fake autographed rock memorabilia sold at charity fundraisers

FAKE AUTOGRAPHS on rock & roll mem­o­ra­bilia being sold at charity fundraisers sounds like the act of a mis­an­thrope or even a so­ciopath more. Cheating folk who are spending money knowing that it will go to help others is rather das­tardly. And yet, huge sums of money are being spent on forg­eries every day!

“Hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of fakes and frauds and forg­eries are sold every year through char­i­ties,” says Steve Cyrkin, ed­itor and pub­lisher of Au­to­graph Mag­a­zine. “And the char­i­ties don’t know about it.”

In Cincin­nati, the Rusty Ball is an an­nual fundraiser that ben­e­fits more than a hun­dred local char­i­ties and at­tracts thou­sands of donors/customers each year. The Ball held on Feb­ruary 27, 2014, fea­tured lots of au­to­graphed rock & roll mem­o­ra­bilia, in­cluding gui­tars, posters, and albums.

“It’s cru­cial that it comes with that cer­tifi­cate,” said one bidder.

“We give to the charity on a reg­ular basis every year and love it,” said Matt Ring, who paid $830 for a guitar signed by the five orig­inal Rolling Stones.

Chris Beebe paid $700 for a copy of the BORN TO RUN album signed by Bruce Spring­steen, $780 for a guitar signed by Spring­steen and the E Street Band, and $517 for a copy of Van Halen’s 5150 album signed by the band. “At the end of the day, the money’s going to a great or­ga­ni­za­tion and great people.”

Local Fox 19 News showed these au­to­graphs and others sold to two leading ex­perts, who judged the items to be forg­eries, and that in­cludes items that came with cer­tifi­cates of authenticity.

“We’ve re­searched who we do busi­ness with as an or­ga­ni­za­tion. We trust the people we work with. They guar­antee the things they’ve sub­mitted to us and it’s a trust that’s real, so to hear that these cer­tifi­cates or items with cer­tifi­cates could be not le­git­i­mate, that’s the dis­heart­ening part,” said Steve Fritch, who helped found Rusty Ball.

 

BruceSpringsteen GreatestHits autographed 800

There is no way for anyone who was not present at the signing of this album jacket to know WITH CERTAINTY whether or not this is a gen­uine sig­na­ture of Bruce Spring­steen. The best an ex­pert can do is offer an ed­u­cated opinion.

How they evaluated the items

Au­then­ti­cating au­to­graphs is a judg­ment call by the ex­pert in­volved. For the Rusty Ball, Fox 19 found two men who are gen­er­ally rec­og­nized by both major auc­tion houses and es­tab­lished mem­o­ra­bilia dealers as re­li­able and reputable.

High-resolution photos of mem­o­ra­bilia were shown to Steve Cyrkin, pub­lisher and ed­itor of Au­to­graph Mag­a­zine. “None of the sig­na­tures that you sent me were real, in my opinion,” he said. “I didn’t see one real autograph.”

Then they showed the sig­na­tures to Roger Ep­person, who au­then­ti­cates music au­to­graphs for the auc­tion­eers Christies and Bonham’s and for PSA/DNA, the largest au­then­ti­ca­tion ser­vice in the United States.

Ep­person looked over Matt Ring’s guitar signed by the Rolling Stones and de­ter­mined that of all the au­to­graphs had been signed by the same person, using the “same pen stroke, same pressure.”

Ep­person found the same with Chris Beebe’s Spring­steen and Van Halen items along with col­lec­tables signed by Guns N Roses, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin.

A standout item at the auc­tion was a pink elec­tric guitar signed by all four mem­bers of Pink Floyd that sold for $2,100 to Dr. Joseph Gromada. 

“We have a foun­da­tion [for] my son who died of cancer a year ago,” said Dr. Gro­mada. “So we have used the Rusty Ball for a couple of years for a fundraiser, and it has been very lu­cra­tive for the foundation.”

Ep­person deemed the Floyd sig­na­tures forgeries. 

“We as an or­ga­ni­za­tion don’t feel good about our pa­trons being dis­ap­pointed,” said Fritch. “Anyone that’s ever come to the event, we’ll make things right for them. So if they see this story and they have some con­cern, they can con­tact us.”

 

PSA CertificateOfAuthenticity 800

Authenticity of certificates of authenticity

Many of the signed items came with a cer­tifi­cate of au­then­ticity. “It’s cru­cial that it comes with that cer­tifi­cate,’ said Gro­mada. Without it, ‘I don’t know that I would have paid even the orig­inal amount that they asked.’

Other buyers showed their cer­tifi­cates when they brought their items for eval­u­a­tion. Both Cyrkin and Ep­person de­ter­mined the cer­tifi­cates of au­then­ticity to be worth­less. “The letter of au­then­ticity is only as good as the person who put their name on it.”

