Autograph Authentication for Sports Memorabilia Collectors (2023)

Autograph Authentication for Sports Memorabilia Collectors (1)The purpose of this article is not to teach you how to do your own autograph authentication. Rather, it's meant to give a list of guidelines and resources that you can better educate yourself with. It will also help you decide the right time to get third-party autograph authentication for your items. In addition, we'll give you some common examples of problems that can occur during the autograph authentication process and offer potential solutions.

It should be stated that autograph authentication is one of the most controversial and murky aspects of collecting sports memorabilia. The methods employed are far from an exact science. Most reputable authenticators, themselves, will admit that even under the best circumstances, their findings are merely an opinion. It is not concrete proof of a genuine autograph.

Quite simply, the only way to ensure that the autographs in your collection are authentic is to acquire them in person. This process includes handing the item to the athlete, watching them sign it, and having the athlete hand the item back to you. That being said, there are probably items already in your collection that you would like to have authenticated. However, once you make that decision, be prepared for potential disappointment in the results.

The Autograph Authentication Process

There are literally dozens of autograph authentication companies in existence today. From forensic document examiners to so-called handwriting experts, to corporate institutions like PSA/DNA and others that claim to use state-of-the-art technology with fancy-sounding names like Color Spectral Deconvolution or Video Spectral Comparator, the autograph authentication choices available to a collector can get confusing.

Regardless of the company, all autograph authenticators use some form of a multi-step process that includes examination and analysis of the ink and medium, object evaluation, side-by-side signature comparison, structural analysis, tagging and certifying.

All autograph authentication starts with the following examination:

Ink/Medium Analysis

This autograph authentication step is used to answer such questions as:

  • Has the ink permeated into the paper or does it lay on top of the paper indicating that it may have been recently applied?
  • Is the ink used in the signature consistent with those used when the autographed was supposedly signed?

Object Evaluation

Depending on what the signature is on, an entirely different set of questions must be answered. To give you an idea of the issues authenticators are dealing with at this stage, a paper document has several characteristics that must be evaluated.

  • Older ink has acid and actually etches the paper over time. Is such etching present?
  • Modern paper deteriorates quickly over time and becomes more brittle. Is the paper’s condition justified for the time the signature was applied?
  • Brown mildew spots, called foxing, can appear on all paper. Is the ink on top of or underneath the foxing?

When the signed object is a piece of memorabilia like a ball, bat, jersey or other equipment, even more complex and time-consuming autograph authentication methods are used to properly age the item to the signature.

Structural Analysis

This step of the process most closely resembles what is often called handwriting analysis or forensic handwriting evaluation. It includes a detailed look at every nuance, component and letter in the signature. These include:

  • Signature Flow
  • Style
  • Spontaneity
  • Letter Angle
  • Starts
  • Stops

Side-by-Side Comparison

By using a verified signature or even a copy of an authentic signature, the submitted signature can be compared to the exemplar. Reputable autograph authenticators have a large exemplar library, which usually contains a wide range of samples to call upon for easy reference.

After Evaluation

Following the examination, the remaining steps in the autograph authentication process include:

Tagging

Once the authentication process is complete and passed, the item is tagged. This is typically done with some form of a tamper-resistant, foil hologram label that also has a serial number. The number is then recorded in a database for future identification.

Certifying

In addition to the item itself being tagged, a corresponding document, called a Letter of Authenticity (LOA), is issued with a matching serial number. It often comes with a matching tamper-resistant tag as well.

Specialized Autograph Authentication Tools

Autograph Authentication for Sports Memorabilia Collectors (2)Some companies use more advanced techniques during the examination stage of the authentication process. This may include:

Color Spectral Deconvolution

This is a process that uses an advanced color algorithm in 3D space to separate or remove color components. It is most often used on documents to help separate the signature from the object background color, allowing for a more detailed analysis.

Video Spectral Comparator Analysis

This hi-tech piece of equipment can be used to examine documents and autographs using sophisticated color and infrared imaging, magnification, coaxial lighting, and side lighting on-screen. It can be used to detect erasures, reveal masked and obliterated signatures, as well as differences in ink types.

Autograph Authentication Companies

As previously mentioned, there is a range of companies to choose from. A simple online search will reveal many that fall outside of what the hobby has established as reputable. In reality, even these companies have been known to make their share of mistakes given the nature of the authentication as just an opinion in the first place. Couple this with the fact that autograph authentication is a for-profit business and you can imagine the potential issue that may result.

