spence after receiving a free autograph educational course on
the Sinatra signature from Mr. Mueller, charged $50.00 for the
cost of re-authenticating and signed a COA on February 6, 2007
stating the signature(s) is/are consistent considering
a wide range of specific qualities including slant, flow, pen
pressure, letter size and formation, and other characteristics
typical of our extensive database of known exemplars we have
examined... Apparently Mr. Spence did not have this extensive
database just a few weeks before as he stated the same signature
was not genuine!
The experts listed on Spences website are:
James J. Spence, Jr., Jeremy Kraft, Jodi Birkholm, Larry Studebaker,
Kip Ingle, Tom Kramer (specialist in vintage entertainment),
Frank Kukla, John Reznikoff, Roger Epperson and Scott Stimel.
- This was the straw that broke
the camels back. Mr. Mueller, tired of being suspended
for selling genuine autographs advised eBay that he will no longer
be an eBay seller and is going to compete against eBay with his
own weekly auctions. Mr. Mueller will take the good old fashioned
approach of offering a 100% Guarantee of Authenticity FOREVER
and backed by his lifetime guarantee.
A major player in the autograph industry told a representative
how much he liked using third party authenticators. The seller
stated: I dont have to know a thing about autographs,
an authenticator says its real and I can sell it with no
reflection on my name. This is one of the reasons
why so much bad material is being sold as genuine at auction.
For example, Huggins and Scott Auctions had in their February
21, 2007 auction what they called an incredible single
signed Christy Mathewson baseball. The baseball was authenticated
as genuine by James J. Spence, Jr. Three major, well
known names in the sports authenticating business determined
the signature on the ball was not genuine. Two of the three stated
the signature was a forgery. The third professional authenticator
called the signature on that ball a joke!
Bill Huggins, president of Huggins and Scott was notified 9 days
before the end of the auction that three authenticators determined
the signature of Christy Mathewson on the ball was spurious.
Initially, Mr. Huggins did not respond to the initial email however
he did respond to the second request. In part, Mr. Huggins stated
in his response: ...we are making no changes in our plans
to offer the ball.....have a nice life.
Conversations with some of the movers and shakers in the
autograph industry are becoming most interesting. Some believe
the time has come to start listing sellers of autographs, auction
houses, card shops that support third party authenticators. A
nationwide boycott of these establishments could curb the flow
of non-authentic material with COAs from flooding the market.
This could be a new beginning, www.autographalert.com may consider
publishing a list of the card shops, dealers and auctions who
use third party authenticators.
It is also interesting that a barber who gives an eight dollar
haircut needs a license to cut hair yet anyone can sell a $50,000
autograph and have no credentials. They can even state in their
terms no refunds for any reason! Has the time come
to start to discuss having this industry regulated from the outside?
Its already been proven it cant be done from within.
From the discussions that have been held thus far, it appears
the only persons who would reject an outside force regulating
the industry are the persons who have bad intentions.
- PSA/DNA, Just Another
One They Couldnt Get Right!
- Debilitated by Stroke,On
Deathbed, Bronko Nagurski Rises
- and Signs Football
Cards, Expert Certifies
- Most collectors we talk to believe
PSA/DNA should basically get out of the field of authenticating
autographs. A handful think maybe they should just stick to giving
an opinion on sports celebrity autographs..
Most collectors and dealers are not aware of the multitude of
mistakes that have been made by PSA/DNA authenticating sports
autographs. All of the mistakes are serious but some were on
very expensive items. Unfortunately, the market and collections
are becoming flooded with bad autographs that come with COAs
from third party authenticators.
This is one of the reasons for the lack of new blood in our hobby.
Many a new collector found out their item was not genuine that
came with a high profile COA. They usually find this out because
they want to upgrade their item and when they go to sell they
find out the item is not genuine. In some cases the dealer saying
it is not genuine finds out the item was purchased from them
several years ago. These situations are not isolated incidents.
End result, the collector wants out of the hobby.
