I know this is a bold statement, but after over 20 years of studying and developing systems to verify identity, biometrics and signature authentication (DynaSig.com and Bio-Pen.com), I came to the conclusion that a new process need to be developed to allow all collectors, dealers, auctions and authenticators to co-exist and enjoy the hobby as well as allow the market place to thrive. I have spent last two years developing the database structure that will allow such Registry to become possible.
We are very “emotional” about the certain auctions and authenticators. Many seem to have drawn lines in the sand identifying the good guys and bad guys. However, we also need to recognize that even bad dealers can sell some good items and good dealers can potentially sell bad items. Similarly, good authenticators can make mistakes and bad authenticators can verify good items. Statistically speaking (in pure mathematical terms), a blind monkey (meaning, in a truly random process) can pick the real item 50% of the time…
The idea here is to have a centralized location where all good and bad items can be registered, displayed, and transactions recorded, etc. I know many of you already had this idea before, but the key concept is to preserve the provenance (entire trace of how the item was created to the ownership history). This may be a little unnerving to have the potential of bad dealers dumping all their garbage right along side very good exemplars of collectors displaying their hard-earned autographs. It might appear that we are providing “legitimacy” to the bad items by allowing their listings. However, this is precisely what we want. Unlike Ebay (or any other dealer or auction site), where once the dealer or authenticator is deemed “bad”, the entire inventory is pulled off the site (effectively eliminating the evidence), we want the bad listing to be forever preserved and all transactions (ownership changes) to be recorded and shown. Similarly, all good items and good transactions will also be preserved so that genuine items will continue to build good provenance with third-party timed stamped transactions.
It is hard for me to explain all the intentions and functions of my site here. But I do believe that if we take the long-term view of solving this problem, we can contribute positively to all collectors, sellers, auctions and authenticators. I invite everyone to participate and contribute positive ideas toward the common goal of eliminating the fraud.
Richard Kim, Ph.D.
I think this is a wonderful idea. I had discussed something like this with one dealer some time ago but we both thought it was a tremendous project that would requiore a lot of people working together, and then the inevitable question "What's in it for me?" But let's say you or I attend anautograph show, and get a star's autograph. We date it, describe the event, back it up with maybe a receipt or ticket, and send it in to centralized databank where it gets bar-coded and authenticated (or not). Then if you sell the item, you notify the database, and a chain of custody remains as your real COA, plus the bar-code. Through the mail would be done pretty much the same way, but you'd also get an authentication (is it a secretarial or the wife or the mother), and if it's real, a bar code and you'd also keep up the history with the chain of custody if you ever sell. Then go to your collection; submit portions of your collections, get them authenticated, bar-coded if they are real, and so on. I think it would require the joint work of a lot of noted and respected authenticators, and there'd have to be something in it for them, charging fees for singles or bulk entries, for example, and little by little, we'd be able to weed out a lot of junk out there and maybe even expose a few disreputable dealers/authenticators at the same time. It seems to me that for many this is a legitimate business, but as with anything, where there's a buck to be made, there's always a swindler looking for ways to cheat the system. I hope that somehow Mr. Kim's idea takes hold.
Jay, I've never communicated with Richard before today, but I, too, think it's a good idea. And I like your value-added ideas for it, Jay. I'll talk with Richard soon and see if perhaps we can work together to make it exactly what the hobby needs.
@ Jay (and anyone willing to participate),
Thank you for your valuable inputs.
As you have correctly outlined, in order for this system to work, we need many collectors, dealers and authenticators working together:
(1) Register all genuine in-person items - but not just the scan of the item, but need to record all provenance, such as signed date, location, describe circumstances and attach any supporting documents. It is really a shame that may people don't value the provenance and do not bother to record how they obtained the real autographs.
(2) Register all known fake items - as exemplars. But, it must be from the person who actually owns that fake item - and not just hearsay or accusations. We need as many "victims" to step-up and willing to register their experience. I know there are many blog sites where people discuss these issues, but we need to centrally collect all these examples and document them.
(3) Register your comments: all collectors, dealers and authenticators should be able to give honest and detailed comments regarding particular items. However, since we don't want this to turn into another war-of-the-words, we will use the "blind auction" and "escrow process" to fairly present the data.
I hope this makes sense, and we will continue to improve the system as we receive more participation and suggestions.
If a blind monkey--a random process--can pick the real item 50% of the time. What does it say if over an extended period it picks forgeries 2/3 of the time? Or 90%...99% of the time?
