Collecting autographs from your favorite player has become a big business. Many items are for sale stating they have a COA (Certified Certificate of Authenticity). There is many horror stories regarding counterfeit autographs and having a COA doesn't necessarily guarantee it's authentic nor does it ensure that you have any recourse in the event that it is not authentic. However if you have a receipt then you could have some legal entitlement but that is a different subject alltogether.
Some signatures are preprinted as part of the photo, usually appearing below the surface gloss of the picture. A real signature is on top of the photo and will have a different level of reflectivity compared to the rest of the picture. The glare of a preprinted signature will blend right in with the photo. Autopens are other items that can be deceiving and usually appear to be shaky because the autopen machine vibrates as it signs. Having your autographs to be authenticated reputable third party such PSA/DNA can be costly and disappointing. Imangine finding out that Peyton Manning autographed jersey that you spent $500 on isn't authentic after all. If a dealer is reputable he will have a return policy. Be leary of any seller stating all sales are final or if they have very little or poor feedback.
One alternative to collecting autographs from your favorite athlete is to send your item directly to them or to the team that they play for to have them sign it directly. It is always good to send an item you would like signed with a self addressed stamped envelope. Not all athletes have the time to sign and return your items but you would be amazed at how many still do. Some of the big stars are so overwhelmed that they could not begin to autograph every request so keep that in mind. It is always good to include a personalized letter when requesting autographs but they are doing you a favor and don't have to sign. Some may return your items requesting a fee donated to their favorite charity or made out directly to them. Even if they do it isn't something to be too upset about as it generally is still cheaper then buying an authenticated item from someone else
Each month Tuff Stuff will send out cards to athletes and list those that sign their autographs. Checking their guide each month can help minimize your expenses so that you don't send items to those that won't sign.
It makes checking the mailbox each day a lot of fun. Seeing if your favorite player has sent you that autograph you have been waiting for can mean a lot more coming directly from the player especially if they personalize the item.
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