(Video) How to Authenticate Sports Memorabilia - Collecting 101 (Pristine Auction)

That being said, here is a list of the most recognized autograph authentication companies in the hobby today:

  • Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA/DNA)
  • James Spence Authentication (JSA)
  • Beckett Authentication Services (BAS)

How to Get Your Sports Items Authenticated

In order to have a treasured autograph authenticated, you would need to either mail it to one of the mentioned companies or visit them when they appear at an event in your area.

Either way, you can find full details on the process along with pricing and what to expect using the links below.

Autograph Authentication Pitfalls

One of the most troubling things collectors encounter from time to time is when they submit an autograph for authentication that they have acquired in person, only to have it rejected by the authenticating company. What recourse do you have as a collector if this happens? Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done.

As frustrating as this can be, your only options are to submit the item to another authenticator or simply be satisfied in knowing for yourself that it is genuine. While this may help when the item resides in your own collection, it certainly will make it difficult to sell the item in the future without a reputable LOA.

Earlier we alluded to the fact that there are many pitfalls to the autograph authentication business. Unfortunately, they will likely continue to be part of autograph collecting and authentication. As a result, many spirited debates and differences of opinions have spawned some truly insightful information. Before deciding to spend money on autograph authentication, we encourage you to do your own research. Not simply on the authenticator side of the equation but the detractor side as well. Here are a few resources worth reading before spending your money on an authenticator’s opinion:

In-Person Autographs and Authentication

If getting your own autographs authenticated isn’t a top priority but purchasing them from a reliable source is, there are a handful of reliable event organizers and dealers whose Certificates of Authenticity (COA) have proven to be trustworthy over the years.

Some of these companies oversee regular autograph signing sessions or major shows throughout the year. They issue their own COAs that go with an item. Not only has the item been signed by an athlete, but witnessed by a company official as well. Below is a list of these companies:

Autograph collecting is a fun and exciting hobby. It can also be time-consuming and expensive. Before investing in autograph authentication, educate yourself. Decide how you want to get your autographs. If you choose to get them authenticated, be prepared for the results, good or bad.

Autograph Authentication for Sports Memorabilia Collectors (3)

Related Topics: How To: Autographs | Sports Memorabilia

FAQs

Who is the best authenticator for sports memorabilia? ›

PSA is the largest and most trusted autograph authentication service in the world. With over 35 million collectibles certified, PSA authenticates a vast array of signatures, ranging from sports to history and entertainment.

How do you authenticate sports memorabilia? ›

Every autograph is witnessed by an Upper Deck Authenticated representative. After all, observation is the only way to guarantee authenticity. A record of the autograph and associated piece of sports memorabilia is signed by both the athlete and an Upper Deck official and is then stored securely in a permanent file.

How much does it cost to get autographs authenticated? ›

Note, the grading fee is in addition to the authentication fee. Example: Authentication fee is $20, so autograph grading fee would be $10 or authentication fee is $200, so autograph grading fee would be $100.
...
Premier Autograph Fee:
Declared ValuePremium Fee
$50,000–$99,999$2500
$100,000 or moreCALL US
3 more rows

How do you get autographed items authenticated? ›

The most recognizable authentication companies include Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), James Spence Authentication (JSA), and Autograph Certification Experts (ACE). It's a good idea to go with one of these companies, as you want a recognizable company to authenticate your autograph.

How much does PSA charge to authenticate? ›

ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH AUTHENTICATION:
Declared ValueAuthentication Price
$999 or less$50
$1,000 - $2,499$100
$2,500 - $4,999$250
$5,000 - $9,999$375
4 more rows

Is there an app to identify autographs? ›

Autograph plus is a simplest way to scan your signature with camera directly from paper. You can manually add signature using finger gestures as well as add auto-signature using keypad. Do you have celebrities around and no paper pen available? No worries!

Can I get an autograph authenticated online? ›

The certified autograph can be verified using our online database and typing in the 6-digit alphanumeric certification found on either the label on the item, or the COA/LOA.

How do you know if signed memorabilia is authentic? ›

Here are some tips to ensure the autograph is as genuine as it is impressive.
  1. Turn it upside down. The best way to compare a signature is to turn it upside down. ...
  2. Beware stamped signatures. Fake autographs are often mechanically reproduced. ...
  3. Look closely at the ink. ...
  4. Look for "robotic" tell-tale signs.