A recent embarrassing incident is what was described on eBay
as Bronko Nagurski-Rare Signed-1988 Swell Chicago Bears
signed card authenticated as genuine by PSA/DNA. The item was
being offered on eBay, item #180092222011.
The seller was contacted by Brian Nagurski of Nagurski Enterprises.
He is Broncos grandson. He informed the seller that the
signature was a FAKE, as his grandfather was bedridden
with a stroke and unable to sign such a legible signature during
1988 and beyond.
Nagurski died shortly after these cards were printed.
The seller ended his listing early!
Collectors, dealers and auction houses need to be aware that
PSA/DNA held this original card in their hand. They had all the
time in the world to examine and research this card. If they
cant do that right, how is it that they can be one of the
authenticators for eBay and have legitimate dealers
items (who have so much more experience than most of the PSA/DNA
opinionators put together) removed from eBay? They can do this
by simply looking at a scan of what the legitimate dealer offers
- Forged Bronko Nagurski
We attempted to contact Michael Haynes, CEO of PSA/DNA by email
regarding the authentication of the Nagurski card. He did not
It wont be long before we see some hobby changes. Ebay
has just lost it largest seller of autographs mostly over authenticating
issues. In every case the eBay authenticator was proven wrong!
Some dealers are working on new software, one actually has it.
Its just a matter of time collectors and sellers of autographs
will have a viable alternative to eBay. You will be able to list
your autographs on a competitive site from your home. At last,
finally some good news for the hobby!
- Positive News For The Autograph Hobby!
Tired of all the problems
with eBay and their authenticators/opinionators? It was just
a matter of time before someone responsible would grab the bull
by the horns and start an alternative to eBay.
Manions International Auction House, established in 1970
has done just that on a limited basis. They are an auction company,
the nations oldest militaria auction house. Collectors, dealers
and those who occasionally sell autographs can sell their military
items on Manions new List It Yourself auction.
The site can be found at www.manions.com
For additional information you can call 866-626-4661.
You take the photo-you write the description and you make the
sale. NO BUYERS FEE!
Only a 3% seller commission.
Manions is committed to Freedom of Collecting
and therefore you will be able to list all your military signed
items including WWII German signatures.
A breakthrough for the autograph hobby and we believe only the
Not Singing a Pretty Tune!
Www.autographalert.com has by no means singled out R&R
Auctions. Its just that there are so many mistakes being
made by this UACC Registered Dealer #43 auction house, we can
actually set up a separate website just to cover some of the
presently has a folder of additional horror stories regarding
many of the sales of this auction house. These stories need to
be published. However, we are trying to mix it up a bit. It was
time to get away from reporting many of their mistakes in the
presidential, political and entertainment field.
This story focuses on their music
section. This would be a very funny story if it isnt for
the fact that collectors are spending their hard earned money
bidding on items based on incompetent catalog descriptions. Who
is the expert that wants to take the credit for the
examination and cataloging of these items? R & R Auctions
certainly has enough of what they call experts to
have their own drum and bugle corps.
This educational article is written with the understanding that
many of you may not be able to read music. Take a quick look
at the musical notes in the four illustrations below. Not being
an expert, it should still be obvious the handwritten notes are
basically all the same. Do we agree so far?
The first illustration (right)
is from R&R Auction held March 2000, item #615. Catalog description
states ..Williams pens and signs the classic first five
notes of Close Encounters..... By the way for
some reason no mention of a R&R COA.
The second illustration (left)
is from R&R Auction held December 2000, item # 651. R&R
seems to be somewhat consistent and describes this item as ...the
very familiar five notes from Close Encounters Of The Third
Kind.... No R&R COA with this item either.
move right along with illustration #3 (right). R&Rs
experts now have five more years of experience since illustrations
#1 and #2. R&R Auction held February 2005, item #1087 lists
the same bars of music. Now, the experts are R&R
cant identify the bars of music. The description reads
in part: 8x5 off-white card, Williams pens two bars from
an unidentified work . . . This item, which they cant
identify is guaranteed genuine. In addition, this lot comes with
an R&R COA. Brilliant!
