How to Determine the Difference Between a Real and Fake Autograph: Terminology and Photo Examples

A Great Tool and Must-Read for All Autograph Collectors

Hello collectors...I wanted to do this piece for quite some time to help show what the differences between autographs that are NOT as we would say "AUTHENTIC" and to show and to help with the terminology of the differences and variations of SIGNED items out there that has several meanings...


Also AUTHENTIC terminology of what you should want to collect if your looking to buy authentic pieces only...


In this thread I would like to show and break down the terminology of...











to determine the difference between what to buy and what to look out for to help educate what the differences are between all 8 terms...LETS DIVE RIGHT IN SHALL WE...



In my first example this is what is called an "AUTO PEN" a signature that has authentic qualities but is in fact just a copy for example this auto pen is of Obama...

The first autopens were developed by an Englishman named John Isaac Hawkins. Hawkins received a United States patent for his device in 1803. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson began using the device extensively.[1] This early device was known at the time as a polygraph (an abstracted version of the pantograph) and bears little resemblance to today's autopens in design or operation.[2] The modern autopen called the Robot Pen was developed in the 1930s and became commercially available in 1937 (used as a storage unit device, similar in principle to how vinyl records store information) to record a signers signature. A small segment of the record could be removed and stored elsewhere to prevent misuse. The machine would then be able to mass produce a template signature when needed. On May 27, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama became the first president to use an autopen to sign a bill into law.[4] While visiting France, he authorized the use of an autopen to create his signature which signed into law an extension of three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.[5]Republican leaders have raised questions as to whether this use of the Autopen meets the Constitutional requirement for signing a bill into law.[6]


This second picture is what is known as a "SECRETARIAL SIGNATURE" although it is in ink and HAND SIGNED this Sinclair Oil Contest Baseball was not SIGNED by BABE RUTH...A secretarial signature is hand signed and in autographed on the particular item's surface like a ball, photo, card document etc. Although its not authentic I would not consider it to be an actual FORGERY because secretarial auto's are signed not by the person them self but the person is actually aware it is happening and is almost always permitted by the celebrity...

Celebrities sometimes authorized secretaries to sign their correspondence. In the early months of WWII, U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall felt obligated to sign every condolence letter sent to the families of slain soldiers. But as the death rate increased, he was forced to assign an assistant to "forge" his signature to the letters. The surrogate signatures were hard to distinguish from the originals. General Douglas MacArthur rarely signed a WWII condolence letter personally and all of his letters to families were signed by one of two assistants who tried hard to duplicate his signature but the "forgeries" were distinguished by an unusually high letter "l" and a skinny "D". During the early stage of the Korean War, MacArthur personally signed condolence letters. As the fatalities increased, the General began to use letters with pre-printed signatures.

In the 1952 Presidential Election, General Eisenhower often had secretaries forge his name to campaign letters and "personally inscribed" autographed photographs.

Here is an example of a "CLUBHOUSE" signature of MICKEY MANTLE...there also appears to be a BILL DICKEY CLUB HOUSE on the side of the ball...also hand signed even though it is NOT AUTHENTIC...the players are aware this happens...usually when a player is not around or does not want to be bothered that's when a TEAM MATE or STAFF MEMBER signs the item for some one not present...I don't know when it started but it has been going on as far as I know since the 1920's OR 1930's...I have seen many "CLUBHOUSE'' signatures over the years on Baseball items...Not exactly sure if it's only done in Baseball but I am sure if it has been going on for this long its possible it's been going on in other sports as well...

This is a "FACSIMILE" LOU GEHRIG autograph...this is when an item is most of the time stamped with what looks to be an authentic example of an original autograph...this is not hand signed or forged...facsimile autos are most of the time stamped or added right on to the surface of the item itself...these items are just for display purposes and are not worth much of anything...I cant begin to tell you how many team signed stamped balls from the 50's and 60's that were sold in Stadiums as keepsakes I have seen that people would swear up and down there ball was authentic but are really not worth a whole lot...depending on condition those facsimile team balls can be worth about $50-$75 and not the THOUSANDS PEOPLE CLAIM !!!...but this is a perfect example of an item that is made to look old and shellacked...but strictly for display purpose and really has no value to the real thing...

This right here is a "FORGERY" a flat out fake made usually by one hand for the sole purpose to dupe some one into thinking there owning an authentic piece...this is the most vicious of all versions shown...this right here is supposed to be a "500 HOME RUN CLUB" Baseball with TED WILLIAMS & MICKEY MANTLE on the sweet spot...most of the time there sold for a fraction of the cost of an authentic item...Most collectors that are not as savvy fall pray to this pieces most of the time buying a fake not realizing it because they really don't know what an authentic piece actually looks like or there enticed by an extremely low priced happens every day and the "FLIP FLOP MAFIA" and other "OPERATION BULLPEN" forgers have truly contributed into what has saturated the market of authentic pieces practically 10-1...although of course they were not the only forgers out there but newer forgers of late have stepped in there place pumping some the worst looking forgeries into the market I have ever seen...but as far as fooling people...the "OPERATION BULLPEN" forgers were by far the most successful do to the forgers being extremely skilled AND NETTING OVER $100,000,000.00...but if you were to compare a authentic piece to a forgery you can see the difference right away...

This right here is an "AUTHENTIC" JOE DIMAGGIO autographed baseball...this was signed while Dimaggio started his own company to try to prevent forgers from signing his name on any given items...this is a Piece from JOE DIMAGGIO ESTATES and is 1000% we all know an authentic piece is an item that will pass any and all third party authentication service with out a shadow of a doubt because it was either signed in person or purchased from a reputable seller like for example JOE DIMAGGIO ESTATES...I think STERINER SPORTS bought all there items up and it may not be around any more but at the time in the late 90's this was the place to get an authentic piece with out getting robbed when fakes were at there highest percentage of all time..

This is an "IP" autograph I got many years ago at Yankee Stadium...this the best way to acquire signatures..."IN PERSON"...The true way to collecting and getting an item first hand is the absolute best way to collect...although not always the easiest way...these require no expert opinion unless of course you would like to sell it and then get it authenticated for the piece of mind for the buyer...plain and simple "IP" equals IN PERSON...also ANOTHER TERM IS "PC" which means in collector terminology "PERSONAL COLLECTION" ...This would be an "IP" autograph from my "PC"...

and last but not least this is a "TTM" autograph...a "TTM" autograph means "THROUGH THE MAIL"...This is an old school and fairly cheap way of getting signatures from your favorite celebrity...with a nice letter, your flat item and a S.A.S.E "SELF ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE" you can acquire signatures in this fashion...but patients and a HIGH VOLUME OF REQUESTS is the name of this may NOT get a response at all or your item may come when you least expect it...or come back unsigned, facsimile stamped, an auto pen or a secretarial !!!!!...don't expect quick turn around's...sometimes it takes weeks or months and sometimes even longer...BUT sometimes in just days !!!!! but you must never send an item that is dear to you as you may not have it comeback...I suggest 8x10 photos or common cards that are not booked more then a $1 because if they don't come back your not at a real loss...also don't be greedy and send more then 2 request...chances are most people would not sign more then 2 items...or not even sign both items at all...or just one in reality one item is best...but I would say no more then 2 at most...and know what there signature looks like prior to sending a request so you know you got an genuine authentic TTM item...







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Great stuff! A must read for beginners!
Thanks John...I hope I can help educate as many collectors as I can since this hobby can truly make you go broke on purchasing fakes...
Great tool for those just learning the hobby. Thank you for posting this for everyones benefit. I'm sure it took some time...D
nice work Cee Gee.  I still see people trying to sell stamped team signed balls as authentic.  thanks for posting this!
Its so sick really is amazing and I got to tell you...those owners of those team signed facsimile balls are the most stubborn of all collectors...they will fight you tooth and nail and tell you its real because there father or grandfather didn't know what they had in the first place...I always see the facsimile team Mantle balls and or the Babe Ruth Home Run balls fetching huge dollars and its just stamped...


Here is a perfect example of that scenario...sellers claims 

 I have owned this ball since 1980 and it was given to me by my mother in-law in NJ. She said it was her father's. It appears to be in good condition for it's age and has some really great hall of fame signatures. I do not know a lot about this ball other than the names of the players are from one of the 1950's team. I cannot guarantee anything on this ball other than I have had it for a long time. I was offered $500 for it at a Atlantic City sports show quite some time ago,but decided to keep it. NO reserve the ball will go ..good luck.



Yes Mike and believe it or not all the people I have ever seen selling or owning these balls just will not except the truth and will really argue with you till there blue in the face that there facsimile ball they cherished for 50 years is the real deal when in reality its practically worthless.... 

facsimile Mantle

Nice write up CEE GEE. Kudos!


Didn't know Gossage signs TTM. I may have to send something! :-)

What's up Zipper...yes sir...I got him many years ago and he always replies...this is by far the best Gossage TTM I have ever got from him about a week ago...So sweeet
Very good overall study of the basics, CEE GEE. With some interesting facts too. Thanks for sharing it. I hope enough people get to see it.

check this out....for $2,800.00 you can own this awesome facsimile baseball that's not even worth $50.00 in that condition...




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