Forensic Document Examination Techniques & Suggestions In Life
EXEMPLARS, EXEMPLARS, EXEMPLARS: I cannot stress enough how many exemplars (known AUTHENTIC versions) of anyone signature from their ENTIRE careers are good to have. However, it is imperative to have exemplars during the period when their autographs were most widely available (the most likely you'll find for sale & MOST FORGED!).
Rookie year signatures can vary VERY DRASTICALLY from mid-career and then to end of career and beyond. This has become more significant from the 1980's to present. I recently (2017) learned how different Dwight Gooden (1984) and Darryl Strawberry (1983) rookie year signatures differ from later signatures. Luckily one eBay seller bought a rookie year collection of both players autographs on magazines that I saved in my exemplar library because these format signatures are VERY RARELY seen in the hobby! Both players actually signed FULLY LEGIBLE signatures in their rookie seasons in the majors! As of 2016 (for a reason that's unknown to me) people have been paying an average of $25 for Strawberry Certified Autograph Inserts (that vary from his full version autograph to only "DY S"). And undereducated buyers pay just as much for "DY S" Certified Autographs as they do for the fullest version of post-1990 autographs??? THIS MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER, BUT THEN AGAIN LOOK AT HOW LITTLE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTORS PUT INTO STUDYING THEIR HOBBY AND IT BEGINS TO MAKE PERFECT SENSE! Any autograph collectors who haven't read OPERATION BULLPEN by KEVIN NELSON and CARD SHARKS by PETE WILLIAMS (each is available is softcover versions, and buying a used copy is just as good as new): DESERVE TO GET RIPPED OFF IF BUYING EBAY AUTOGRAPH that are not Certified Autograph Inserts (CAI's) by trusted card company years!
ALL 1998-2006 ON CARD CERTIFIED AUTOGRAPH INSERTS (CAI's) ARE MY FAVORITES & ARE ABSOLUTELY 99.99%+ AUTHENTIC: BY TOPPS (I LOVE Topps
2001-2004 Archives/Fan Favorites Autos), PLAYOFF (I LOVE 2000 Preferred Pen Pals Autos but keep in mind that ALL autos/redemptions accidentally were put ONE PER PACK in a small number of cases- the rest had NONE which led idiots on another message board to jump to the assumptions that they were reprinted (AND WERE NOT!)!, and I like 2001 Donruss RC Reprint autos & Diamond King Reprint autos, then they started using only STUPID stickers on 2001 Score Select Football & everything forward other than Recollection Autographs with the silver foil stamp which are the ONLY Donruss/Playoff autographs I recommend & collect myself), Pro Line Football (from 1991-1994), Score Baseball (1991-1992), 2004-2005 Upper Deck Baseball Autographs (especially duals, Timeless Teams, Origins, Past Time Signatures), and others.
The more you learn by yourself, the more you will remember long term. If you don't give enough time to educate yourself thoroughly as an autograph expert; maybe collecting autographs SHOULD NOT BE A HOBBY OF YOURS!
I've asked MANY BIG eBay loose autograph collectors who state NOTHING about the autographs, other than describing the item that's signed: "WHERE'S THE WHEN, WHERE & HOW YOU OBTAINED YOUR AUTOGRAPH? You know provenance!". Firstly 25% NEVER bother to answer and AUTOMATICALLY BLOCK ME FROM EVER CONTACTING THEM AGAIN. These are definite forgery sellers. Of the 75% who reply, 50% say almost the exact same thing which goes something like this "I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THEY ORIGINATED, I BOUGHT OUT A BIG DEALER WHO QUIT THE HOBBY.". There aren't any WORSE autographs to buy anywhere! PROVENANCE is a good 90% of the reason why I might ever buy a loose autograph on eBay (and there have been occasions) especially a year or two after Operation Bullpen was released! People were SO SCARED by the FBI to buy ANY autographs on eBay that AUTHENTIC autographs slipped through the cracks OFTEN! I won a Jerome Bettis brand new NEW ERA cap with tags from a Steelers vendor who got the autograph on Vendor's Day (that most people have no idea that nearly every team has one of these Vendor's Days every year in the off-season!). I won it for less than the price of the brand new cap!!! I gave it away to an unappreciative "friend" who's always been a HUGE Steelers fan. But that's OK, she's no longer a friend and I gained less stress in my life cutting her out FOR GOOD! But I did the right thing and never even got a "Thank you".
I also bought a Carl Sagan (a childhood HERO of mine) signed Cosmos first edition hardcover book for $30.00 (because of the long provenance story that fully checked out). Then I bought a 2001 Guy Hebert (goalie for the Ducks for most of his career) NY Rangers game-used stick (the only decent player in any sport born on my birthday in NY too!). It was autographed, but the bottom part of the stick was broken off during game play (which was OK by me because it would have cost $25 more to ship if it was not broken!). This also had a great story that went with it. It's been hanging proudly on my wall since 2004.
I also bought a Samuel Jackson Star Wars 8X10 for $10.00!!! A Michelle Pfeiffer auto 8X10 for $8.00 for my wife. And a few other items. I had everything checked out by professional FDE friends of mine who all gave every item an "AUTHENTIC" opinion! THE ONLY FORGERIES I EVER BOUGHT, I KNEW WERE FORGERIES AND I BOUGHT THEM TO TAKE OUT THE SELLER!
People are starting to unload all kinds of autographs on eBay CHEAP! If you have a good enough autograph education, you could do as well as I've done! Plus CAI's atre coming down in value too! Uneducated sellers are selling SETS of Certified Autograph Inserts where some sets of (20) autos or less can be found for $400-$500. If these sets are all ON CARD autos and are of Hall Of Famers (or Sosa, Bonds and similar superstar players) you should JUMP on sets like these. At $20.00-$25.00 an autograph (that's 99.99% authentic no matter who owns it, thanks to the card company authenticity statement on the cards) THESE SETS ARE A STEAL! But there can't be any BUMS in the sets like Jason Giambi, Matt Williams, Edgar Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Juan Gonzalez etc. who at one time were considered locks for the Hall Of Fame, but all now can be bought as singles for $5.00-$8.00 each for NICE CAI's are a waste! If you are considering buying a CAI set, every player must be a $25-$100 card if you were to resell them as singles. Of course there will be far less $100 cards in such sets, but if two are $100 cards and the rest are $25-$60 autographs in a (20) card set: $400-$500 is well worth it!
I BOUGHT ONE SUCH SMALLER SET IN 2005: a 2001 Upper Deck Legends (10) On Card CAI Legendary Lumber set with team embossed bat chips on each card (that I couldn't care less about). But the set has Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Stan Musial, Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Murray, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Luis Aparicio, and one more I can't remember. I snagged this set for $200.00 (free Priority shipping too). I very happy with this set as it came from a long time collector (who needed the money and no one else showed ANY interest in the whole set) who picked the very best quality autographs for each card!
Back to FDE Expertise....
Size, slant or slope, structure, letter/word length, height, letter spacing, pressure points, fluidity of ink flow, speed, pen angle/position, and other attributes help distinguish authenticity vs. forgery.
Physics and chemistry are key factors too in a good document examination.
All autographs on plain paper and index cards are 3-dimensional! An under-lit microscope is a must have item for a Professional FDE!
I've always felt athletes pay more attention to the very first & last letter they sign than every other letter, and the first & last letters in the last name gets the second most attention to detail as well. So smart FDE's look at these letters first for stop/start marks and skipping of ink.
Some athletes make clockwise "O"'s or loops- other make them counterclockwise. YOU NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS!
Looking for hesitations vs. the natural flow of ink are needed to be looked for. Also possible retouching or unnatural tremors are keys. You'd be amazed at how much the brain lights up during a CT Scan while a person signs an autograph. There's far more thought put into autographs that even most FDE's are aware of. One day CT Scans can be used to compare autographs signed naturally by athletes vs those attempted to be copied as questionable signatures by the dame athlete. This can one day PROVE forgeries! But the price has to come down significantly on CT Scans.
If you saw what I saw in 1990 when my FL Hospital's MRI Department had collectors bringing in cases of Pro Set looking for Lombardi Trophy made of partial metal cards.The exact position in sealed case lit up like a Christmas tree indicating exactly which box out of (20) had a Trophy Card (in hockey too). Plus doing these extra short tests when the bosses weren't around cost NOTHING!
Variations in signatures are normal, but after seeing enough exemplars, examiners formulate a pattern that signatures normally do not fall out of (unless person is drunk or stoned). So FDE's look for autographs to fall within a certain level of variance, those that fall OUT of the average differences require far further examination.
Children to age 25 are still in the developmental stages of signature formation, so these are the most difficult to give a very accurate opinion on autographs; decades later especially.
Here are some general suggestions:
1. Nothing lasts forever.
2. Partnerships are everything.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
4. Use far more experienced people as mentors. Pay attention to how they carved their path to success.
5. Knowing that hard work is important.
But that hard work won’t always be enough. You must combine continual education, luck, preparation and commitment towards what you do every day.
6. Your health is just as important to you now as it will be later in life. HEALTH IS EVERYTHING!
7. Maintain your integrity- the difference between right and wrong is everything as well.
8. A hand-written note, a call to say, “Hello,” a face-to-face meeting, or having lunch with someone all beat the texting, Facebook messaging, Instagramming
and e-mails! These things DO NOT EXIST in the real world!
9. Most success doesn’t happen overnight. As a matter of fact, it usually takes 15-20 years to really make your mark. For Generation X it can take even longer
with baby boomers having a longer life-span and working longer
10. What goes around comes around- all the stuff we do as kids counts big-time. It has a major impact on you when you get older. Don’t discount your earlier
years as "just for a little fun". What you learn under age 25 is MORE IMPORTANT than what you learn from age 26 to death!