We saved the best for last and
that is illustration #4 (below). R&R Auction May 2005, item
# 1341. The catalog proudly and boldly headlines these same bars
of music: JOHN WILLIAMS STAR WARS AMQS. The catalog
description continues: ....Williams pens the first two
bars to the Star Wars theme.... Oh yes, this
gem (mis-identified) is guaranteed genuine, complete with the
By the way, if you look closely
at all the R&R illustrations, you may find one to appear
quite different from the others, even the musical notes dont
match well, not to mention the signature!
R&R lists their music expert as Roger Epperson.
R&Rs website states in part: ...Roger has devoted
the last several years exclusively to music. The result of that
focus has established Roger as the trusted authenticator for
all genres of contemporary music... Roger Epperson is also
the same music expert for PSA/DNA....oops we just checked and
his name and biography have been removed from the PSADNA website.
One has to ask them how could a music expert let
this happen? One reason could be because the music expert
is not seeing the items? Or, could it be because the music expert
is not an expert? Then why list a music expert in
your catalog? Maybe its thought that a page full of persons
listed as experts in an auction catalog will impress
a potential bidder. We are sure, all of you are very impressed
after reading this article.
By now, many of you, including R&R, have no clue where the
above bars of music originate. For the record, they are from
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
UACCs Latest Scandal? Deceit?
Is the UACC in the midst of sweeping yet another major embarrassment
under the rug? Most of the autograph community still hasnt
gotten over Hechtgate! Why does this club continue
to do things surreptitiously hoping that certain actions will
go un-noticed by the current membership.
What is the status of the original UACC bad boy Herman
Darvick? Darvick was President of the UACC from 1968-1987. Darvick
was expelled from the UACC. His name was listed in the UACC Hall
of Shame for many years.
Recently, Darvick joined other UACC members John Reznikoff of
University Archives and Bob Eaton of R&R Enterprises as a
Consultant Authenticator with PSA/DNA. Since then, mysteriously,
Herman Darvicks name and information about his expulsion
have been removed from the UACC website. Is this action an oversight
by not notifying the UACC membership or is it just plain deceit?
Did the UACC President and Board of Directors think no one would
Former members of the UACC have brought so much to our attention
lately it is understandable why so many collectors and dealers
have not renewed their membership. For instance in the clubs
bi-monthly booklet The Pen & Quill, there is a story "If
It Looks Too Good To Be True... The article describes a
secretarial inscribed and signed photo of Richard Burton that
was sold by what they state as a well known autograph auction.
The Burtons, is a secretarial inscribed and signed photo
being offered as genuine. The story continues: Here we
go again... However, the story will not tell you that the
secretarial inscribed and signed photograph was sold in April
2006, item #1090 in Catalog 308 of R&R Auction. Final hammer
price was $285.60 including the 19% buyers premium. R&R
is UACC Registered Dealer #43. A look at R&Rs website
indicates that several other photos with similar secretarial
inscriptions have also been sold during the past few years.
In the above mentioned article in The Pen & Quill why isnt
the auction selling the Burton item named? For as many years
as one can remember the club always warns collectors to be cautious
when purchasing autographs. How many times have we read: Collectors
should look for the UACC Registered Dealer logo when purchasing
autographic material? Many are saying Enough with
the brainwashing! Once again, the club hides the pertinent
facts from the membership!
Published in the same issue, on page five, is a full page article
on The UACC Approved Appraiser
& Authenticator Program. There are six individuals
names and biographical sketches of those who apparently want
to be part of this program. The third name, Harold W. (Skip)
Hensel, a member of the UACC for over 25 years who states having
over 50 reference works on autograph collecting, and author of
almost a dozen articles on autograph collecting. Ironically,
Mr. Hensel writes an article in the same issue "Death Of
A President". The first illustration in the article is The
20th Presidents signature on an Executive Mansion card.
Just about anyone who collects the signatures of Presidents
of the United States can instantly identify that the signature
of James A. Garfield on that card is a stamped signature. How
can a person who cannot tell the difference between ink from
a pen verses a stamped signature want to be a club authenticator?
