NBC News Investigates Julien's Auction's Michael Jackson Autograph Scandal

NBC News Los Angeles aired an investigative report on Julien's Auction's Tompkins & Bush Michael Jackson sale on Tuesday, Dec. 18's 11:00 News. Watch the report and read the accompanying article on NBC Los Angeles's website.

Julien's held the Tompkins & Bush Michael Jackson auction on December 2, but outrage has flooded Michael Jackson fan sites and the world of rock autographs since mid-November, as fans, dealers and collectors alike told Julien's CEO, Darren Julien, that almost all of the autographs in the sale were obvious forgeries. Only one dealer has supported Julien's: Todd Mueller, of Todd Mueller Autographs in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The pleas to cancel the sale fell on deaf ears. All 290 lots of autographs were sold for a total of almost $1.5 million. The only autograph in the sale commonly believed to be genuine brought $896.

A discussion on this site about it, Michael Jackson Signing Styles in Julien's Tompkins and Bush Sale, was started on November 19. At 153 pages to date it is the longest discussion in the history of Autograph Magazine Live. Scores of suspected forgeries from the sale have been analyzed in the discussion. The consensus is that the most of the autographs were likely forged by the consignor, Jackson's long-time friend and costume designer, Michael Bush. The autographs have many of Bush's handwriting characteristics.

Julien's filed a copyright infringement claim against Autograph Magazine Live on December 13. On Dec. 17, our website company removed all the images Julien's claimed violated their copyright from this site pending our response and any further actions Julien's may take. We are legally allowed to use the images under Fair Use laws, and will file our counterclaim this week.

We will have uncontested images of autographs from the auction up starting tomorrow.

UPDATE: According to NBC, Darren Julien said that any client who questions the authenticity of the Michael Jackson autographs they bought in the Tompkins & Bush auction can return them for a refund. If Julien's will cover shipping both ways, that's the best news possible.

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Tags: Julien's, michael jackson, nbc, tompkins and bush

Comment by Sold Out Soul on December 19, 2012 at 12:31am

Mr. Cyrkin, its my understanding from the NBC report that Julien's didn't actually have the signatures authenticated. According to the reporter, the individual they were told to speak to about authentication stated that she only does appraisals and in addition to that, the reporter specifically stated that Julien's did not have the signatures authenticated by a third party as they usually do. My overall impression is that Darren Julien took Michael Lee Bush on his word regarding authenticity...or am I misunderstanding?

I ask because if they didn't actually have anybody authenticate these signatures, I'm curious as to why they deviated from their normal manner of doing business?

From their website:"Known for our quality auctions, specialists carefully vet incoming property to insure we only sell authentic memorabilia."

I also noticed that Julien's tone changed towards refund requests drastically.

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Community Manager on December 19, 2012 at 12:50am

Sold Out Soul,

Yes, Darren Julien has maintained all along that he believed Michael Bush and that was good enough for him. But I don't believe Julien's has used outside authenticators in the past. They have been talking about it. In fact, Darren asked me for suggestions a while back. But I don't think they have used any.

Now that said, many reputable autograph auction houses don't use outside authenticators. They feel they have the necessary expertise in-house and are not interested in additional third-party authentication. There's nothing wrong with that as long as they do a good job and back up what they sell.

Comment by Sold Out Soul on December 19, 2012 at 1:01am

Thanks for your response.

I still don't understand how they'd state on their site that they use specialists to vet items, but in this instance, decided to take MLB at his word. I'd assume when they state 'specialist' they're talking about what you're referring to as 'in house' expertise?

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Community Manager on December 19, 2012 at 1:21am

I don't know who the're referring to.

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Community Manager on December 19, 2012 at 1:22am

The fiasco is far from only about autographs. Someone brought this to my attention this morning:

Lot 648 from the Tompkins & Bush sale was described as "MICHAEL JACKSON WHITE HOUSE JACKET." MJ visited President Bush at the White House in 1990. Here's a picture of them together:

Below is a shot of the jacket from the auction. Since Julien's filed a copyright infringement notice with our ISP and they took down all their images, I don't want to use the image from their site at this time (even though I legally can) so I captured it from a Facebook fan page:

See Lot 648 at Juliens.

Here's a close up of MJ wearing the jacket that day:

Does anyone else count 14 buttons on the jacket MJ was photographed wearing to the White House?

If 648 is the same jacket, why does it have 18 buttons?

And why is there red ornamentation on the collar of the one in the auction...but not on the one MJ is pictured in at the White House?

Lady Gaga paid $144,000 for Lot 648.

Comment by Face on December 19, 2012 at 1:23am

it is absolutely not professional to only base the authenticity just because Bush is the seller... So in fact, he can sell anything he wants stating it is MJ's and just sell it... It is so dumb!

Anyway, I'm so happy NBC made a report about it!!! 

Comment by Sold Out Soul on December 19, 2012 at 1:32am

Actually, Mr. Crykin, it has been established that Julien's made an error. The jacket sold to Lady Gaga was worn by Michael to the 1994 VMAs where he shared the infamous kiss with LMP, not the white house.You can compare his jacket from the 1994 VMAs and see that it fits the image of the one sold at auction.

They are two different jackets, but I still think it was careless to advertise it as the one he wore to the white house seeing as doing such would be much more significant than wearing it to the VMAs.

Comment by Carl Ryan on December 19, 2012 at 1:33am

Steve,

Didnt someone also state in the other page that something was additionally sewed on to the jacket sold to deliberately make it look like an item it wasnt? That represents clear intent to me.

Comment by Travis Christenberry on December 19, 2012 at 1:34am

I can't help but wonder, Julien's is now saying that if a buyer thinks they bought a fake autograph they will do a refund. But what are they gonna do with the returned items? Resale them?

Comment by Sold Out Soul on December 19, 2012 at 1:38am

If you enlarge this image, you'll see that it is the exact same jacket sold at auction with exception to the pin, MLB must have added it to lead one to believe it was the jacket Michael wore to the white house...or perhaps it was an oversight, and he believe he actually described the jacket correctly not realizing which one he placed up for auction of the two.

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