I’ve been doing a lot of research and getting a lot of help in finding fake autographs online lately. Mostly for my own information, but also for my column in NSU.
Many questionable cards have been pointed out to me on eBay, but I am reluctant to call most of them out because it’s simply very hard to tell based on the scans you see in auctions. Most of the scans are bad, and most of the defects are minute.
I was pretty convinced that the Katie Holmes autograph from Batman Begins had been counterfeited based on comparisons I made between scans online and a Holmes autograph I pulled myself, but after putting my hands on one in person I am sure:
I happened to be looking through a stack of cards on a great dealer’s table and glanced over to see the card sitting there. I knew what to look for and I spotted it right away. The dealer had taken the card in trade about a year ago and had no clue it wasn’t legitimate. He was gracious enough to let me take the card home and scan it side by side with mine. The counterfeit card is on the left in the scan.
Even with nice scans — like the ones posted here — it’s difficult to tell which autograph is fake. Of course having them side by side is very helpful, but if there was a different autograph you’d never know. In fact I’d seen that same Holmes autograph in this dealers display case at several shows and never suspected anything was strange about it.
This card has a few tell tale signs that it’s fake, and one obvious give away that I’ll save until the end. The first thing to notice about this card is that the autograph in the fake card is perfectly adhered to the card. The glossy surface of the actual autographs didn’t hold the autograph’s ink well and all the legitimate cards I’ve seen have ink that has beaded up and looks a little blotchy. It’s difficult to see in the scan, but it does show up near the middle of the legitimate autograph.
The details in the fake card are a little off, the text on the back is difficult to read and not bright enough, the DC logo on the back of the card is fuzzy. Here is a close up scan of part of the row of bats that go along the bottom of the card.
As you can see the bottom scan is more crisp than the top scan. In person one of the most obvious things is the watermark behind the signature. It didn’t show up in the scan much at all (which is the point of a water mark after all), but the real Holmes autograph has a faint watermark in the signature area. The fake Holmes has almost no watermark.
The final thing I’ve noticed is that there is an extra white mark in the bottom area on the front of all of the fake cards I’ve found. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps there are legitimate cards out there with this mark — I refer to it as a ‘dinosaur foot’ as the white mark in general looks sort of like a dinosaur, and this would give the dino 2 feet, the extra foot is noted by the red arrow:
I have no idea how many of these fakes are out there, but I’ve seen several questionable Holmes autographs on eBay since I’ve started looking, I would say on average 10% of the ones I’ve seen on eBay have been questionable — and some of the most questionable ones have been graded and slabbed.
And I’ve seen a bunch of other fake cards out there as well. If you see any suspicious cards, or have purchased any you aren’t sure of please send scans or post about it somewhere so we can get the word out to collectors!
Be careful out there!