Is PSA authentication reliable? ›

The PSA/DNA authentication process virtually eliminates the problem of counterfeits and forgeries for signed collectibles and memorabilia. A PSA/DNA Letter of Authenticity is universally accepted as the most reliable verification of authenticity by collectors, investors and all major dealers and auction houses.

Who is the most trusted autograph authentication? ›

Who should I use to get my autograph authenticated? Let me be clear, when it comes to 3rd party autograph authentication there are only 3 companies you should use: Beckett Authentication, James Spence Authentication (JSA), and PSA/DNA. That is it. No one else.

Who can issue a certificate of authenticity? ›

Certificates of authenticity are usually created by the artist themselves, but in some cases they can also be handled by a publisher, agent, or art dealer who represents the artist.

Who has the most valuable autograph? ›

Topping this list is the autograph of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, whose autograph is worth $7,500.

How do I verify an autograph? ›

Talk to the seller and find out any known history or provenance that comes with the piece. Date the item to within the signer's lifetime. Ensure that the paper, ink and method are typical of the date. Check that the style of signature is contemporary to the period stated.

Is autograph authentication legit? ›

Customer Complaints

They state they use a third party website called Autographs Authentication Services to authenticate all autographs. After doing some research, I have found out that this is not a reliable company and they often fake signatures. The letter of authenticity seems fake.

Can Beckett authentication be faked? ›

About 50% of all autographs submitted for authentication to Beckett Authentication Services are not authentic, in our opinion.

How long does PSA grading take? ›

Card must have a declared value of $49,999 or less.
...
Card Authentication & Grading.
Service LevelEstimated Turnaround Time* (in calendar days)
Regular15-30 Days
Economy45-90 Days
Value**90-120 Days
Bulk**120 Days
5 more rows

Where is PSA grading located? ›

PSA is a division of Collectors Universe, which has offices in California, New Jersey, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. As the only third-party grading service to offer a guarantee on its services, PSA has emerged as the clear leader in authentication and grading for trading cards and other collectibles.

How do I get PSA certified? ›

How to Get Certified
  1. Be in good standing with the National Association of REALTORS® See International REALTOR® requirements.
  2. Complete the one-day course, Pricing Strategies: Mastering the CMA. Locate a course near you at training4re.com. ...
  3. Submit your application, including payment of the one-time application fee.

How do I scan a signature on a photo online? ›

Here are the guidelines to scan signature from image online on Android:
  1. Download the app and create an account.
  2. Import the doc that needs signing.
  3. Edit it and add fields, including a signature field.
  4. Set a signing order.
  5. Self sign it after you created a unique eSignature.

How do I identify an artist's signature? ›

Signatures or monograms can be found at the bottom margin of the painting or on the back of the canvas. In the case of a monogram, you can use an artist monogram database to match the monogram to the artist.

What is a signature identifier? ›

Signature ID: The identification number used for an individual signer on a signature request.

Are JSA autographs real? ›

The JSA Letter of Authenticity (LOA) features an inset image of the item and has been signed by an autograph expert in the presence of a licensed notary public. The LOA also features additional customized data such as quantity of signatures, manufacturer, writing implement, as well as type and/or model of the item.

What is elite authentication? ›

We are a product authentication company that authenticates items such as shoes, apparel, accesories, purses, etc.

Is fanatics authentic legit? ›

Fanatics Authentic is fully licensed by all the major sports leagues, Player Associations and Universities and delivers a 100% genuine product offering.

Can you sell autographs without authentication? ›

Nothing is more important when it comes to selling an autograph than who it is certified by. To get the true top dollar of what your signed item may be worth, you need to get it certified by a nationally recognized authentication company like PSA/DNA or James Spence Authentication (JSA).

Are autographs on sports memorabilia real? ›

As a result, there are countless fraudulent items being sold and, unfortunately, purchased every day. The FBI has estimated that anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of all autographed sports memorabilia in the marketplace today is bogus.

How do you tell if an autograph is real or printed? ›

The signature will appear to be below the surface of the glossy portion of the photo and it will often appear very 'flat'. 2. To test this, hold the photo at an angle very close to a bright source of light. A real autograph is on surface of the photo and should reflect differently than the rest of the surface.

