Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolution 2015: Focus on Quality

I have been writing about focusing on quality over quantity in collecting for a few years now. But, what about quality in all aspects of life?

As I get older, I find some habits and pursuits less and less fulfilling. Why is that? I think it is because the less satisfying pursuits do not provide "quality."

Think how much your life -- including your collection -- might improve if you:

  • Stop watching "empty" valueless reality shows and instead watch classic movies, documentaries and shows that provide insight, inspiration and knowledge. You'll think better.
  • Stop mindlessly thumbing through endless scrolls of your Facebook feed and visit a web site where you can learn something. Better yet, write an article for a web site... share your knowledge.
  • Turn off the tablet and pick up the phone to call a friend. 
  • Put down the trashy novel du jour and read a book about history, a biography or a classic novel.
  • Stop the impulse buys and exercise discipline. One quality $200 item in your collection is always more impressive than eight common ho-hum $25 items. The most admired collections have focus and quality. If you want quantity, look at the barns full of junk no one cares about on American Pickers. You want that?
  • Eat quality food. This is not about weight loss, but that may be a result. Are you really eating a floppy salt patty from a fast food chain when a real burger from the local diner is about the same price? As I get older, I have no patience for poor quality food. I'd rather go without than eat highly processed garbage food.
As Dave Ramsey says, "The difference between you now and you a year from now is the people you meet and the books you read."

We only have so many years on this earth; don't you want to spend them in the best way possible?

Best regards for a happy, healthy and quality-filled 2015!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More Star Wars: Clive Revill as Emperor Palpatine signed photo

Clive Revill was the original voice of Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back. He was replaced by Ian McDiarmid when the Special Edition DVD was released.

From a recent signing with Official Pix... Mr. Revill has a very interesting curly signature style.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Frank Oz as Yoda signed photo

I don't venture much into modern entertainment... Star Wars is about as modern as I get. I continue to slowly plug away at my Star Wars signed photo collection. Very happy to add a Frank Oz "Yoda" pose to the collection courtesy of Skyline Signatures. An especially bold signature and the "Yoda" inscription is a nice plus.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

George Steinbrenner: Future Hall-of-Famer?

Is George Steinbrenner a future baseball hall-of-famer? I think there is a strong likelihood he will be and I am always on the lookout for Steinbrenner signed items. He did sign some baseballs through Steiner, but regrettably he used a thick sharpie resulting than less than prime signatures. You can easily find these on eBay in the $300 range.

I was happy to add this signed photo to my collection for a very reasonable buy-it-now on eBay.

Be cautious however, there are a lot of Steinbrenner forgeries on the market. There have been certain eBay sellers with an endless supply of "perfectly and neatly" signed George Steinbrenner baseballs, many with "The Boss" inscriptions, etc.

Also, it appears that he did have a secretary sign for him at times... I often see secretarial signatures on Yankee letterhead.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Steve Zarelli Space Authentication: Virgil "Gus" Grissom Autograph Study

Steve Zarelli Space Authentication has published an online signature study focusing on Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

Included are a number of verified signature exemplars that span the short period Gus Grissom was signing autographs, as well as Autopens, secretarials, pre-prints and suspected forgeries.

In my estimation, Grissom is in the top five risky autographs of flown astronauts. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the study and it is of value to the community.

As always, comments and feedback are welcome and thank you for your support!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

True Story About The Forgeries Sold By Bergen County NJ’s Baseball Memorabilia Auction: Expose by WPIX TV

WPIX Channel 11 in New York ran an expose of the forgeries sold in the Bergen County, New Jersey Baseball Memorabilia Auction. The three part piece is excellent and well-researched. Kudos to the reporter, Howard Thompson, who really did his homework.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Charlton Heston Secretarial Study: Redux

Hard to believe it's been three and a half years since I published the Charlton Heston secretarial study on this blog.
As a footnote, since the study was introduced, the Universal Autograph Collectors Club, most credible dealers, collectors, JSA, PSA and SGC have all accepted the study. The UACC published a version of the study in the Winter 2014 edition of the Pen & Quill.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Don Larsen, the Perfect Yankee

The World Series resumes tonight with game 6. While it has been an enjoyable series, I am rooting for Kansas City to win. Not that I am a Kansas City Royals fan, but they are a spirited, scrappy team and smaller market teams need to win once in a while to keep baseball interesting.

Hard to believe that at one time, the World Series would have been over for weeks by now.