The ma­jority of those cer­tifi­cates came from a com­pany that holds on­line auc­tions every month selling thou­sands of signed sports, en­ter­tain­ment and music acts’ mem­o­ra­bilia, Coach’s Corner. For weeks, we asked for an in­ter­view and fi­nally set up a meeting with the gen­eral man­ager, Lee Trythall.

 

PinkFloydGuitar

Guess whose pink guitar this is with four fake Jahn Han­cocks? “Pink Floyd has not been to­gether for a long time; they don’t like each other.”

Supply and demand

Try­thall says his com­pany auc­tions items it con­signs from in­di­vidual sellers on a mas­sive scale—3,000 to 4,000 pieces a month. Ep­person says it’s im­pos­sible to sell that many real items be­cause they’re very lim­ited, par­tic­u­larly sig­na­tures of en­tire bands like Led Zep­pelin or Pink Floyd. Cyrkin adds that those who own such mem­o­ra­bilia buy it to keep it, so it rarely goes on sale. Try­thall dis­agrees and says these items are plen­tiful and easy to get. 

He says that’s why his com­pany is able to sell mem­o­ra­bilia for hun­dreds of dol­lars apiece. But Ep­person says real items cost much more. He says Ring’s $800 Rolling Stones guitar would go for $6,500 if it was real, and Gromada’s $2,000 Pink Floyd guitar is ‘way too cheap. They’re that dif­fi­cult to get. They’ve not been to­gether for a long time. They don’t like each other. Now one of them is dead.’

In a busi­ness based on opinion, Try­thall ques­tions Epperson’s. ‘I don’t be­lieve any au­then­ti­ca­tors. I don’t know how he would know that.’

Ep­person cer­tainly passed a test the day of his Cincin­nati ap­praisals: among the mem­o­ra­bilia sat a guitar signed by the band Journey. Fritch per­son­ally had watched the band sign it. It was the one item Ep­person judged to be authentic.

Ep­person and Cyrkin say the fake mem­o­ra­bilia busi­ness is much larger than the real mem­o­ra­bilia busi­ness, tar­geting char­i­ties around the country and around the world. ‘Of course, the last thing a charity wants to do is to sell fakes to one of their won­derful donors,’ said Cyrkin.

Fritch says his or­ga­ni­za­tion is changing its pro­ce­dures as a re­sult of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion and will try to get out the word to all char­i­ties holding silent auc­tions. ‘In the world of char­i­table giving and people giving of them­selves, there are people in the world who will take ad­van­tage of that, and I think this story ex­poses some of those com­pa­nies,’ he said. ‘Our goal going for­ward is to find out who we can trust.’ ”

 

PerryCox Beatles price guide 800

Perry Cox’s Bea­tles price guide ac­tu­ally iden­ti­fies by naming the var­ious girls that worked for the Bea­tles faking their au­to­graphs on photos and mem­o­ra­bilia back in the ’60s!

Multi-million dollar industry

The above is more or less the com­plete (if slightly mod­i­fied) ar­ticle “Fake rock mem­o­ra­bilia sold at charity fundraisers” by Hagir Limor (Feb­ruary 26, 2014). Nor­mally, I don’t pay at­ten­tion to au­to­graphs, as they do not in­terest me as a record col­lector. A friend of mine in Cincin­nati has a busi­ness of buying and re­selling tickets to en­ter­tain­ment and sports events.

He in­ter­acts both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally with scads of en­ter­tain­ment and sports fig­ures. As he does do­nate gen­uine au­to­graphed items to local char­i­ties, he is far more sen­si­tive to this issue, and so he called this piece to my at­ten­tion. I am reprinting it here and very briefly ad­dressing the issue. 

In my price guides for O’Sullivan Wood­side and Gold­mine pub­lished back when man and di­nosaur were co­op­er­a­tively con­quering the west, I did not ad­dress the issue of eval­u­ating au­to­graphed records, as it was to me a sep­a­rate field of collectables—autographs versus records. My stance was made else­where in print (Gold­mine mag­a­zine) and it was very caveat emptor (“buyer be­ware”): un­less the artist is signing the item to you and in front of you, you can never know that anyone’s au­to­graph is le­git­i­mate! 1

During my years of ac­tively buying records for re­sale, I came across many au­to­graphed records (al­most al­ways LPs) and de­cided that if a piece bore the sig­na­ture of a Gale Gar­nett or a Joe Jeffries—fine singers but hardly near the top of the list of Highly Col­lec­table artists—it was prob­ably legit. (Who’d fake one if there was no fi­nan­cial gain?) But when­ever I found an item signed by Elvis Bea­tles Dylan Stones Zep­pelin etc., I simply as­sumed that it was some­body dec­o­rating their pos­ses­sion with their own handiwork.

