Safe Buying Online Guide
Ten steps to safeguard from fraudulent Autographs, Movie Posters, Fine Art and other collectibles on Ebay
2. A Pattern. Always, always check other items for sale by this seller. Many of these forgers have a pattern. For example, no one can sell an authentic Judy Garland autograph for $50, or a Guy Wiggins original Winter scene oil painting for $5000, the market won’t allow it. And, the market is made of experienced collectors. When an authentic Judy Garland autograph does appear on Ebay you will see a dramatic difference in the selling price, such as a genuine one that sold for $900 recently. Also, many of these sellers use the same type medium, i.e, same kind of paper. One particular Ebay autograph forger, who sold over 100,000 forgeries on Ebay used the same kind of paper for all his forgeries. He posted many of the same ones every week. So you can see he had the “same” Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley up almost every week and it was obviously the same person manufacturing all the signatures. He sold about 2000 a week until he was finally, after several years, expelled from Ebay. Unfortunately these unscrupulous characters find their way back to Ebay with new ID’s or via another seller. Then there are the more dangerous scam artists, who are skilled. One particular forger from NJ (has since been expelled), goes to great lengths to acquire old photos and old paper (usually torn out of old books) and does a convincing job tracing signatures. I call this type of forger the sophisticated forger as he doesn’t waste his time with $50 items. I recently witnessed him sell a Beatles Forgery on Ebay for $3500.
3. Beware of Grossly Under-valued Sales: The online forger sells autographs and fine art oil paintings every week for a fraction of actual value. If he/she were selling authentic autographs he/she would be paying close to market value to acquire them and hence NOT be able to sell for such low final bids. However, when you are forging all the signatures the overhead is, well, about zero.
4. MYTH #2. "It comes with a COA so it must be real". COA’s are only worth the value of the paper unless they come from a reputable source. The online forger NEVER uses a Certificate of Authenticity from a REPUTABLE SOURCE. He/she ONLY issues COA’s made out by him (or her). Also, does the COA provide all contact information? Again, what is behind the COA, i.e. years in business, a location or permanent web site (not the anonymous Ebay Store), is the guarantee without time limit, professional associations he/she is affiliated with?
5. He/she has NO affiliations with reputable organizations for the autograph industry. And, most of the time if you question him/her on it he/she will proceed to tell you everything bad about that organization.
6. They cannot give you an honest source of their autograph acquisitions. Many online forgers use the same fabricated story such as a guy from Europe who was selling an old man’s collection, for two years on Ebay. So, beware of such claims. A forger cannot provide a sales history, receipt or reputable, documented source for their “autographs” because they never bought them.
7. Beware of “clipped signatures”. These are pieces of paper with so-called "autographs" on them. In particular, NEVER buy a “high-end” autograph such as Abraham Lincoln on a slip of paper. It is popular among forgers to forge very valuable signatures on pieces of paper like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Albert Einstein just to name a few. To protect yourself from these tactics I always advise my clients to invest in ONLY signed official documents. For example, if you are looking for a GENUINE Abraham Lincoln signature buy ONLY official signed documents from the time period he was alive such as a Presidential Military Appointment from 1863. . I have never seen an official presidential document forged, as forgers are highly unlikely to invest in one of these pricey documents.
8. Yes, there is a eerie consistency in the psychology and disposition of most of these autograph and fine art forgers. When they are confronted, their responses are often consistent with their criminal activity, namely defensiveness, denial and sometimes even vulgar. No snake likes to be uncovered. Ask WHO they got it from and can they prove it. Do they provide in writing that if proven NOT Authentic you will get your money back. And, do they provide contact information including phone number. So, if you ask them enough questions you may begin to uncover this typical disposition.
9. What can you do to insure you are buying GENUINE Autographs? Only buy from a reputable dealer, who has been in business for several years, has a physical or online store (web site), and is not hesitant to provide contact information. Ebay provides the ideal ANONYMOUS Identity opportunity for these unscrupulous people who make a living preying on the inexperienced. Also, don’t just look for a Certificate of Authenticity as they are worthless unless they are backed by a reputable source, namely someone who will guarantee authenticity for life.
IMPORTANT TIP: There is a service called PSA quick opinion. This is a very inexpensive service that provides an experienced second opinion on an Ebay autograph. And, it is relatively inexpensive, $7.50 per item. They will return a “Likely Not genuine” or “Likely Genuine” result. Of course there are those who criticize PSA because they disagree with some of their findings (the online forgers despise them most). However, it is still a good service that will detect a large percentage of online autograph forgeries. And, for the inexperienced buyer it could end up saving them from wasting, in the case of the forged Beatles photo, $3500. And, it is the only policy I know of where Ebay will take action against a suspicious seller. If you ever want to use their service their link is below:
10. They hide – They hide their feedback, they often hide their location by inputting a vague location other then the town they live in (probably for fear of someone contacting the State Police Internet Crime unit or the Attorney General’s Office). Their descriptions have very little specifics and NEVER contact information. Also, almost all of the Ebay autograph forgers have PRIVATE auctions for fear someone will contact the buyers and tip them off on the scam.
11. (ok, so I added another step) Educate yourself, don’t be afraid to ask the seller the tough questions. Namely, how long have you been in the autographs, fine art or movie poster (or whatever you collect) business? Do you belong to any professional associations? Do you have a store or web site? What is the history behind this piece? WHO authenticated it? Will you refund my money if I have it authenticated and it fails? Many online autograph forgers will be scared off or defensive with this type of scrutiny. And, like any retail transaction, Caveat Emptor.
BONUS TIP: NEVER pay for an online purchase with a check or money order – NEVER. Always use credit card or PayPal. With a check or money order you have ZERO protection. With a Credit card or PayPal, if you do not receive the merchandise you purchased, you can file a dispute and often get your money back.