This same card is referenced in several autograph related books
and articles that apparently Mr. Hensel has not read.
- Who proof reads these articles
before they are approved to be printed in this clubs booklet?
Someone needs to take responsibility!
Back to page five, it states does anyone know a reason why one
of these candidates should not be approved...(as an authenticator).....
Following The Authenticators!
The feedback we are getting from some of our readers is unbelievable
and very much appreciated.. Just a few comments received within
the last week are: I read www.autographalert.com
all the time looking for new news..it is now my favorite site...
and ...keep up the awesome work... and ...it
is really great to know that there are those that look after
the collector.......I have seen... (another autograph website)
who has stooped as low as anyone Ive ever seen...I am appalled
that someone wrote this sort of gibberish.....I think you ought
to crush the guy doing that flimsy website like a roach....
Our response to the last comment is that guy has been exposed
and the autograph community has been educated on how these types
operate. Instead of cleaning up his act, he felt the need to
attempt to fight back, create a website and create articles.
Its like a little battle that children have, when one starts
to loose they begin scratching and kicking. The educated collector
and dealer sees all through this!
The last comment this week was: ...if PSA/DNA, JSA make
20 mistakes out of 100 wouldnt it be worth while to go
after those who make 90 mistakes out of 100? Dont you think
by not mentioning the other handful of authenticators that they
gain strength...when it shows that no bad word has been said
The last writer is partially right however since the high profile,
full page advertising self promoting authenticators
are the ones most people are familiar with, these are the
ones making the news.
The name that comes to light from time to time is Christopher
Morales. He name was basically unknown to the field of autographs
until he decided to advertise himself as an authenticator.We
did a little digging and found out that he was once a partner
with Donald Frangiapani. Enough said! Christopher Morales was
part of the HBOs Real Sports episode in January 2006 by
Bryant Gumbel. Morales was handed several autographed items to
authenticate. Every item handed to Morales was a forgery. He
passed all of them as Genuine!
How could this happen? Morales claims to be a forensic examiner
and a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and
the International Association of Identification. However he is
not a member of any club that is autograph related. We are not
aware of anyone who is aware of any autograph background that
Morales may have.
Many of the examples of Moraless work have come to us through
an auction house who advertises regularly in Sports Collectors
Digest. In a recent auction in this magazine there are at
least 15 items that come with a Morales Certificate of Authenticity.
Sports Collectors Digest has been told on many occasions
that this auction house sells quite a bit of bad material yet
the sports weekly continues to run the ads. In the same sports
weekly, the June 3, 2005 issue they were interviewing Morales
and one of the questions was: An owner of an auction house
asked that I ask you why the items you authenticate almost never
pass... (another authenticating company).
The bottom line is that the term forensic document examiner
is supposed to impress the uneducated. It no longer does! Autographalert.com
has a huge file of items passed as authentic by this authenticator.
Of all the items in the file, it would be a huge challenge to
find something that was passed as genuine, truly is! If the term
forensic document examiner has any meaning at all
how could a so called expert pass printed signatures as genuine
on September 12, 2004? Wouldnt one think a forensic examiner
be able to tell the difference between printed signatures and
genuine ink? We have the files, we have his Certificate numbers
and it is unbelievable what we turned up.
One major dealer recently emailed us and stated: I looked
at over 150 items tonight authenticated by Chris Morales. All
For our readers enjoyment and entertainment we have illustrated
just a handful of items presently being advertised for sale,
all authenticated as genuine by Christopher Morales.
The most novice collector with little training can plainly see
all the items illustrated are out right forgeries. Possibly all
by the same hand!
The sad thing is that magazines like Sports Collectors Digest
with the full knowledge of what is really going on continues
to run ads with forged items being sold as genuine. They are
doing nothing less than helping to promote the forgers thus allowing
the autograph hobby to be infiltrated with bogus items. A very
sad state of affairs!
It is the opinion of www.autographalert.com
that any autograph that comes with a Certificate of Authenticity
from Christopher Morales needs to be re-examined by an autograph
authenticator who has a documented autograph back ground. Your
second choice is try to consign your piece to a legitimate autograph
auction and see if they even consider taking your item!