I'm not sue but I think my idea about selling the items is being misconstrued. I'm just saying that once you've submitted your autograph to the database and it "passes," you get it back and keep it, but it has been registered, and is bar-coded, and authenticated, perhaps by a board of authenticators. If all is fine when you get it back you can keep it forever, knowing you have the real deal or sell it to someone else who will know that it's the real deal. The same with anything from small to large collections from private owners or sellers. It's just a validation system, and aside from whatever fee you have to pay the database, there's no real money changing hands. Maybe you can even have a "TWO THIRDS OPINION", where two of the three authenticators agree that it's real and the third disagrees. Maybe you could get a stamp that says so. I'm sure not everyone is going to agree 100% on everything. But it's a start.
My original thought was to not allow people to sell/buy from the site. And then after much discussions with collectors and dealers, we are offering the "escrow" process. So, we allow seller and buyer to make the deal, and then we collect the money from the buyer and freeze the title from the seller. Once BOTH seller and buyer are satisfied with the exchange of items, then the money and the title are release to the respective parties.
The difference on our site is, once the item has been "sold" (either through out site or through any other site/method), then the listing does not go away - only the ownership changes. So the old ploy of forger selling one item on an auction, then keep listing another similar item looking for another unsuspecting buyer will not work on our site. Also, if that forger uses many different auction sites to sell the fake items, if all buyers come and register their item into the central depository (free) after the purchase, then the trend will be quickly identified by EVERYONE - and the evidence will mount against the forger for prosecution.
Statistically speaking (as in blink-monkey example), if an authenticator has verified correctly 100 items out of 100, then what would be the probability that that same person will correctly verify the next item? Our instinct says 100%, but in reality there is no such thing. So, this would be about 2-sigma process, the chances are about 97 % that this person will do it correctly the next time - meaning, this expert could, in theory, make a mistake 3% of the time. What if that person picked correctly 1,000,000 times in a row? This would be 6-sigma process, so there is still 3.7 out of million chance that he will get it wrong the next time...
So, the "chain of custody" that Jay Burstein described is the exactly the provenance that would be the goal rather than trying to authenticate on the sole merit of looking at the item only. If a dealer or auction keeps selling similar items over and over, and all its transactions are recorded, then it will be really easy to trace back to the bad apple (forger, seller and/or authenticator). The whole idea is to give every single item a unique number ("a bar code") and then track it through cradle-to-grave (or sand-to-sand, as we say in semiconductor business).
I am willing to provide the technical platform for the collectors, dealers, auctions and authenticators. I will need a lot of input from you so that the system can be developed and implemented properly in the long run.
Unlike most auction or dealer sites, our fee is not based on the percentage of the selling price - we charge a fixed fee for the escrow and title transfer - much like what the Title/Escrow company does when you buy a house. We encourage buyers to deal and buy directly from the seller - that is why we list dealer's link on every item. Most auctions "hide" the real seller, but we are completely open about the seller's identity. If you want to hide your identity, then you can do so by selecting "Private" mode, then you will not be able to sell through our site. Most fraud happens when there is a quick exchange and no chance for open/verifiable process. Our escrow allows the purchaser to get the items in their hands and then if they choose to examine, authenticate or whatever to satisfy the purchase, they can do so without worry about the purchase money going away with the bad seller. Most forgers hate leaving paper trail. So, if the buyer insist on buying only the registered item, and the bad seller knows that once the item has been sold, that record will be in the registry forever - which will discourage them from participating.
No - we are not harboring a fugitive. On the contrary, unlike auction houses, we have no obligation to protect the identity of the seller. Most forger will display one real item on the site, and then ship fake (similar looking) items to the buyer - this is a trick of "we only have 5 items left in our stock". In our site, the seller should register all 5 items - and when the buyer receives the item, he/she can verify that the received item is the EXACT match of the item being sold, and when purchased, that item (along with all pictures, time-stamp and provenance) will be transferred to the new owner.
Equally likely are potentially bad buyers who orders good stuff and then returns fake items demanding refund. In both cases, we will be recording all transactions and then report them to the authorities when requested. So, yes - it is correct that we are playing the "middleman", but everything we do is to expose the "fugitive".
Wow - thanks.
I am sure this cat-and-mouse game will continue. The forgers will come up with some ingenious way to beat the system and we will work hard to plug-up that hole...
I looked at the site and , and one of the first photos I see is Beyonce signed. I looked at it and all the Beyonce autographs registred look fake . How do you deal with fake autographs on your site ? Cause there is a bunch .
Mike Airing can tell you how hard Beyonce is to get in person . Plus he can also tell you she will not touch a certain color pen to sign in .