How can you tell a fake PSA certificate? ›

Fake PSA Graded Cards SCAM! How To Spot Fake PSA Cards - YouTube

Is autograph CoA legit? ›

An Autograph CoA, or Certificate of Authenticity, is usually a seal on paper intended to demonstrate that an item, in this case, an autograph, is authentic. Many autographs sold online will come with a CoA.

What does PSA DNA certified mean? ›

PSA/DNA is the world's leading third-party authentication service for autographs and memorabilia. PSA/DNA Authentication Services was founded by PSA in 1998 in response to widespread counterfeiting, forgery and piracy of autographed collectibles.

What does GFA mean in autographs? ›

I just recently purchased or managed to win an auction for a Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams 8x10 autographed pictures that had been authenticated by GFA (Guaranteed Forensic Authenticators) with an accompanying COA.

What is a Beckett COA? ›

Certificate of Authenticity (COA):

A certificate of authenticity from Beckett Authentication Services is a small 3x3 square card that is issued in conjunction with our tamper-evident label to signify that the item has been examined by our experts and is, in our opinion, authentic.

Is mobile authentication network legit? ›

Your Reliable Card Graders

Mobile Authentication Network Inc. specializes in offering trusted trading card grading services. We are a team of friendly and trusted experts with years of mastering to grade your trading cards and give them an official value.

Can I make my own certificate of authenticity? ›

When creating a certificate of authenticity, it is important to note that they aren't legally binding. Essentially, anyone can create one. There are no universal standards for certificates. This means that a lot of the time within the art-world, there can be fraudulent certificates circling.

Does a certificate of authenticity mean anything? ›

The certificate of authenticity for an artwork is a document that contains these facts and it is essential for all sides of the trade. COA is created by the artist, or someone who is an expert of their oeuvre, to help the collectors prove it is genuine and verify its quality.

Should I include a certificate of authenticity? ›

Ideally, it should accompany every work of art you've constructed, regardless of whether it is sold or not. In the event of a sale, a certificate of authenticity is typically one of the first documents provided to the buyer.

What is the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia? ›

A Mickey Mantle baseball card became the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold when it went for $12.6 million at auction this past Sunday at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The baseball card was issued in 1952.

How do I sell autographed memorabilia? ›

Here below is a summary on where to sell your autographs:
  1. WORK WITH A PROFESSIONAL DEALER. You can do it in 2 main different ways: ...
  2. SELL AUTOGRAPHS ONLINE BY YOURSELF. You would use digital markets for collectibles, such as eBay, ...
  3. SELL DIRECTLY TO AUTOGRAPH COLLECTORS. ...
  4. SELL VIA AUCTION HOUSES.
7 Apr 2021

What sports memorabilia is worth money? ›

Most Expensive Sporting Memorabilia Of All Time
  • Original Olympic Games Manifesto – $8.8 million. ...
  • Babe Ruth's 1928-1930 Jersey – $5.64 million. ...
  • Babe Ruth's 1920 jersey. ...
  • Golf – $514. ...
  • Boxing – $500. ...
  • Athletics – $278. ...
  • Kobe Bryant – $16,966. ...
  • Michael Jordan – $7,593.
23 Mar 2021

Is Beckett a good authenticator? ›

Beckett is not only one of the most reputable and trusted names in the memorabilia industry, their customer service is unparalleled as well. They always make the authentication process seamless and enjoyable by sharing their insight on specific items. Beckett is definitely an asset to the memorabilia community.

How do you authenticate a signed football shirt? ›

One of the most common ways to spot a multi-signed fake shirt is the nib of the pen. If someone if faking a shirt the chances are they will sit down and fake every signature start to finish without moving the pen from their hand.

How do I authenticate a baseball autograph? ›

Where to Authenticate Your Baseball Autographs - YouTube

Are eBay autographs authentic? ›

Autographs are commonly sold with certificates of authenticity (COAs) and letters of authenticity (LOAs), while trading cards use a grading system. COAs, LOAs, and grades are meant to assure the buyer that the signature or item is genuine.

Is Rad Graphz legit? ›

Yep, it's an ebay seller with a real shady practice. This seller told me that the holographic sticker on the bottom is from RAD Graphz also radzautographz.com and they are a legit company.

Is Autograph Warehouse legit? ›

www.AutographWarehouse.com is one of the industry's largest memorabilia websites with over 100,000 authentic Autographed Sports Memorabilia & Autographed Celebrity Memorabilia items. Autograph Warehouse prides itself on having the widest variety of signed memorabilia offered in the industry at great prices!