R&R Enterprises Autograph
- Signatures and Science?
You Be The Judge!
By Stephen Koschal
- It seems just after an article
was published in a recent R&R Auction Catalog about a seller
of autographs purchasing the most advanced forensic device
available many collectors are now curious about this latest
hype. Several collectors and dealers have asked me to do a little
undercover work about this machine. All appeared to be surprised
to hear I actually had personal knowledge and experience using
this machine several years ago.
According to the R&R article it states that this seller of
autographs is the only autograph dealer in the world to
own the machine. However, they do fail to tell you that
this machine has been used in this hobby since 1999 by one authenticating
company. This is the machine I had the opportunity to witness
being used and to make a long story short, I was not at all impressed.
Matter of fact, I dont know what the purpose of using that
machine had to do with authenticating the autograph. The machine
does not authenticate.
However, since I had limited experience with this machine, before
writing this article, I decided to take it a step further and
contact someone I knew who was once trained on the use of this
This machine was invented possibly as long as 20 years ago, and
has not made it into the autograph market because it serves little
purpose for those who want to be authenticators. This machine
was invented for the specific purpose for law enforcement to
analyze counterfeit money or to see if passports have been altered.
This machine is basically nothing else than a metal box which
contains a series of lights (including a black light) and is
capable of looking at a document at different angles under different
According to an autograph expert recognized by many in the autograph
industry, after being taught how to use the machine years ago,
he told the company that was interested in purchasing the machine,
it was a waste of money. It was his opinion that a total investment
of $25 for a black light, which can be purchased at any coin
show and a jewelers loop would do basically the same job.
Now for my opinion, I have to agree that a black light and jewelers
loop gives me basically everything that machine can do. Its
still up to the individual examiner to look at a questioned signature
and continue their homework utilizing reference books and many
known exemplars of genuine signatures to determine if the signature
is genuine. The machine does not determine whether an autograph
is genuine or not.
One has to assume if someone is willing to put down $30,000 for
a machine that basically does the same as my $25 investment,
you are going to read such spins as it is a dawn of a new
day of forgery detection in our field. A further statement
that the operator of the machine is able to break down
various components of ink by their spectral ranges is nonsense.
The machine doesnt do this, it doesnt break down
various components of ink, its not a laboratory, it just
allows the operator to view the autograph under different powers
of magnification. The same thing anyone else can do with different
powers of magnifying glasses. If detecting restoration is important
to any collector or dealer I suggest you go out and purchase
a $20 black light which will expose restorations and hidden markings.
One very knowledgeable professional autograph dealer who dubbed
this machine as the lollapalooza reading in between
the lines of the R&R article stated: I suspect is just
more pseudo-science...I can tell you one thing for certain and
that is this industry does not need another authentication scam!
A Special Educational Alert!
Most collectors will admit that
today, very few professional autograph dealers issue a catalog.
More and more transactions in the autograph hobby are done thru
auctions. Most autographists who have a problem with an auction
house will admit that they failed to read the Terms of
Sale before bidding and were just concerned what is buyers
premium before placing their bid. It is appropriate to
start looking at auctions and their business practices in detail
on behalf of hobbyists.
The following information was passed to www.autographalert.com
by a concerned person in the autograph community. Our reaction
to the information was, someone is playing a joke on us and this
could not possibly be true. However, www.autographalert.com
followed up on the lead and want to pass on this valuable information.
We were able to obtain a copy of the latest R&R Auction catalog.
We quote directly from the page which lists the rules for consignors.
However it is most important that every potential bidder needs
to read this paragraph!
Consignors: Consignors are not allowed to bid on or withdraw
their own lots.
We will contact all consignors with their tentative final results
the day after the auction ends.
R&R may consign items to be sold in auction, and may bid
on those lots or any other lots.
