The Autograph Blog - This and That About Autographs

Thursday, June 01, 2006

PSA Authenticating the Wrong Person's Autograph

This item is being sold on ebay as of 5/23/06, Item #6589943097. It is a letter signed by German Fuhrer Karl Donitz. (Donitz replaced Hitler). He was the Fuhrer who surrendered to the allies for Germany and ended the European theatre of WWII. This letter is clearly identified in the PSA COA as being signed by Admiral Nimitz (US Navy Admiral during WWII, he served in the Pacific). The PSA COA is signed for PSA by James Spence and Steve Grad. It is dated April 24,2003. The item being sold (obviously a copy of the original historical document, collectors will create these types of items) was signed and dated by Donitz in 1976. Admiral Nimitz died in 1966. They totally misidentified the signature and ID'd it as a man who had been dead for 10 years. The question is did James Spence or Steve Grad do even the least bit of research on this signature and document? Apparently not. Authenticators can disagree on the validity of an autograph. This particular item is not a disagreement on the validity of an autograph. This is a sample of the work PSA has done. The local Better Business Bureau has given the company a D rating. That is the second lowest rating possible from the BBB. PSA has authenticated facsimiles as authentic, has authenticated rubber stamps as authentic, has authenticated autopens as authentic and has misidentified autographs by not even naming the signature correctly.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Real Sports Show on HBO about autographs

Real Sports, an HBO series, did the autograph hobby a service in a show which was first aired on Tuesday Jan 17. It has been aired again, and is scheduled to be aired several more times on an HBO channel over the next few days. The show did an investigative report on authenticators, COA's and Legendary Cuts Upper Deck signature cards.At the insistent urging of Shelly Jaffe, several months ago Real Sports began an investigation into the autograph business. (Shelly Jaffe is the person referred to as "Eddy" in the show.) Shelly Jaffe had felt that collectors and autograph buyers were still getting ripped off for huge dollar amounts, especially on the Internet, and it was time for him to try to do something about it. Mr Jaffe was not paid by HBO and did not profit at all from the work he did. He wound up doing some very good work.Real Sports then started to conduct an investigation into the autograph market and its current state. The show initially conducted an interview with an enthusiastic collector who made most of his purchases on the internet and on ebay. This collector enjoyed involving his children in the hobby with him and had a number of signed framed items in his home. He seemingly did not have the awareness of some of the pitfalls in the autograph market.Real Sports then interviewed FBI agent Tim Fitzsimmons who has been the point man for the Federal Government and investigations into the autograph hobby. Tim headed the famous Operation Bullpen, which resulted in numerous arrests and convictions and the disbanding of the largest forgery ring in the country. Tim was interviewed in the FBI warehouse, where many of the forgeries that were confiscated are still kept. He showed the Real Sports reporter a large group of Babe Ruth cut signatures, all of which were forgeries, and he showed the reporter a large box of COA's which came from forensic authenticator Donald Frangipani. FBI undercover tapes revealed members of the forgery ring discussing sending their items to Donald Frangipani to receive COA's for them.Real Sports then interviewed Dan Marino and had him look at some of his own "autographs" on ebay. He looked at a few items and deemed them to be bogus.The show then began to investigate COA's. In order for the show to give collectors an idea of what can happen with COA's, the FBI allowed Real Sports to use forged items for their investigative report. In the next segment of the show, an associate of the show with a hidden camera, personally went to Donald Frangipani's office with seven items that were given to the show by the FBI and which came from the warehouse where the forgeries are kept. Mr. Frangipani, who is a "certified forensic examiner," declared that the seven signatures on these seven forged items were genuine. He then went further and warned about the dubious nature of the autograph market. Real Sports then appeared at Mr. Frangipani's office the next day to tell him that all the seven items he had issued COA's for were bogus according to the FBI. The Real Sports reporter questioned Mr. Frangipani quite intensely and Mr. Frangipani stated that he had made honest mistakes and was only giving his opinion. He was pressed by the reporter on why he never questioned getting so many autographs allegedly from the old great HOFers.Real Sports then continued their investigation of authenticators by sending out multiple items to various authenticators. Four authentication services received 20 bogus items. According to Real Sports, COA's were issued for 15 of those 20 bogus items. These services included Christopher Morales (a forensic examiner who is an associate of Mr Frangipani), AAU (a forensic examination company in Las Vegas), Frank Garo and Stat (a very new company which includes Ted Taylor). Two other authenticators, Global Authentication and I received a number of items from the show and to quote Real Sports "these two authenticators stated that virtually every item they received was bogus". We were commended by the show for our accurate work.Real Sports then went back to "Eddy" who gave further details of the operations of the forgery ring. He stated that it was "forensic experts" who helped the ring to succeed. He would send items to Mr Frangipani and they all came back to him as authentic with COA's.Real Sports quoted Tim Fitzsimmons that Donald Frangipani was the "authenticator of choice" for the ring. But the show also made it clear that Mr. Frangipani had never been charged by the federal government.Real Sports asked ebay to comment but they declined. However, they did point out that they are teamed with PSA-DNA authentication services, and make that service available for a nominal fee to buyers on ebay.Real Sports continued their investigative report into the autograph hobby by focusing on an Upper Deck 2005 SP Legendary Cuts Autograph Quad Cuts card. This card had four cut signatures on it. The signatures on this card were purportedly of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb.For those of you not familiar with these cards, they are insert cards with the signature of a well known athlete affixed to the card. They have been selling for considerably more than the autograph itself would have ordinarily sold for.This particular card was auctioned by Beckett on Ebay after receiving a lot of publicity. The card sold for $85,000. The four cut autographs if legitimate would have sold for $4000-5000."Eddy" stated that the Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson signatures were products of the forger Greg Marino, who was the leader of the forgery ring. The signatures were sent, by scan, to me, Global Authentication and PSA-DNA Quick Opinion service. We did not know that the signatures were from an Upper Deck card. Global and I said the signatures did not appear authentic to us. PSA stated that the signatures were "likely not genuine". Upper Deck, referred to as the "gold standard" in the industry, made a statement that they stand by their product. I would think that we will be hearing more about this card.
Show is scheduled on HBO (main channel) at: 1/21 10:00 AM1/23 11:30 AM, 9:00 PM1/25 4:30 PM, 11:55 PM1/29 9:00 AM1/31 7:00 PM& other times on the additional HBO channels.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Junk on Ebay

