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How Autographs Become Certified and Resold on the Open Market

Not everybody can be trustworthy. “Hey Mike I have this autographed Michael Jordan rookie jersey. I’ll sell it to you for $250.” Sound familiar? Not that your friend Mike would lie about something like that, but Mike might try to sell said autographed jersey on Craigslist or eBay for a big pay day.

To ensure that you’re never conned with a fake autograph, and in collaboration with Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and Beckett Authentication Services (BAS), here’s the professional process to evaluating fake versus real autographs and how autographs are bought and sold for resale purposes. 1. Ink Analysis If the ink hasn’t permeated into the piece of paper or item, it’s probably been signed recently. Also, if the ink is a different color or different style than the athlete’s normal autographs, it’s probably a forgery or photocopy. 2. Object Evaluation After taking a quick glance to see if the ink has permeated, PAS and BAS professionals will then evaluate if the signature etches the paper. This is a good thing because etching the paper means older ink does this, in case you have a supposed autograph from Mickey Mantle when he was a rookie. BAS, Ultimate Autographs (UA) and PAS professionals will also see if the autographed piece of paper has become very brittle. Modern paper deteriorates quickly over time compared to older ones. 3. Structural Analysis and Side-by-Side Comparisons This next step of evaluating the authenticity of autographed memorabilia is very much related to forensic handwriting evaluation.

During this step of the process, BSA, UA, and PSA pros look for signature flow, style, spontaneity, letter angle, starts and stops of known autographed samples versus the prospective new autograph on the open market. Color Spectral Deconvolution and Video Spectral Comparator Analysis In the case of some autographed documents and items, BAS and PSA will sometimes use color spectral deconvolution (CSD) and video spectral comparator analysis (VSCA). For CSD, professionals will use an advanced color algorithm in a three-dimensional space to help separate the signature from the background colors.

For VSCA, autograph professionals can detect differences in ink types and obliterated signatures through sophisticated color and infrared imaging, magnification, and side lighting on-screen. Anti-Counterfeiting When it comes to PSA, once the autograph is determined to be a genuine one, the autographed item will then be marked with invisible ink that contains a synthetic DNA sequence; this sequence will not allow scam artists to duplicate the autograph. PSA also inputs a unique, serialized label on the item. In the case of BAS, they will put a half-inch oval tamper-evident label on the autographed item with an alphanumeric certification number on it. People can remove the label, but fragments of the label will remain on the autographed item.

To make a long story short, if there’s no invisible ink or fragments of a certification number on the autographed item, chances are it’s a photocopy. That being said, the autograph could be real, though. However, the price of the autographed can go down if it hasn’t been certified yet. Certificate of Authenticity or Letter of Authenticity This is a small sticker or seal that summarizes how the item has been looked over by PSA and BAS experts. This seal will contain the same serialized label from the anti-counterfeiting stage. With a Certificate of Authenticity or Letter of Authenticity to go along with the autograph, this drastically increases the resale value of the item. Verification The autographed item is then part of the BAS, UA, and PSA online database that can also be used for mobile applications.

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