Don Larsen was a journeyman pitcher who likely would have been largely forgotten by now if not for one extraordinary feat. It was 58 years ago that for one day he was The Perfect Yankee.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

eBay: A forger and scammer paradise

Derek Jeter souvenir ball with replica signature sells for $241.35.

eBay is as bad or worse than it has ever been. It is flooded with scammers selling obvious and mass-produced fakes. Many of these fakes are accompanied by worthless COAs from supposed "forensic experts." It would be a full-time job for a staff of ten people just to highlight some of the fakes that are sold on eBay every day.

Amid Derek Jeter madness, this souvenir ball with an obvious replica signature sold for $241.35. Even from the eBay picture, you can easily tell it is pre-printed and not real pen lines that would be overlapping each other.

I can't believe people drop this kind of money on something they obviously know nothing about. On top of it all, it was being sold by a zero feedback seller.

eBay truly has become a scammers' paradise.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Fantastic Four #1, Italian Edition... or I Fantastici Quattro

Here is the Italian Edition of Fantastic Four #1, printed by Italian comic book publisher Editoriale Corno in 1971. It reprints the U.S. #1 from 1961, but with a different cover.

The cover art was probably sourced from the same art used on a Marvel T-shirt that was commonly seen in advertisements in 1960s Marvels.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

George Lucas signed photo - May the Force be with you

I'll take a vintage personalized photo inscribed "May the Force be with you" any day over the contemporary George Lucas scribbles.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The difference between a "proxy" signature and a "forgery"

A forgery is an unauthorized reproduction that is created for fraudulent purposes.

A proxy signature (clubhouse / secretarial) is an authorized reproduction that emanated from a source known by the intended signer.

With autograph collecting, there should be a clear distinction between forgery and proxy and they should not be used interchangeably.

Some collectors argue they are one and the same. Perhaps they both have an equivalent level of desirability to some (zero), but that does not make them the same.

From a personal perspective, if there was an multi-signed item that had a proxy signature mixed in with a group of authentics, it is an item I would not necessarily rule out for my collection. However, a forgery mixed in with authentic items would be totally undesirable in my opinion.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I like Ike (signed photograph)

I am very pleased to add a Dwight D. Eisenhower inscribed signed photo to my collection. It has whet my appetite for adding more presidential material!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Steve Zarelli Space Authentication: Neil Armstrong Autograph Study

If you haven't had the chance to check it out, please take a look at the Neil Armstrong Autograph Study from Steve Zarelli Space Authentication.

Upcoming astronaut autograph studies include Gus Grissom and Edward White.

Autographed Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks

Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks signed by Stan Lee, Joe Sinnott and Dick Ayers. Sinnott and Ayers obtained in-person. Stan Lee from a private signing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fake autographs at charity auctions connected to Coach's Corner

Experienced autograph collectors have known for a long time charity auctions are a minefield of bad autographs. Not that the charity auctions knowingly offer non-authentic items, but rather they are victimized themselves by unknowingly obtaining bad material from dishonest dealers and distributors.

This is a great expose from Fox 19 in Cincinnati that shows the notorious Coach's Corner was the source of many bad items featured in one particular charity auction. The interview features Steve Cyrkin, publisher of Autograph Magazine and music expert Roger Epperson.

Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

As you can see in the report, the reporter traveled to Coach's Corner in Pennsylvania. Coach's Corner owner Lee Trythall refused to be interviewed on camera.

Coach's Corner Auction

Coach's Corner Auction

Friday, February 21, 2014

You're gonna need a bigger boat

Ok, I know that line was spoken in Jaws by Roy Scheider, but it's such a great line I look for any excuse to use it.

Very happy to add a Richard Dreyfus signed Jaws pose to my collection.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Are Steiner holograms compromised?

On July 21 of last year I wrote about a suspect Derek Jeter autographed hat with a Steiner hologram. In the interim, there have been more scattered reports of suspect items bearing Steiner holograms.

This item is currently on eBay with a highly suspect Mariano Rivera autograph and bearing a Steiner hologram.

I'm not implying any wrongdoing on the part of Steiner because it is clear they are a reputable company who sells authentic material. But have their holograms been compromised? Is someone counterfeiting them or have dishonest people devised a way to remove them from authentic items without damage and place them on bad items? 

