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In the News, January- June, 2007
Breaking News:
June 26, 2007
 
 
James Spence Goes Beyond The Point of No Return!

We don’t 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 Sotheby’s 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 hand.

Lot 171
ONLY KNOWN GEORGE DIXON AUTOGRAPH, THE FIRST BLACK BOXING WORLD CHAMPION
5,000 - 7,000 USD.
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer’s 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 Dixon’s signature in pencil (10/10). Just beneath the signature the original owner of the autograph page has written “1870 (the year of Dixon’s birth) World’s 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 JSA.

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. Dixon’s autograph....how exactly does one go about authenticating it?

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 comparison’s 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 comparison’s 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 Dixon’s 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, Spence’s comments about the signature are classic. “It’s 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 suggestive.”

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. It’s all about money and selling another Certificate of Authenticity.

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 process!

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 didn’t 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 our request!

The story above was written by a reader of www.autographalert.com. The author chooses to remain anonymous.

 
Breaking News:
June 15, 2007
 
John Reznikoff of University Archives, Red Faced again, and again, and again and...

What’s 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 Archive?

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 reached are:

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 conclusion.
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. Shouldn’t he be the first to figure out that a letter dated 1961 can’t 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 son’s signature for his father in a Heritage Auction and certifying is as the father’s signature.

Having two separate chances to authenticate a Ronald Reagan handwritten presidential “Oath of Office” and getting it wrong both times.

Authenticating signatures on items where a signature does not exist.


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, can’t 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.

Reznikoff’s 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 Pope’s 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 can’t help educate him. A very sad state of affairs!

 
Breaking News:
June 12, 2007
 
John Reznikoff Authenticates
an Autopen Signature “As Genuine”
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 owner.

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 by PSA/DNA.

Mr. Reznikoff is one of the autograph authenticators for PSA/DNA and is also a UACC approved member of their Appraiser and Authenticator program.

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 People’s 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 Nixon’s 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 Nixon’s presidency. It’s certainly obvious, some who claim to authenticate, do not have a sufficient amount of reference material. It’s 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.
 
 

Breaking News:
June 4, 2007
 
Civil War Autographs Recovered
      ~Theft 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 Department’s announcement of President Lincoln’s death. Law enforcement raided McTague’s 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 recovered.

McTague ebay records indicate he had 364 transactions with 100% feedback!

He is free on $25,000 bail and may face up to 18 months in jail when sentenced on July 12, 2007.
 
 
Breaking News:
May 15, 2007
 
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 don’t read the club’s 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 scene’s of this organization. The club’s board of directors are constantly making changes to the club’s 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.
Breaking News:
May 15, 2007
 
 
Winston Churchill Rubber Stamp Signature Discovered

A rubber stamp of Winston Churchill’s 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 Churchill’s signature produced from the stamp:
 
 

Collectors/autograph dealers who may have items that were signed using this stamp are requested to email
autographalert@aol.com and advise 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.
 

Breaking News:
April 14, 2007
 
 
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 www.autographalert.com that 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 envelopes.

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 1998.........$5,500.00 (right)

The other envelope on University Archive’s 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 condition.....$4,500.00 (left)

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 Society’s 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 Society’s 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.

Breaking News:
April 4, 2007
 

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 Hamilton’s books he discusses what he believe’s 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 Schweitzer’s 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 Schweitzer’s 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 extraordinary event.

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 club’s website www.Ada1986.de - “Nachlese zur Ada Veranstaltung...”

I can’t 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 Potsdam.

I hope to see some of you there.


Breaking News:
March 26, 2007

COLLECTING ENVIRONMENTALISTS

                                                                                        by El Fraley, The History Buff, Inc.

INTRODUCTION

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 president.

This 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 environmentalist.

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 malaria.

Marjory 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.


Breaking News:
March 24, 2007
 
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 can’t 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&R’s 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 Ford’s 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 Ford’s 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?

Don’t 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 rare.

Lastly, when it comes to COA’s 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.

 
Breaking News:
March 15, 2007
 
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 COA’s out of the market place.