Where non-published reserves exist, R&R may make bids in
response to others. R&R may extend advances to certain consignors
The above statement is printed
under the section for Consignors and not in a place where bidders
would normally read. Basically the way we read it is, you as
a consignor cannot bid on your own material but R&R can bid
on the items they own and placed in the auction or any other
items they choose to. Lets not forget which ever items
R&R chooses to bid or keep bidding on, a whopping 19.5% buyers
premium is added to the final price of the lucky winner.
R&R advertises that it will be in many US cities on buying
trips therefore many collectors believe that a good percentage
of material in each auction is owned by R&R. The question
many in the collecting community did ask is : why if they
own the material, do they still add the19.5% buyers premium?
This is extremely troublesome to many, especially after the auction
house advises everyone they can raise the bids on their own items!
would like to hear our readers reactions to this story. This
would be this websites first poll. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell us if you approve or disapprove of any auction house
placing their own items in their auction and then being able
to bid on and continue to raise the bids on their own items?
The Universal Autograph
- PSA Receives Better
- Poorest Rating
PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator, a division of Collectors
Universe (NASDAQ: CLCT) who advertises to be a autograph authenticating
company and card grader has received the lowest possible rating
by the Better Business Bureau of Southern California. The BBB
rates companies with eleven different ratings. The highest rating
is AAA and the lowest is F. The Better
Business Bureau has given PSA a rating of F.
The BBB website www.labbb.org
states what each rating represents. The F rating
means: We strongly question the companys reliability
for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints,
their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance
with the laws licensing or registration requirements, their
complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the companys
industry is known for its fraudulent business practices.
At a later date if PSA were to receive the next to last rating,
a D the BBB recommends concerns about this
company that we recommend caution doing business with it.
The following is a summary of its reasons on the Better Business
Bureaus website for giving PSA the worst possible rating
Some complainants allege the company fails to return items sent
in for authentication, and in some cases deny ever receiving
the item. Other customers complain that the company fails to
provide services as agreed, returning items without explanation
as to why they are determined not to be authentic. Some complainants
allege items sent are lost, misplaced, or that the company replaces
the high quality items sent in, , with lesser valued items before
returning to the customer. A few customers complain the company
misrepresented the value of the cards they purchased, and found
after spending considerable amounts of money, a second opinion
determined the item as worthless. Most customers report they
experience difficulty contacting the company to resolve problems,
claiming calls are not returned, and voice-mail or e-mail messages
are not answered.
The company responds to some complaints by offering explanations,
or by directing complainants to review their policies which are
posted on the website. In cases where items are missing or lost,
the company asks for proof of delivery, registered tracking numbers,
copies of submission forms, check numbers used, dates checks
were posted, and any other documentation that might be associated
to the transaction, advising the complainant the information
will be taken under review, and resolution will depend on the
information provided. The company addresses some complaints regarding
purchased items by advising the complainant they do not engage
in the sale of sports memorabilia, and they must have confused
them with another company. The company disputes most allegations,
and refunds or credits are usually not issued.
- According to PSAs
website, the following persons are associated with this division:
|Joe Orlando, President
Steve Grad, Lead Authenticator
Herman Darvick, Consultant Authenticator
John Reznikoff, Consultant Authenticator
Bob Eaton, Consultant Authenticator
Roger Epperson, Consultant Authenticator
Marshall Fogel, Consultant Authenticator
Mike Gutierrez, Consultant Authenticator
T.J. Kaye, Consultant Authenticator,
Kevin Lowe, Authenticator
Vince Malta, Authenticator
Zach Rullo, Authenticator
Lenny Steren, Consultant Authenticator
John Taube, Consultant Authenticator
Henry Yee, Consultant Authenticator
A Shadow Of Its
Where have all the members gone? Where are all the shows? Whats
happened to the club magazine? Why doesnt the Ethics Committee
respond and act on all the complaints sent to the club? For years,
why havent club members been able to attend their own club
Board meeting? Why doesnt the club work with everyone in
the autograph community both domestically and internationally?