Steiner has a very valuable reputation to protect and they need to get to the bottom of this. As I wrote in my previous post, if collectors begin to lose confidence in first party autograph distributors like  Steiner, it would be a significant blow to the entire market.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2013 collecting in review

As usual, I am running behind! But as they say, better late than never.

In 2013 I was able to maintain a relatively tight focus and for the first time I felt like I really avoided the temptation of impulse buys. I was not perfect, but my impulse buys I could count on one hand and they were not big purchases.

So, without any further ado, here are some collecting highlights from 2013.

One of my goals was to build a complete set of the Kniga Vostok postal covers. These covers were officially signed under supervision on January 10, 1964 by cosmonauts from the 6 Vostok missions. For those not familiar with the space program, Vostok was the Soviet Union's "Mercury Program." These postal covers were issued by the Russian agency for foreign trades, Kniga.

For the record, this is the only official signing Yuri Gagarin ever participated in, and some collectors view this as the only 100% certain way to obtain a Gagarin signature that is undoubtedly authentic.

Vostok 1, Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space

Vostok 2, Gherman Titov

Vostok 3, Andrian Nicolayev

Vostok 4, Pavel Popovich

Vostok 5, Valery Bykovsky

Vostok 6, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space

I also added this Bill Anders, Apollo 8, signed photo to my collection. Anders is widely regarded as the least common and toughest signer of all flown astronauts.

This may be among my favorite acquisitions of 2013... a limited edition lithograph signed by the crew of Apollo 8 issued through the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Apollo 16 Commander John Young on the moon.
It wasn't all space, however. I also expanded my baseball collection.

Billy Martin

Enter Sandman

Mickey Mantle "Gallo" pose
And, I got the itch to work on my Star Wars collection.

I haven't been collecting comics as actively as I have in the past, but occasionally I'll see an uncommon book from my want list and I need to strike while I can. I have been collecting Actions Comics war covers for over 10 years now, and unfortunately the price has gone up faster than I can buy them! So, I am lucky to add one or two a year when they occasionally appear.

Action Comics 63

Action Comics 91
Well, that is just a few highlights, but it slams the lid on things for 2013. Best wishes and happy collecting in 2014!

Monday, February 10, 2014

eBay removing authentic Drew Brees autographs through VeRO?

As reported on Autograph Magazine Live, it appears eBay is removing authentic Drew Brees autographs through the VeRO program. Allegedly, GT Sports Marketing (GTSM) has an exclusive signing contract with Brees and is having any autographs not signed through them removed through the VeRO program.

As a bit of background, Verified Rights Owner (VeRO) Program is intended for license holders to remove unlicensed material such as counterfeits and bootlegs. As the eBay site indicates, "Any person or company who holds intellectual property rights (such as a copyright, trademark or patent) which may be infringed by listings or items sold on eBay is welcomed to participate in the VeRO Program." For instance, through VeRO, Coach can file a complaint and have knockoff handbags removed. Many bands are active through VeRO in reporting bootlegs for removal.

It is my impression that VeRO was not intended to remove legitimate items that were obtained legally so one seller could monopolize the market. How can Drew Brees, or anyone else, have "intellectual property rights" over the ink in their signature on an item someone else purchased?

It seems to me that when an item is signed -- for free or for a fee -- it becomes your property to do with it as you wish. The signer retains no licensing rights over the item.

Reportedly, Theo Chen of is looking for participants who have had legitimate items removed for a class action lawsuit against GTSM.

Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The story continues to unfold: Collector fears Eli Manning cheated him with ‘fake’ $8,500 helmet

Another story from the NY Post regarding potentially fake game used equipment from Eli Manning and the NY Giants.

From the NY Post article:
A former Steiner Sports employee said Thursday that staffers of the memorabilia seller suspected that not all of the “game-used” gear was real.

"Specifically, from Eli we would see it and say, ‘Come on, this is not ‘game used,’ ” the source said.

CEO Brandon Steiner declined to comment.
This does not bode well for Steiner Sports. If the charges are true, it is hard to fathom why a company built on the concept of no-doubt authenticity would even take a chance if there was the slightest suspicion the material Manning was supplying was questionable. The money they made off these items had to be a drop in the bucket of their overall product offering. Why mess around like this?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Did Eli Manning and Giants create fake game used memorabilia?

A New York Post article regarding charges that Eli Manning and the Giants intentionally sold fake game used equipment. The material was allegedly distributed through several channels, including Steiner Sports, although there is nothing to suggest Steiner or other sellers knew the items may have been fakes.

