Friday, December 27, 2013

Beware of fake PSA slabbed items

Here is a good example of an eBay scammer. It's a sure bet someone would pay for this item, get a box of nothing and the seller would disappear.

If you look closely, you can see the "Babe Ruth signed card" is not actually inside the PSA slab, it has been placed on top of it. It appears the PSA label is also sitting on top of the plastic.

Click for full size image.
I have also seen this trick pulled with slabbed CGC comics. It's probably a safe bet it has been done with coins as well.

It's a jungle out there. As always, caveat emptor!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We will never forget

2,977 gone twelve years ago today... but never forgotten.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Historic Air Force One Guest Log

This Air Force One Guest Log recently closed at RR Auction for $6,543. A bargain in my opinion for a truly unique and historic item.

The leatherbound hardcover log book from Air Force One is signed on an inside page in black felt tip by the Apollo 11 crew and their wives upon their arrival in New York city for their ticker tape parade as they kicked off their around-the-world good will tour.

The book is also signed by 77 others, including Lyndon Johnson, Bill Anders, other politicians and dignitaries, and a 28-person contingent of family, friends, and NASA and White House staff of the Apollo 13 mission, who were flown by Nixon to Honolulu to be reunited with the crew.

All I can say is "Wow!"

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A case of Mariano Rivera forgeries

Submitted for your viewing displeasure, a case of junky ghetto Mariano Rivera forgeries.

This mass-produced forgery style is well known and not very well done. However, they apparently fooled ACE Authenticator Justin Priddy who authenticated them for Live Sports Auctions.

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Greatest Detective, Basil Rathbone

Here is a little something outside of my usual area of focus... an album page signed by Basil Rathbone. As you may know, Rathbone is widely considered the definitive Sherlock Holmes.

This was part of an album obtained from a New York City in-person collector from the 1940s and 1950s. As you can see, this was signed on February 12, 1950.

I am a big fan of Holmes, from the original books to the modern interpretations such as Elementary on CBS.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Are authenticity holograms secure enough?

Here is a "Derek Jeter" signed hat on eBay with a Steiner hologram and generic Steiner card, which states "Derek Jeter Autograph."

At best, this signature is highly suspect. Additionally, it appears to be a cheap knock off hat -- note the oversized NY logo and it is probably an adjustable cap as well. Is it likely that Steiner is selling Derek Jeter signed items on unofficial merchandise?

So, this leads me to believe it is either a real Steiner hologram removed from another item or a counterfeit Steiner hologram. Either way, it does not bode well. As reported on Net54, it seems that bad items are appearing with otherwise credible holograms with more and more frequency.

If they are counterfeits, Steiner, MLB and the third party authenticators need to go after the sellers and find out where they are coming from.

If they are legit holograms removed from other items, these holograms are not secure enough and need to be redesigned so they tear apart if removed. I know from personal experience I had a Steiner hologram fall off of a game used ball with only a tiny fleck of the backing being damaged.

A lot of collectors only trust items from supervised signing such as Steiner, MLB, TriStar, etc. If the credibility of these holograms comes into question, these collectors will leave the hobby and that is bad for all of us.

Friday, July 05, 2013

John Olson & Operation Bullpen Muhammad Ali forgeries

John Olson was a forger behind many of the Muhammad Ali forgeries that were rounded up in the FBI's Operation Bullpen bust. Olson worked closely with former boxer Chuck Wepner to pull off his scam, often selling photos signed by the real Wepner, and with a fake Ali signature added.

According to Operation Bullpen author Kevin Nelson, "Olson estimated that over the years he forged close to 10,000 items, mainly of Muhammad Ali. Olson stated "It was crazy. We went on for years. People saying, 'I want to buy five hundred Ali photographs. I want to buy a thousand Ali photographs.'"