How much does it cost to authenticate a Beckett autograph? ›

Items with authentication fees $50 and above are automatically issued a Letter of Authenticity, no additional payment is required.

Is Beckett or PSA better? ›

Firstly, PSA is a bit more expensive and it takes longer for them to grade your cards. However, their graded cards usually sell better and for more than BGS cards. On the other hand, BGS is faster and less expensive and has a more complex grading system. Their cases and labels are often preferred to PSA's.

How do you authenticate memorabilia? ›

How to Authenticate Sports Memorabilia - YouTube

Who is the best COA? ›

5 Best COA Companies For UFC Autographed Memorabilia
  • 1) JSA.
  • 2) PSA or PSA/DNA.
  • 3) Beckett or BAS.
  • 4) Steiner Sports.
  • 5) MMA Signatures.
24 Apr 2020

Is Tristar authentication legit? ›

Will TRISTAR authenticate my item for me? A: No. TRISTAR does not accept item submissions for authentication. Third-party authentication companies such as PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) or JSA (James Spence Authentication) do provide such a service and can help you, if needed.

Is Beckett COA legit? ›

Beckett is not only one of the most reputable and trusted names in the memorabilia industry, their customer service is unparalleled as well. They always make the authentication process seamless and enjoyable by sharing their insight on specific items.

Is fanatics authentic legit? ›

Fanatics Authentic is fully licensed by all the major sports leagues, Player Associations and Universities and delivers a 100% genuine product offering.

Does a COA mean an autograph is real? ›

But what is a CoA? An Autograph CoA, or Certificate of Authenticity, is usually a seal on paper intended to demonstrate that an item, in this case, an autograph, is authentic. Many autographs sold online will come with a CoA.

Can I get an autograph authenticated online? ›

The certified autograph can be verified using our online database and typing in the 6-digit alphanumeric certification found on either the label on the item, or the COA/LOA.

How do I verify an autograph? ›

Talk to the seller and find out any known history or provenance that comes with the piece. Date the item to within the signer's lifetime. Ensure that the paper, ink and method are typical of the date. Check that the style of signature is contemporary to the period stated.

Is JSA authentication legit? ›

Established in 2005. Founded by James Spence, Jr, the most well respected autograph authenticator in the industry. JSA now has grown to be the most trusted in the autograph collecting world operating out of two locations - Parsippany, NJ (main office) and Fort Lauderdale, FL.

What is Kobe Bryant autograph worth? ›

Kobe Bryant Signed Card Sells for $922.5K to Set Record for Non-Rookie Kobe Card. A Kobe Bryant Upper Deck card from the 2002-03 season recently sold for $922,500 at auction, setting the record price for a non-rookie Kobe card.

Is Steinersports com legit? ›

Steiner Sports is committed to providing collectors with 100% Authentic Memorabilia and collectibles. When you buy from Steiner Sports you can rest assured it is genuine and Guaranteed for life.

What is the most valuable autograph? ›

Selling price: $9.8 million

When it comes to expensive autographs, our first president George Washington takes the cake. His signature on his personal copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the First Congress is the highest valued autograph ever sold. It was sold at auction in 2012 for $9.8 million.

Can you fake a COA? ›

The certificate must contain complete descriptive information about the item to guarantee its value. Without this information, many forgers can create fake COA, particularly if they are selling items on online auctions and markets. Many fakes have little to no contact information of the person selling the item.

What does JSA mean for autographs? ›

James Spence Authentication (JSA) is a third party authentication company that has accumulated an impressive exemplar database of nearly 700,000 files which are used by autograph authenticators to accurately assess the thousands of autographs submitted to them on a daily basis.

What is the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold? ›

A Mickey Mantle baseball card became the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold when it went for $12.6 million at auction this past Sunday at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The baseball card was issued in 1952.

What's the most valuable item in sports history? ›

The most expensive sports memorabilia sold at auction is a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, which sold for $12,600,000 (£10,722,310 / €12,643,344), on 28 August 2022. The card is from Baseball Hall of Famer Mantle's rookie season and was bought by its seller for just $50,000 in 1991.

How much is a signed autograph worth? ›

“Usually you can get a quick opinion for $30 or $40,” Masckauchan says. If you want to sell your autograph, you can try an autograph dealer or contact an auction house. A dealer will give you an offer, typically 33 to 45 percent or so below what they think they can sell it for, Masckauchan says.

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