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 eBay’s 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 wouldn’t 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 Spence’s 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 camel’s 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 of www.autographalert.com how much he liked using third party authenticators. The seller stated: “I don’t have to know a thing about autographs, an authenticator says it’s real and I can sell it with no reflection on my name.” This is one of the reason’s 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 mover’s 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 COA’s 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? It’s already been proven it can’t 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 person’s who have bad intentions.

Breaking News:
March 15, 2007
 
PSA/DNA, Just Another One They Couldn’t 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 COA’s 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 Bronco’s 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 can’t 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 on eBay.
 
Forged Bronko Nagurski Signature

We attempted to contact Michael Haynes, CEO of PSA/DNA by email regarding the authentication of the Nagurski card. He did not respond!

It won’t 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. It’s 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!

Breaking News:
March 12, 2007
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.

Manion’s 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 Manion’s 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.

Manion’s 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 beginning!
 
Breaking News:
March 3, 2007
 

R & R Enterprises Autograph Auctions
Not Singing a Pretty Tune!

Www.autographalert.com has by no means singled out R&R Auctions. It’s 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 errors. Www.autographalert.com 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 isn’t 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.

We move right along with illustration #3 (right). R&R’s 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 can’t 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 can’t 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 R&R COA.

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 don’t match well, not to mention the signature!

R&R lists their music “expert” as Roger Epperson. R&R’s 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. Interesting!

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 it’s 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”.


Breaking News:
February 17, 2007

UACC’s Latest Scandal? Deceit? & Incompetence?

Is the UACC in the midst of sweeping yet another major embarrassment under the rug? Most of the autograph community still hasn’t 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 Darvick’s 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 notice?

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 club’s 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 Burton’s, 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% buyer’s premium. R&R is UACC Registered Dealer #43. A look at R&R’s 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 isn’t 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 President’s signature on an Executive Mansion card.” Just about anyone who collects the signatures of President’s 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 club’s 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)..... Oh Please!



Breaking News:
February 16, 2007
 

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 I’ve 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. It’s 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 wouldn’t it be worth while to go after those who make 90 mistakes out of 100? Don’t you think by not mentioning the other handful of authenticators that they gain strength...when it shows that no bad word has been said about them....?”

The last writer is partially right however since the high profile, full page advertising self promoting “authenticators” are the one’s most people are familiar with, these are the one’s 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 HBO’s 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 Morales’s 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? Wouldn’t 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 were fakes.”

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!


Breaking News:
February 2, 2007
 
 
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 don’t 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 machine.

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 magnifications.

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. It’s 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 doesn’t do this, it doesn’t break down various components of ink, it’s 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!”
 

Breaking News:
January 20, 2007
 

R&R Enterprises Autograph Auctions
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 “buyer’s 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 upon request.

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. Let’s not forget which ever items R&R chooses to bid or keep bidding on, a whopping 19.5% buyer’s 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!

Www.autographalert.com would like to hear our readers reactions to this story. This would be this website’s first poll. Email us at autographalert@aol.com 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?


Breaking News:
January 18, 2007
 
PSA Receives Better Business Bureau's
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 company’s 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 law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s 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 Bureau’s website for giving PSA the worst possible rating an “F”.

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 PSA’s 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


Breaking News:
January 7, 2007
 
 

The Universal Autograph Collectors Club
A Shadow Of It’s Former Self


Where have all the members gone? Where are all the shows? What’s happened to the club magazine? Why doesn’t the Ethics Committee respond and act on all the complaints sent to the club? For years, why haven’t club members been able to attend their own club Board meeting? Why doesn’t the club work with everyone in the autograph community both domestically and internationally? Why doesn’t 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? It’s half filled with the same old dealer ads. Where’s the beef in these club magazines? It’s 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 haven’t club members been able to attend their club’s 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 doesn’t 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 state.

It wasn’t 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 won’t read this in the Pen & Quill.

Why doesn’t 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 club’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 club’s 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 the Board.

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 can’t 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 club’s Hall of Shame. This election incident is known in the autograph trade as “Hechtgate.”

What’s 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 wouldn’t 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!


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