Operation Bollpen boxing forger/con man John Olson, circa 1990s

So, is Olson still at it? Click here to read a fascinating account that occurred in Late March/early April 2013. A sports memorabilia dealer met with "a dying man" named John who wanted to sell his collection of boxing autographs. The buyer soon after found out the man he met with was John Olson and all the autographs he purchased were fakes.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independence Day 2013

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

John Adams
(The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Images from Spacefest V

Spacefest V was held over Memorial Day Weekend this year. For those who don't know, it is the event for the space enthusiast of any stripe - astronomy; manned exploration; robotic exploration; commercial space, space history, etc. One of the big draws of Spacefest are the astronaut autograph signings.

Thanks to Kim Poor of Novaspace and Mark and Tom Usciak for the photos.

Gemini IV and Apollo 9 astronaut Jim McDivitt

Gemini VII, Apollo 9 and Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott

Gemini XI and Apollo 12 astronaut Dick Gordon

Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham

Jim McDivitt
Who wouldn't love to have a cocktail with a real hero?
Spacefest VI hasn't been officially announced yet, however I'm really going to try to make it next year. You should too.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How responsible are the buyers of fakes and forgeries?

I found this interesting article in Coin World magazine. It's about someone (an art dealer) who purchased a fake painting and later sued. A New York court ruled that it was the buyer's responsibility because the buyer knew it could be fake, and did not exert due diligence -- that is, have it checked by experts -- prior to the purchase.

Of course, this scenario can be applied to all risky areas of collecting.

While I am not one to ever side with shady sellers, the article makes a strong case that there is responsibility on the part of the buyer to properly inspect an item before it is purchased.


Accountability matters

By Armen R. Vartian
Article first published in May 20, 2013, Expert Advice section of Coin World

I recently received an email from a Coin World reader asking what remedies a coin buyer would have if he purchased “raw” (uncertified by a third-party grading service) coins from a dealer as Mint State 60 or Mint State 63, and then the coins were returned “no graded” (were rejected for encapsulation) upon submission to a major grading service.

Answering his question got me thinking about the impact of grading services in the industry generally, and also about a legal doctrine applied to sales of art and set forth in a recent federal court decision in New York.

Facts simple
The facts of the New York case were simple.

A collector wanted to sell a painting by Milton Avery, and sent the painting to a warehouse in New York City where, as the court noted, “any prospective buyer ... could inspect it.” A firm ended up buying the painting for $200,000, after the firm’s president inspected it at the warehouse.

Shortly thereafter, this firm, a dealer, submitted the painting to the Avery Foundation, which declared it a fake. The collector refused to make a refund. The court sided with the collector.

Siding with the collector
First, it declared that although both parties may have been mistaken as to the painting’s authenticity, the dealer was negligent in not having the Avery Foundation examine the painting before the purchase transaction, rather than afterward.

The court also noted that even if the seller knew the painting was a fake, the dealer had every opportunity to have the painting inspected by the foundation, and therefore couldn’t reasonably have relied upon any statements the seller made about authenticity.

The federal court emphasized that the foundation had sent the seller a letter stating that its representatives were willing to travel to the warehouse for an inspection, and that the dealer should have done more than merely have its president look at the painting himself.

Inspect before buying
Citing other cases involving failure to properly inspect real estate to discover defects, the court concluded, “The very fact that [the dealer] felt the need to seek authentication by the Avery Foundation after the purchase indicates that it knew how to do so prior to the purchase.”

It’s not clear how my reader’s situation is affected by this. In the stamp collecting field, it is normal for buyers to require expertization before concluding a purchase.

I say “concluding” because sometimes the stamps are submitted before money changes hands, and other times the transaction is completed subject to the buyer having the right to rescind if the stamps are found to be inauthentic.

No such practice exists for coins, in part because so many coins are already certified. Nevertheless, raw coins still are bought and sold with some frequency.

Consider certification
Would it be fair for a court to chide a buyer of fake or overgraded coins for not having had the coins submitted to the grading service before he purchased them?

Many, if not most, sellers would balk at such a requirement, and simple sell to someone else. And the buyer in the New York case was a dealer, who presumably knew the risks.

