A quick education update on autograph collecting:
Hello, we wanted to take a moment to educate you a bit about autograph collecting and eBay.
We are very sorry to have to say this but eBay can be a very hostile place. There are millions of registered accounts worldwide and most eBay users are trustworthy and are an asset to eBay. However, as in life, some people simply cannot be trusted.
There are some users who are anything but an asset to eBay. One example is the self-appointed autograph expert. This eBay user has a bit of knowledge on an autograph and maybe even met the celebrity once or twice but probably purchased most of their autograph collection from eBay and has looked at 1000s of bad autographs on eBay over the years and was duped into believing many bad autographs were good. They then automatically assume they are an expert and waste their precious time searching for what they think are forgeries and emailing the bidders on these items telling them they are an expert and collector for most of their life and that the item in question is a forgery.
Thanks to the wide reach of eBay auctions and lack of real enforcement, many sellers quickly realized that they could simply manufacture their own autographed items at home and try to list them on eBay. All they needed was a sharpie marker, some photos or index cards and a printer to make a COA. Sadly, this fools a bidder who is unaware of how to recognize an authentic autograph. Every seller states his/her items are authentic. Why would they say anything different?
Unfortunately, this has become the norm on eBay. Ebay does police the autographs. A third party will but, predominately at the request of other eBay bidders. Ebay does have a Trust and Safety team and if they find something suspicions they will take action but most of it just slips on by. We assume a change will be coming in the near future in the eBay autograph area (we hope anyway).
We can assure you that the demand for autographed memorabilia would easily out pace the supply of authentic material. We search eBay daily for authentic memorabilia and we don't find that much of it.
We simply ask that you be careful and buy from us.
Sure, some sellers are trying to be honest and we applaud them. There is plenty of room for them in the market.
Unfortunately, many sellers collect their autographs through the mail. How is a seller who lives in places like Erie, Pennsylvania or Fargo, North Dakota going to meet a lot of celebrities? Sure celebrities might come to town but odds are it just will not happen. You really have to be in NY, CA, NV and The UK to meet these people on a regular basis. Simple as that. They must rely on via-the-mail requests (and of course other eBay sellers-dangerous at best).
It is true that there are many celebrity address databases and one can easily write their favorite star in hopes of getting an autograph.
Unfortunately, the world has changed and most stars no longer sign the items. If you get lucky and get a reply, the item was often signed by their secretary (hence the word 'secretarial') assistant, friend, sister or etc. It is true that some authentic autographs can be obtained in this manner but many sellers just list everything they receive in the mail on eBay without any research or comparison to known good examples.
If you were in this business long enough you would learn who actually signs authentically through the mail and find that it is a very short ever evolving list. Plus, once a working celebrity address gets published they get overwhelmed with requests and soon after stop responding to them or start replying with 'preprints' or secretarials.
I am very good friends with a MLB pitcher and he told me that one summer he was playing in the Mexican baseball leagues. While he was gone he rented out his home to some college kids so that they could take care of it for him. While he was gone, they opened his mail in order to pay the bills and such and discovered autograph requests in the mail as well. Guess what they did? Yep, they responded to all the requests for autographs by signing the items themselves. He had no idea and when he found out he just laughed. What could he do? The people who requested these assumed they were real.
The last category of seller we want to discuss is the seller of so called 'pre-prints'. With the advent of cheap scanners, low cost ink-jet printers and even low cost photo lab processing, it has opened up the market to another seller to avoid. Although these prints are not a always a negative thing and we can appreciate the value they would have in certain circumstances the problem lies in the deceptive way in which they are marketed.
This type of seller scans an autographed photo (authentic or not) and then sells copies of it. They usually use very tricky language in their auction description and place it in odd categories. The quality can be quite good and fool and unsuspecting victim. Please see our eBay review page article for help on how to spot these. This practice fools a lot of buyers and they think they have obtained an authentic autographed photo at a bargain price. Sometimes not even at a bargain. We sometimes see pre-prints at prices above $100 when a celebrity dies. Often, the sellers never even admits its a copy. You have to be very careful and read every auction description very carefully (you should be doing that no matter what you buy at any website). Also look at what category the item is listed in. Ebay does have categories for these types of items. It is our opinion, that with the passing of the Digital Millennium Copyright act, these copies are actually illegal. However, eBay does allow the sale of these items at this time. We hope that will change someday.
Many newer and inexperienced in-person autograph collectors are resorting to what are called ‘White Sheets’ in order to obtain autographs when they are not prepared, simply do not know what they are doing, are cheap, just too lazy, or simply do not care about their customers.
A ‘white sheet’ photo is a piece of blank ink-jet photo paper that has had a photo printed on it over an autograph. The collector has the celebrity sign the blank sheet of ink-jet paper (usually in a blue Sharpie as most other colors do not work well), then later, once they are home, they load the paper into their ink-jet printer and print an image of their choice onto the sheet and over the autograph. For some reason this works and does not damage the autograph.
They then sell these to unsuspecting autograph collectors who end up with an authentic autograph but printed on a piece of ink-jet paper that has a very short shelf life. Unfortunately, ink-jet photos can start to fade very quickly (sometimes as quickly as a month) depending on the quality of the paper and what types of ink they used to print the photo. They are very cheap to create and of very cheap quality. I overhead one collector who only uses ‘white sheets’ say that if it were not for them he simply could not afford to be in this business.
How would you feel if one day you looked at your prized (and likely very expensive) autographed photo to notice it has faded and all you have left is a signature on a faded blank piece of paper? I know I would be very disappointed to say the least.
Be sure to ask every seller you purchase a signed photo from if it is a ‘white sheet’ or in ink-jet printed photo. Make sure they say that it is an actual Photo Lab Printed (developed) photo. Also make sure they let you know what is printed on the back of the photo.
Third party authenticators
Even though we utilize third party authenticators we will come right out and state that we do not like to use them. We would rather not spend our time and money on these services but with many uneducated eBay buyers and tons of forger material for sale, our selling certified items on eBay makes sense for now. Authenticated items do offer buyers some comfort as there is a very good chance that the item is authentic and that some guy did not just sign it in his basement that night. Its a 'win win' situation for everybody- sellers, buyers and eBay. We have our own opinion about each of the authenticating companies and so do many other collectors. The stories we could tell you about are experiences with these companies would blow your mind.
Currently. some people are trying to expose the third-party authentication companies as of late. Even going so far as to create websites to try and embarrass them. Be very careful about what you read online. Verify everything for yourself. You never really know who is behind a site and just because it is written does not make it true.
Update: Please be careful with items certified by ACE (now banned from eBay), OE (online authentics) and PAAS as they are not eBay approved. The trust and safety department at eBay keeps a very close eye on these companies and if they have unacceptable practices they will not approve or even disapprove them. You can search eBay's help system for 'Autographs' and then follow to links to find the list of eBay approved 3rd Party Autograph Authenticators. As of this writing the list included- JSA (James Spence). GA (Global Authentics) and PSA/DNA (Professional Sports Authenticators)
The UACC Registered Dealer Program:
We applaud any group who furthers this hobby and the UACC is doing their part. However, even though we follow the UACC Registered Dealer Guidelines (and are regular members) you still need to do your research on any autograph you purchase fro them. In the last few years we have noted several UACC Registered Dealers that simply DO NOT know what they are doing with modern autographs. They purchase their inventory and simply 'trust' their supplier at their word and never do any research to verify that the autographs are in fact genuine.
We have pointed these dealers out and the UACC simply ignores us. The one time they did respond they got angry with us because they had to take valuable personal time to look at the suspect dealers inventory and never did anything about it anyway. And really, why would they? Think of the embarrassment and repercussions if they did. How is that for a professional organization that is supposedly here to 'safeguard the past for the future'?
I recently contacted a UACC RD and pointed out an obviously bad autograph they had listed. Guess what their response was? They got mad, yelled at me and accused me of not knowing what I am doing and told me I better keep quiet as I would not want them as an enemy. There was no opportunity at discussion of the actual signature. Not cool!
I also recently contacted another UACC RD who obviously has a bad supplier of modern celebrity autographs. I pointed out some of the bad autographs (most of the bad material was obviously signed by the same person) and to the dealers credit he removed them. However, when i pointed out he had a bad supplier he refused to believe this, did not take down the other bad material and informed me that the supplier was another UACC RD so how could it be bad?
While at Comic-Con the last few years I noted two UACC registered dealers selling autographs. Upon inspection of their inventory I was able to determine that a large portion of it was actually not authentic (it was the modern celebrities that were bad not the vintage material). In fact, I witnessed one making a purchase from one of his 'suppliers' during the convention and 100% of the items were blatant forgeries. This so-called 'supplier' seller actually got nervous and asked me to go away. At this point we recommend that any purchase of modern celebrities from a UACC RD be carefully researched.
When purchasing autographs on eBay or from any seller (including us) it is always wise to do research and ask questions before purchasing items and follow our suggestions from this article. This way you will improve your chances of obtaining authentic material.
Remember, autograph collecting is fun. However, once you get to know the main players in this business and realize how much money is at stake you will realize that it is a very interesting business and some due diligence on the part of buyers is required. We wish everyone could just walk down the street in LA and NYC and get the autographs they desire themselves. As that is impossible, we are happy to get them for you.
About World of Autographs:
We sell authentic autographs and collectibles. We have your best interest in mind and our autographs are authentic and speak for themselves. The collectors who know authentic signatures buy our autographed items and know they have made a wise investment. Additionally, many dealers from around the world buy from us. We have been in this business in one manner or another for over 14 years and plan to be here for many more years to come.
We are also AFTAL (Autograph Fair Trade Association) approved dealer # AD123. This is one of the best autograph groups in currently in existence and unlike the UACC they don't allow regular memberships. You have to be a dealer and apply and they watch all their dealers closely and reposed quickly to complaints.
We are not allowed to post external links to websites here but if you search the web for AFTAL you will find their site and our profile is located on page 4 of the approved dealer list.
Please educate yourself, buy smart, buy from us and let us know if we can help! Oh, and remember- if its not fun why do it...
World of Autographs
P.S. Remember to have some fun and not take life too seriously!
NOW TAKE YOUR NEW KNOWLEDGE AND GO BID ON SOME OF OUR AUTHENTIC AUTOGRAPHS!
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