I am seeing more junk on ebay lately.
If you are an inexperienced collector, do not buy there, until you get some good advice.
It is a minefield of bogus autographs and criminals.
There is just too much for ebay to police and the crooked sellers are having a field day.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

PSA Authenticating Invisible Autographs

Let me let Jim Caravello tell this story: "I recently won the Ernie Banks Game Used bat in the American Memorabilia Auction from the 50's. The bat I purchased is unsigned - the way I like my gamers. Its an incredible piece of wood and I couldn't have been happier in winning the auction. It had a COA from Taube and Malta, game used examiners. Then I received a letter from American Memorabilia with another COA on the bat - this one from PSA / DNA authenticating the autograph on my Ernie Banks bat!! What autograph! I pulled the bat down from my rack again - there is no auto - I checked the Auction Catalog again and it didn't mention that it was autographed. The bat has no auto, yet I have a full COA from PSA / DNA on the autograph on the bat!!! What a Joke!! I guess if I sign the bat, the auto is real?!?" No comment is necessary from me.Here is the link to the bat in the American Memorabilia catalog: auction_id=16475&aucsearch=banks% 20bat&aucperiod=&auclisttype=&auccat=&tfm_orderby=&tfm_order=.
Now it seem PSA-DNA is authenticating invisible autographs. Another cursory examination I guess. (I had to comment :) ).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More Crooks Go To Prison

Phillip and David Scheinman pled guilty in Federal court on August 12 for selling forged sports memorabilia. They owned and operated a store in Las Vegas called Smokey's Sportscards. They were prominently featured on TV when the FBI raided numerous establishements in Operation Bullpen. The raid on their store made TV news all over the country. They also sold on ebay. The father-son combination will be serving at least one year in Federal prison.