Shouldn’t collectors also be held responsible for knowing the risks of buying uncertified coins?

Shouldn’t collectors also be responsible for knowing that, for coins of coins of substantial value, if they aren’t certified, it might be because they aren’t genuine or are overgraded?

Armen R. Vartian is an attorney and author of A Legal Guide to Buying and Selling Art and Collectibles.

Collectibles and Law column | Coin World

Friday, May 24, 2013

Apollo 8: First to the Moon

Apollo 11 tends to get most of the limelight, but many forget that Apollo 8 was the first mission to the Moon. While Apollo 8 did not land on the Moon, they were the first to leave Earth and orbit the Moon in December 1968.

It was a daring mission led by the incomparable Frank Borman. Jim Lovell, the future commander of the Apollo 13 mission, and Bill Anders rounded out the crew.

The crew of the historic Apollo 8
Bill Anders, James Lovell and Frank Borman

On Christmas Eve 1968 during a live television transmission heard by an estimated 2 billion people, each crew member read a section from the Book of Genesis (verses 1-10). Borman finished the broadcast by wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone on Earth with, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

(As an aside, it's almost unimaginable that religious content like this would be permitted on a broadcast today. If it was, they would have to include a message from every conceivable religion (and atheists) as to be as "inclusive" as possible. Some would call this "progress" I assume.)

The signed limited print above was issued by the San Diego Air and Space Museum in 2008 -- the 40th anniversary of the mission. As space collectors know, Bill Anders is an exceedingly difficult signer, making an Apollo 8 crew signed item one of the least common and most desirable Apollo crews.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Story of the Ted Williams “Thumper” postcards

The Ted William’s “Thumper” postcards often appear for sale. The signatures are generally authentic; however, it is possible that unsigned versions of the card exist where a forgery could be added.

So, where did these Thumper postcards come from?

Reportedly, Ted Williams had a business interest in an orange grove. When someone ordered a certain quantity of oranges, they received a free signed postcard. A larger 5.5 x 8.5 print also exists, and presumably these were sent with larger orders.
Whitey Ford Thumper Postcard

Interestingly, there are also Thumper signed postcards for others players as well including Brooks Robinson, Whitey Ford, Stan Musial and others. The quality of the artwork varies greatly. It is unclear if these were also "orange grove" giveaways." The Williams postcard bears a nice likeness, while some others -- notably the Ford -- are somewhat dis-proportioned and cartoonish.

Ted Williams Thumper Postcard envelope

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tour these museum-like space collections

Collectors Anthony Pizzitola and Dan Mangieri provide a glimpse into their amazing space memorabilia collections. Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Thursday, May 09, 2013

RR Auction Spring 2013 Space & Aviation Auction

It's once again time for RR Auction's Spring Space & Aviation Auction.

While the video focuses on the flown equipment, there are also a wide selection of top notch autographed items in the auction.

All lots are current available for your viewing pleasure in preview.

As some regular readers may know, I am Steve Zarelli, RR's space authenticator.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New William "Bill" Anders Astronaut Autopen Identified

I found this suspect signature a few months ago, and this week a match was found. So this is now a confirmed Autopen pattern for Apollo 8 astronaut, Bill Anders.

Amazing how we are still discovering Autopen patterns 40+ years after they have been in circulation.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Absolutely Guaranteed to be 100 Percent Fake

An article by Kevin Nelson, the author of Operation Bullpen.

Some good images of the COAs associated with the Marino Forgery Ring.

Phony Autograph Authenticators and Fake COAs Mar Collecting Hobby

Saturday, March 16, 2013

World class space memorabilia collection

Noted collector and dealer Ken Havekotte discusses space memorabilia...

Ken has a space memorabilia collection that may be second to none. Gotta love the passion. Go Ken!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Beware of inkjet printed autographs

This Neil Armstrong signed "cut" was sent to me recently for review. The moment I took it from the envelope my radar went off because it was not a 3x5 index card, but printer photo type paper cut to the shape of a 3x5 card.