Why doesnt the club inform its members about all the educational
material available to them? There are many more questions like
this that members of the autograph community would like to ask
the Board of Directors of the Universal Autograph Collectors
Club. As a matter of fact, when an attempt was made to ask some
of the Board questions or to have open talks, the response was
that will never happen.
It certainly appears the autograph community has reacted to the
way the Board of Directors has been running the club. The membership
has dwindled significantly!
Where are the shows? What happened to the yearly shows held in
New York, Chicago, Los Angeles,
Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, and Washington, DC? Basically the club
is running one show a year and at this show the Board of Directors
travel to the event and their expenses, hotel, and food are paid
by club dues.
What has happened to the club magazine? Its half filled
with the same old dealer ads. Wheres the beef in these
club magazines? Its no secret that long ago, a major dealer
pulled his award money for the best article of the year because
of the lack of good articles.
Why havent club members been able to attend their clubs
Board Meeting? Michael Hecht should be able to answer that question.
He spent a good portion of one Board Meeting in the hallway trying
to explain that to club members. Some members traveled great
distances to attend the meeting. They were all turned away.
Why doesnt the UACC work with all the autograph organizations
both domestically and internationally? Refusal to work with others
have made many collectors and dealers furious. Major autograph
events were held throughout the United States. New York, Chicago,
Los Angeles, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale had shows where major professional
autograph dealers exhibited. Each show held autograph courses
which were offered free to all those attending . Each person
who took the course received a Certificate of Completion signed
by the autograph expert who taught the course. Fifteen different
autograph courses were available throughout the United States
and not one was mentioned by the UACC to their membership. It
almost every case, the instructor of the course was a member
of the UACC. Major celebrities were also in attendance at many
of the shows. Press releases for these events were sent to the
UACC President and Vice President months in advance of the show.
It was the good intention of the show promoters that the shows
be listed in the Pen & Quill. In some cases the envelopes
containing the press releases were marked Refused, Return
to Sender. Many of the dealers exhibiting at these shows
were members of the UACC and were quite upset with the club.
Unfortunately, because of the clubs actions, many autograph collectors
were not informed about major show activities being held in their
It wasnt long ago at an autograph event in the UK where
a founder of a major British autograph club and a founder of
a major U.S. autograph club attempted to approach two Board members
of the U.A.C.C. The British autograph ambassador asked both U.A.C.C.
Directors if talks can be arranged for all the clubs to work
together. One of the U.A.C.C. Directors responded talks
will never happen. This is major news yet you wont
read this in the Pen & Quill.
Why doesnt the UACC advise its membership of all the new
autograph reference material available in the market? A new reference
book was written on presidential autographs. The book received
rave reviews in Manuscripts, the journal of The Manuscript Society.
The book is so popular (by word of mouth) that it is in its second
printing. No mention of the book in the Pen & Quill however
the current president of the club ordered a copy for himself.
Why is the UACC membership kept in the dark?
This autograph collectors club is long overdue for a major overhaul.
The Board of Directors have long been aware of what changes need
to be made in order to rebuild their membership.
Asking the club to hold elections where the votes are counted
by an outside firm is like asking Board Members to have a tooth
pulled. Basically, the same old dead wood runs the club.
Michael Hecht, the current president of the UACC ran on a platform
of building membership. That platform has collapsed! United States
membership has hit bottom.
For instance, if you go to the May/June 2006 club journal, top
of page 62, it states (UACC) has over 2,000 members in
the United States and Canada.... This information is incorrect.
Those numbers reflect membership over a decade ago when the club
was somewhat healthy and supported by many leaders in the autograph
field. In the same issue, page 43, there is a more accurate listing
of the clubs membership. Nine hundred and fifty in the
United States and a total membership of 1365. What happened to
over 700 members? The industry has grown so much during the last
decade yet the club has lost over one-third of its membership!
It certainly appears many seasoned collectors and dealers have
given up with the UACC. With some of those we spoke to, many
feel the club needs to be more truthful with its membership.
Autograph Collector magazine published an interview with Michael
Hecht, UACC President in the January 2006 issue. In this interview,
Hecht stated the club was using an oversight committee to handle
any and all complaints. This led to a question: Does this
mean there are problems with the Registered Dealer program?