If true, these charges could rock the game used hobby to its core. If Eli Manning and the Giants organization are knowingly distributing fake game used equipment, who else is also doing it? Who can you trust?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Know a bargain when you see it and don’t get greedy

This beautiful Derek Jeter signed ball was listed on eBay for a $125 Buy-It-Now or a $40 opening bid. 

$125 is an outstanding price for a strong 90s-era Jeter signed ball. But, instead of hitting it at that price, the opening bidder placed a $40 bid… presumably in hopes of getting it for much less than $125. Once the opening bid was placed, the $125 Buy-It-Now went away.

Bad move. The auction closed at $215. 

Lesson learned: don’t get greedy. If you see an item at an excellent Buy-It-Now, hit it and don’t worry about trying to get a rock-bottom bargain. If it is a good item, chances are you will get burned as did the “bargain hunter” who though he’d get the Jeter ball for less than $125.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Kaplan Collection: Baseballs Signed by World Leaders

Randy Kaplan, a collector from Long Island,  has assembled an eye-popping collecton of baseballs signed by world leaders.

Visit his web site to learn more.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Don't buy others' problems

As collectors we are always looking for bargains. What's better than getting a great item at an even greater price? But the question to ask yourself, are you getting a "dented can" for that bargain price? Would it be better to pay a few bucks more for a problem free item?

The article below originally appeared on While it is about coins, it applies to any collectible.

Don’t Buy Others’ Problem Coins
by Patrick A. Heller, December 31, 2013

Every dealer has lots of them, as do a high percentage of collectors. I’m talking about coins that have problems. By that I refer to any feature that does not represent ordinary wear as a coin is manufactured, then placed into circulation.

There are so many kinds of problems that a coin might have that I’m sure this list only scratches the surface: cleaning, wiping, whizzing, artificial toning, fingerprints, corrosion, rim damage, tooling, repairs, altered surfaces, milk spots, orange spots, scratches, clipping, removed mounting, holes, solder residue, “green slime,” mottled or pickled surfaces, spooning, bent, chemical residue, environmental damage, and on and on.

Some of this damage occurs for innocent enough reasons, such as the storage of old collections in materials that unfortunately damaged coins over time. Some is done by uninformed people who think that cleaning or otherwise altering a coin may somehow make it worth more – and in the process invariably decreases the value. In the last category are the deliberate kinds of treatments to coins to deceive a buyer into thinking they are of greater value than they are.

Numismatic organizations have wrestled with attempts to define accidental and deliberate damage, with no descriptions meeting universal acceptance. At best, ethical coin dealers should identify problems with coins about which they are aware. Major grading services either do not grade coins with problems or encapsulate them with information about the problems.

Coins with problems are more difficult to sell because collectors generally seek problem-free coins. There are numismatic niches, such as Bust half dollars, where a high percentage of coins were cleaned long ago and many have retoned to a relatively natural appearance, but such coins are the exception rather than the rule.

If coin dealers are being offered problem coins, they almost always would not purchase them at the same price levels as for problem-free coins. In my decades in the business, I have seen problem coins trade at best for maybe two-thirds of the value of problem-free coins down to less than 5 percent of the price of the same grade of coin with no problems.

While it might seem to be a bargain opportunity to purchase coins “almost as nice” as problem-free coins but at a lot lower price, the downside is the illiquidity of problem coins. Problem-free coins will sell readily to almost all collectors, while demand for problem coins comes from a much smaller collector base. As a result, dealers tend to work with a wider buy/sell spread when trading problem coins. Sure, problem coins may seem like a bargain when you buy them, but you will get clobbered should you ever try to sell or trade them.

As a general rule, purchasing problem-free coins will return better results down the road than going for problem specimens. There are some series where a high percentage of surviving specimens have some kinds of problems, such as U.S. Colonial issues. If you are considering the purchase of problem coins, try to get information from someone other than the seller as to what the resale value might be.

If you go around coin shows, you are bound to come across some dealer cases where just about every coin has problems. There are markets for such material, but not all dealers of such specimens are totally forthcoming to potential customers about the condition of their inventory. It also happens that dealers occasionally make mistakes, where they don’t catch every problem on every coin they have in their inventory. If you are considering a purchase of a problem coin, make sure to do your homework first and ask for buy-back or return options. Happy hunting.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects.