Certificate of Authenticity for Autographs

Written by Mark Riddle on Sunday, 10 April 2011. Posted in Autograph forgeries

Certificates (COAs) are easily the most misunderstood area for the ill-informed autograph buyer. “Who to Trust, how do I know its genuine”

Certificates (COAs) are easily the most misunderstood area for the ill-informed autograph buyer.

“Who to Trust, how do I know its genuine ?”

Firstly it is important that a COA is only as good as the issuer. People who forge autographs are most certainly forge COA's as well.

Nowadays most dealers issue a COA irrespective of whether an item is genuine. On closer inspection many of these certificates do not even have contact details on them! Remember also that anybody can set up as an autograph dealer and become an “expert overnight”.

In most cases COA's are probably worthless. If a seller is consciously selling forgeries he will feel no shame also issuing bogus certificates. The key to the authenticity of any autograph if you did not actually obtain it yourself is traceable provenance. If traceable provenance has gone cold or been forgotten the buyer relies solely on the expertise of the seller.

COA’s issued by most dealers are usually worded such as “In our opinion” and “full lifetime money back guarantee if this item can be proved to be other than stated”. Many questions arise from statements like these.

How do I prove an item is not authentic? Do I go to an expert? How do I find him? How do I know he is? Will his expert opinion invalidate another expert’s opinion? Who is the best expert?

Result: Never ending litigation

How much is authentication?

There really are very few genuine experts around prepared to put their knowledge to the test and sufficiently respected by all for their opinion to really be decisive in litigation. Cost around 100 Euro per item upwards or percentage of value of item. The true test is whether a major auction house will accept their opinion sufficiently to place a lot.

    • Be aware that photographs at in person signings could be used on many occasions.
    • Holograms are useful to match an item with a certificate to ensure the autographs has not been tampered with. However they are no proof that the original autograph is authentic.
    • In truth a COA is only as good as the issuer. It is NO guarantee in itself of authenticity. Its main purpose is to act as a reassurance to the buyer and a record of where purchase was made.
    • A COA without image of the item is worthless
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