FakeAutographs Beatles 1500 crop

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.

 

Autographs_Born

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.”

 

PSACert

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.’ ”

 

Autographs_Cox

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.

 

Three base­balls au­to­graphed by Babe Ruth sold for as much as $300,000 was signed by a dif­ferent hand, none of them the Bam­bi­no’s.

 

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

Three Babe Ruth au­to­graphed base­balls that sold for as much as $300,000 in the past few years. Ac­cording to hand-writing ex­perts, each was signed by a dif­ferent hand, none of them the Bam­bi­no’s. And these came from a col­lec­tion as­so­ci­ated with the hall of Fame in Coop­er­stown!

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.

 

VanHalenAuto

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!

 

FakeAutographs_Beatles_cropped

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?