Earlier today, It's Time for Dodger Baseblog wrote a post about an autographed Baseball on eBay that is an obvious fake. See it here. I'm sure many of you, especially the autograph seekers, can tell that the Ron Cey isn't close to being real. Not only that, the other autos are so poorly done I can only assume they were done by a child trying to emulate his favorite players autos. Nevertheless, I'll give the seller the benefit of a doubt and assume he doesn't know any better.
Now, why do I bring this up you ask? Well, fake autographs on eBay has become an epidemic, and it absolutely sickens me. There is nothing worse than a fan/collector spending your hard-earned cash on something that isn't real. It's bad for the hobby and it's bad for the sport.
Too many hucksters and jivers are out there trying to prey on the good intentions of folks like you and me. I only wish there was an easy answer to help those who want it.
All I can do is offer a word of advice. Always be vigilant when shopping for an auto of your favorite player. If it is a current ballplayer you want spend the time and energy to track them down at a game or at an autograph signing often highlighted on the always excellent Vin Scully is My Homeboy website or Welcome to My Autograph Signings site.
For older players or retired stars it can get tricky. One thing I would suggest is to always make sure it comes from a seller with a long history of good dealings and authenticators well respected in the hobby. Several companies specialize in autographs that they get directly from the athletes like Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) or Steiner Sports. Authenticators that I would always have more faith in include PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentications (JSA). Also, the good auction houses are always a great avenue for the rare and more expensive autographs; such as Hunt's, Robert Edwards Auctions, etc.
Above all, though, I recommend that you check out Autograph Alert. It's a great resource.
What I want to do now is relay story about an autograph I spotted several years ago on eBay that screamed fake to me. It was a autographed Jackie Robinson item on a piece of paper that just did not look right to me.
Now, keep in mind, I do not currently own a Jackie auto, but I hope to one of these days. So, as a consequence, I always keep my eyes out just to window shop and educate myself so that when the time comes for me to lay down some serious cash (if that day ever comes) I can do it with confidence.
Anyway, I see this Jackie and for whatever reason decide to write the seller with my opinion. As expected (who likes a nosy Nellie, right?) the seller sends back a scathing email saying I don't know what I'm talking about. Then, he follows up with the phrase, "I know it's real because I bought it from Coach's Corner Auctions and they authenticated it."
Well, now I know it's fake. Coach's Corner is notorious in the hobby for selling fraudulent material. They use to be a major advertiser at Sports Collectors Digest until collectors started screaming loudly and publicly about them.
Remember, just because a website has the appearance of looking legitimate and it is accompanied with a piece of paper saying it is authentic does not mean it is.
As for the Jackie Autograph I saw, I decided to not pursue it further with the seller. It did not sell so no harm was done to an unsuspecting bidder. Furthermore, it was clear that the guy had no idea Coach's Corner had a such a bad reputation. He was just another good collector taken in by a scam operation.