This Bea­tles price guide ac­tu­ally iden­ti­fies the var­ious girls that worked for the Bea­tles faking their au­to­graphs in the ’60s!

(In his var­ious Bea­tles record col­lec­tors price guides, Perry Cox has in­cluded an en­tire chapter de­voted to the many fake Bea­tles au­to­graphs au­tho­rized by Brian Ep­stein back in the ‘60s to meet the stag­gering de­mand for au­to­graphed photos that the Fab Four re­ceived each week in the mail. He has even iden­ti­fied the var­ious sec­re­taries who were au­tho­rized to do each Bea­tles’ scrawl year by year.) 2

I will never know how cor­rect I was, nor will I ever care. I al­ways ad­ver­tised the piece as being signed but stated that I could not verify the sig­na­ture nor did I ever ex­pect it to in­crease the value of the item being sold.

In my books I es­sen­tially sug­gested the same thing to sellers (if you don’t KNOW it’s real, don’t ad­ver­tise it as such) while warning buyers to be­ware if you don’t KNOW it’s real, don’t pay for it as such). Ms. Limor’s ar­ticle above drives home the point decades later!

Fake gold record awards

Two final ob­ser­va­tions: many of the RIAA Gold Record Awards of­fered for sale are not “au­thentic” (real!) in the sense that they were au­tho­rized and paid for by the record com­pany or artist for their le­git­i­mate use (like giving them as re­wards and gifts to those in­volved in the record’s suc­cess or family or friends).

Many of these Gold Records that have found their way onto the mar­ket­place in the past thirty years were in fact or­dered from the au­tho­rized man­u­fac­turers (who made them under the table and against their con­trac­tual oblig­a­tions to the record com­pa­nies and the RIAA) and paid for by “rare record” dealers to sell to collectors!

Fake sports and political autographs

Type “fake rock au­to­graphs” into Google and you get 236,000 re­sults. Type “fake sports au­to­graphs” and more than 1,000,000 (a mil­lion) re­sults pop up. One might as­sume that the in­ci­dence of fake sports au­to­graphs is con­sid­er­ably more common than of rock mu­si­cians or that it at­tracts a hel­lu­valot more at­ten­tion from col­lec­tors. Type in “fake his­tor­ical au­to­graphs” and there are 743,000 results.

That ven­er­able site eBay has had a warning re­garding coun­ter­feit sig­na­tures for sev­eral years: “How to spot a fake au­to­graph!!!!” by 1.million.dollar.man. The ed­i­to­rial opens with this para­graph, which echoes the ar­ticle above, in­cluding my decades-old caveat:

“Heads up for all eBay bid­ders – there are lots of fakes for sale, and you should re­ally read here what to watch out for! Some sellers can be trusted, but there are way too many more that are de­cep­tive. Some use wording such as UACC (Uni­versal Au­to­graph Collector’s Club) member, or “COA In­cluded” (Certificate of Au­thority); when anyone that has money to spend can join the UACC—which does not mean they are honest or reliable—and anyone that has a com­puter and printer can make a phony COA.

Some sellers state the item con­tains a sig­na­ture of a celebrity, but they don’t ac­tu­ally state the celebrity signed it them­self, or their wording leads you to be­lieve the au­to­graph is real when the seller did not ac­tu­ally state this! Many people have written a fa­mous person’s name on an item and sellers be­lieve the celebrity signed it, when in re­ality it was not signed at all, it is just a name written by a fan. If you have a ques­tion of the seller’s wording, ask them BEFORE BIDDING.”

 

BabeRuth autograph fake 800

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in Mis­sis­sippi say [two people] are re­spon­sible for selling thir­teen Ruth base­balls to pawn shops across five states. Of­fi­cers in D’lberville, MS were able to re­cover one of the base­balls along with a fake cer­tifi­cate of au­then­ticity.” (Sports Col­lec­tors Daily)

How to spot  fake autograph

After com­pleting the ar­ticle above, I did some more re­search, just looking for some num­bers. Here they are from “Fake celeb au­to­graphs out­number the real” by Colleen Long, As­so­ci­ated Press (Feb­ruary 11, 2005).

“Only 6% of all au­to­graphed Bea­tles mem­o­ra­bilia is au­thentic, ac­cording to PSA/DNA Au­then­ti­ca­tion Ser­vices, a California-based or­ga­ni­za­tion that ex­am­ines col­lectibles. Only 24% of Mar­ilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley sig­na­tures PSA/DNA has ex­am­ined were gen­uine, and only 33% of more than 10,000 [Tiger] Woods and Michael Jordan au­to­graphs they scru­ti­nized were real.”

Ac­cording to FBI agent Tim­othy Fitzsim­mons, “The forgers some­times go to great lengths to get items au­then­ti­cated. Some­times, forged sig­na­tures were even iden­ti­fied as real ones, and the real ones as forgeries.”

Fi­nally, check out the How to Spot a Fake Au­to­graph web­site, il­lus­trated with twenty-two photographs.

 

VanHalen MCMLXXXIV autographed 800

There is no way for anyone who was not present at the signing of this album jacket to know WITH CERTAINTY whether or not they are gen­uine sig­na­tures of Van Halen’s band. The best an ex­pert can do is offer an ed­u­cated opinion.

Make your motto “Caveat emptor!”

In my price guides for O’Sullivan Wood­side and Gold­mine pub­lished back when man and di­nosaur were co­op­er­a­tively con­quering the west, I did not ad­dress the issue of eval­u­ating au­to­graphed records. My stance was made else­where in print (Gold­mine mag­a­zine) and it was very caveat emptor (“buyer be­ware”): un­less the artist is signing the item to you and in front of you, you can never know that anyone’s au­to­graph is legitimate!

During my years of ac­tively buying records for re­sale, I came across many au­to­graphed records (al­most al­ways LPs) and de­cided that if a piece bore the sig­na­ture of a Gale Gar­nett or a Joe Jeffries—fine singers but hardly near the top of the list of Highly Col­lec­table artists—it was prob­ably legit. (Who’d fake one if there was no fi­nan­cial gain?)

But when­ever I found an item signed by Elvis Bea­tles Dylan Stones Zep­pelin etc., I simply as­sumed that it was some­body dec­o­rating their pos­ses­sion with their own handiwork.

I will never know how cor­rect I was, nor will I ever care. I al­ways ad­ver­tised the piece as being signed but stated that I could not verify the sig­na­ture nor did I ever ex­pect it to in­crease the value of the item being sold.

In my books, I es­sen­tially sug­gested the same thing to sellers: If you don’t KNOW it’s real, don’t ad­ver­tise it as such!

I also warned buyers to be­ware: If you don’t KNOW it’s real, don’t pay for it as though it’s real!

Make your motto, “Caveat emptor”: LET THE BUYER BEWARE!

 

Beatles autographs fake 1200

FEATURED IMAGE: “It is a well-known fact among Bea­tles au­to­graph col­lec­tors that road man­ager Neil As­pinall and as­sis­tant Mal Evans ghost-signed count­less au­to­graphs for the group during the height of Beat­le­mania; the touring years be­tween 1964 and 1966 being the most pro­lific period.

As both Neil and Mal were con­stantly ap­proached by fans for per­sonal ac­cess to the Bea­tles, it was not un­common for ei­ther to dis­ap­pear be­hind the stage or hotel door and emerge mo­ments later with au­to­graphs in hand.

Both were rea­son­ably adept at repli­cating Bea­tles sig­na­tures; so much so that all these years later, As­pinall and Evans au­to­graph sets still show up in the mar­ket­place as the gen­uine ar­ticle.” (Gotta Have Rock and Roll)

 


FOOTNOTES:

1  And for those of us who look askance at cre­ationism and all of its in­tel­li­gently de­signed off­shoots, the famed ‘di­nosaur with a saddle’ in the Cre­ation Mu­seum is NOT an ex­hibit! It is a ride for chil­dren, just like all those horses you pass in shop­ping malls waiting for the next mommy with a ready re­serve of quarters.)

Mu­seum founder and cu­rator Ken Ham ad­dressed the widely cir­cu­lated mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Stegosaurus with an Eng­lish riding saddle atop its back in an ar­ticle ti­tled “Di­nosaurs And Sad­dles” on his Around the World with Ken Ham web­site. I am rarely in ac­cord with Mr. Ham on any topic, but he han­dles this with taste and aplomb (and a bit of jus­ti­fied right­eous indignation).

A per­spec­tive with which I am in ac­cord is dealt with in the “Saddle Up That Stegosaurus ” by writer Steve Mirsky on Sci­en­tific American’s web­site. It is an in­ter­view with Stephen Asma of Co­lumbia Col­lege Chicago and au­thor of Stuffed An­i­mals And Pickled Heads. De­spite the hu­mor­ously mist­i­tled title of the ar­ticle, the issue of the sad­dled Stegosaurus is not broached by ei­ther speaker—but the mu­seum is dis­cussed at length as a mu­seum among other mu­seums worldwide.

2  I have nothing to add here. I just fig­ured that if I was going to go all ed­i­to­ri­ally proper with one foot­note I should have at least two to jus­tify calling this sub-section “Notes.”

 

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Thanks for keeping me in the “loop”….Very in­ter­esting stuff here…

is it be­cause they do­nator is taking a big tax write off?

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