It's happened more times working with experts than I can count. It goes like this:

  • "Ringo does this almost every time he signs, but the forgers almost never get it right. I'm telling you but don't publish it. I don't want the forgers to find out what they're doing wrong."
  • "See this same [signing characteristic] on all of these genuine Obamas? The forgers get it wrong almost every time. But don't put it in the article. We don't want the forgers to fix it."
  • "Most bad Armstrongs [signing characteristic]. But don't tell anyone. We don't want the forgers to know." 

I understand why we don't want the forgers to get better. But I think there's nothing more important than making it as easy as possible for collectors to detect potential fakes themselves.

These "secret tells" will help collectors avoid buying forgeries in the first place, and give them a better chance of getting their money back if they've been cheated. And just as important, it will help identify the criminals forging and knowingly selling and authenticating forgeries.

The more victims, suspects and evidence we can gather for law enforcement; the better the chances of getting these criminals arrested, out of the hobby—and into a different line of work when they're out of prison. The timing is right—the authorities are listening more than ever.

So what do you think?

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Replies to This Discussion

What does one do with a signature obtained in person - but because it was rushed or the elements were a factor (wind for example) so that it "looks" like a forgery?   I have one on eBay right now that a friend of mine got on a golf course and swears that he obtained it in person.  Of course, the comments are starting to roll in.  Any suggestions?    I already added a comment to state that it probably could not be officially authenticated because of a few issues - which I pointed out.   The only other option is to never try to sell it (of course).
I think you just need to tell the truth (it's a sloppy in-person signature) and let the chips fall where they may. Chances are it simply won't draw as much interest as a standard typical signature.

Thanks - thats what I tried to do

I have been giving this a lot of thought. These forgers have no conscience/morals & operate on the "I'll do it as long as I can get away with it" philosophy, just as ordinary criminals do. And they are are criminals, just like any common burglar or robber. I have no reason to believe they will not incorporate these secrets into their own methodology when handed the secrets on a silver platter.  Their stupidity & ignorance is the only way they can be exposed. If we give them the tools to overcome that, then where are we??  We are up  that famous stinky creek with no paddles!

If you are going to spend big bucks on a signature, you are well advised to become an expert on that person's signature BEFORE you plunk down your money. This takes minimally a year of successful searching for many unquestionably genuine signature examples and obviously more time makes you better prepared & knowledgeable. You can, of course, consult with someone who is an expert in the area you seek, but then you may always have that tiny doubt in the back of your mind for that $500 signature you purchased.

That is my take on this issue. Arm ourselves, not the criminals. This echoes the gun control issue. Disarm ourselves while the criminals are armed?? The inevitable result is disaster for honest citizens.


I give up on "authentication experts". No such thing. The only person who knows if it is real is the person who obtained the autograph. Even if you have a photo of you with the signer I am not convinced - can be faked with photo shop. I got to the point where I'd get an autograph in person - Lindsey Buckingham for example - then go home and look at samples on line to see if mine looked "real". When you are in a crowded, rushed situation, thrusting something at someone who makes a quick can forget about "tells" and points and known examples. How would one verify a Vera Farmiga or Al Pacino scrawl? At the opposite end, a very consistent distinctive signer like Brigitte Bardot is so predictable as to be easily faked. If you didn't get the autograph yourself consider it a fake.


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