Hecht responded: Not at all. This is a mechanism to handle
problems if they arise. So far under my term we had no serious
complaints against any Registered Dealer.
Just four months later, the club magazine mentioned that Hecht
stated in his Presidential Message: I wish to end by thanking
the UACC entire Board of Directors which has tackled the difficult
task of cleaning up the UACC Registered Dealer Program.
It gets worse. Each dealer who submits an application for membership
is supposedly vetted.
Their backgrounds are supposed to be completely checked out before
being issued a Registered Dealer number. This gives collectors
the impression that they can purchase their autographs from Registered
Dealer members and feel secure with their purchase. A check with
the dealer program during Michael Hechts presidency indicates
an applicant was vetted by the UACC and given dealer number RD267.
Not long afterwards it was posted on the dealer program that
RD267 was Removed By Registered Dealer Review Committee.
Since Mr. Hecht stated in his interview that there were no serious
complaints against any Registered Dealer, does that mean he wants
everyone to believe this dealer was removed from their membership
because the complaint was not serious.
Our last check of the dealer
program indicates the last dealer admitted to the program was
given number RD290. Impressive or mis-leading? If one goes back
to the beginning of the numbers and starts counting you will
find that one hundred ten dealers are no longer in the program.
Their names have been removed.
Where did all these vetted and approved dealers go? Shocking
is that of the 110, three are Registered Dealer Lifetime members!
Did they all quit? Were these once vetted professionals removed
from the program?
During the same interview, Mr. Hecht stated: having an
ethics board is our biggest advantage. www.autographalert.com
has on file copies of several complaints sent to the UACC Ethics
Committee. Two of the complaints were quite serious with detailed
information and were against members of the Board of Directors.
These complaints were not acted upon. Multiple requests were
made to the UACC to at least respond to receiving the complaints.
When Mr. Hecht refers to no serious complaints he
must be referring to complaints that the Ethics Committee decided
to accept, certainly not to all the complaints received.
Reading in between the lines, one also has to notice all the
professional autograph dealers who are active yet not members
of the UACC. Some of the non members are the leading dealers
in the field of autographs. It is a remarkable number. That alone
makes a statement.
The above simply scratches the surface of the problems within
the club. A good start for this club would be to take the advice
of one of their old board members who found a local accountant
who agreed to receive the clubs election ballots. In the
end, voting results would be given to the club for a nominal
fee. At one time a local accountant was willing to do this for
the club for $75. The idea was vigorously shot down by one on
This information was given to the entire board by one of their
Directors. However in a private conversation with the president
of the club, the president stated: I just cant turn
this club over to anyone! The director responded: Now
I know why the club counts its own votes.
The club continues struggling with its old ways. During the last
election, a very popular autograph collector was running for
Vice-President of the UACC. Many felt he had a good chance to
be elected. The election committee accepted his nomination and
the committee asked him to write a few hundred words to be printed
in the Pen & Quill on why he felt he should be elected. When
his letter of what he felt were his good intentions for the future
of the UACC was received by the UACC, the Board of Directors
(Michael Hecht was on the Board) decided to throw the collector
out of the club and told him he had no chance to appeal. The
appeal is afforded to all members by the UACC Constitution, but
not in this case. It appears the appeal is offered only when
it is convenient for the UACC Ethics Committee. If given the
appeal, the collector would still have had been a member in good
standing through election time. Many felt he had a good chance
of being elected the vice-president. Those with the power on
the Board of Directors had to have him out of the club before
elections. His name was placed on the honored list
in the clubs Hall of Shame. This election incident is known
in the autograph trade as Hechtgate.
Whats happening to the UACC? Within the club, it seems
like the same old thing of presenting awards to most of the club
officers or those who are directors. It wouldnt surprise
anyone if the club announced that club dues may have to be increased.
Someone has to pay for all the awards. However, it appears the
autograph community continues to respond to how to the UACC is
being run. Hundreds of collectors and dealers are not joining
this club or renewing their membership!