I also immediately knew something was amiss because the signature seemed too "flat." It was on the surface of the paper, but there was no ink streaking.

Here is what it looked like under magnification:

So, it was a high quality inkjet print. This "signature" is composed of dots, not ink from a pen.

I have seen a number of these printed signatures and it appears to be a growing problem. Often they are matted in a display  -- at arm's length and under glass they can be more deceptive. As always, caveat emptor!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

UACC Autograph Authentication Course: April 20 - 21, 2013

The UACC will hold its Basic Autograph Authentication Course at the next Hollywood Show in Los Angeles, April 20 - 21. The hands-on course will include identification of the most common fake autographs including Autopens and stamped signatures.

The course is free to UACC members and $5.00 to all others. Course will be taught by Michael Hecht, UACC President and Kevin Segall, Proprietor of Collector's Shangri-La.

You can get discounted tickets to the show here.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Jeter Fans Line Up, Shut Up and Wait -

Jeter Fans Line Up, Shut Up and Wait -

“Single file! No chitchat! He doesn't want to hear about your personal life, so don’t ask him about his!”

Sounds like a humiliating experience. Why subject yourself to waiting for many hours to be treated like a piece of garbage? If you're so desperate for his autograph, just buy one for a few hundred bucks on eBay. It's not like you are missing out on a wonderful encounter with a friendly star.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Neil Armstrong signed baseball: Is it real, or is it Memorex?

Once in a while, you'll find a fake autograph and know precisely where it was copied from.

In the Fall 2012 RR Space Auction, I reviewed and authenticated this Neil Armstrong signed baseball.

Today, I stumbled across this alleged Neil Armstrong signed baseball at Coach's Corner Auctions.

In my opinion, the Coach's Corner example was almost certainly modeled from the authentic exemplar offered by RR Auction. But note the slowness, hesitation and lack of confidence in the Coach's Corner ball. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

And, it's back.

The Neil Armstrong signed shuttle lithograph I wrote about last week -- yes, the one that sold for $1,830.61.

Well, it's back again. This time for a princely $3,400 Buy It Now.

LOL. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Neil Armstrong autograph: High on grade, low on context

This signed photo closed for $1,830 on eBay last night. Two months ago it sold at RR Auction for $1,150, which is a price one would expect considering the Space Shuttle photo is un-related to Neil Armstrong. (Kinda like having Mickey Mantle sign a photo of Wrigley Field.)

RR Auction always commands strong prices and has a great reputation for authenticity, so those were not likely issues. So one could conclude the only difference between the first sale and the second sale is the PSA/DNA "9" grade. (However, the eBay sale did not mention creasing, which was noted in the RR Auction listing.) Are people really chasing "graded" autographs now? While it is undoubtedly authentic and a very nice signature, wouldn't you rather have a "6" that is on a photo representative of Neil Armstrong?

Full disclosure department: I am the space authenticator for RR Auction.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Advice for "investing" in collectibles

I don't consider my collectibles an "investment," but when I spend money on something, it would be nice to get something back out of it down the line when it's time to sell.

With this in mind, I advise avoiding mass-produced material as much as possible. By that I mean single signed balls of common signers, common signed flats, etc. If it has a Steiner sticker, it's probably not rare.

Go for items that are less common. If you really want a signed item from someone who is in plentiful supply, get one with a less common inscription. This applies to all collectibles, not just baseball autographs.

Derek Jeter may be signing baseballs for another 50 years.
Will you ever get $400 back out of it?
If I could tell go back in time and give myself one bit of collecting advice, it would be, "one $200 item is way better than ten $20 items."

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Neil Armstrong autograph values hold steady

This photo closed on eBay today for $1,212. A strong result for a personalized photo with condition issues.

To top it off, it's not even an image of Neil Armstrong.

Since his passing in August, so much Armstrong material entered the market, I was wondering if prices would actually drop. Yet demand seems to have increased resulting in values holding steady.