While 2020 has been a year unlike any other, one thing remained constant, unauthentic autographs are still being sold in the market at alarmingly high rates. About 50% of all autographs submitted for authentication to Beckett Authentication Services are not authentic, in our opinion. Given that collectors and auction houses with experience in autographs filter some of the extremely bad forgeries before they reach us, we believe the market to have a significantly higher portion of unauthentic examples in circulation.
With so many people diving into the hobby of collecting autographs this year, we wanted to put together a list of autographs to watch out for. These are some of the most forged autographs we saw submitted to Beckett Authentication in 2020.
Michael Jordan –
Simply put, there has never been enough supply to satisfy the demand for Michael Jordan autographs, so forgeries remain a major problem. Jordan signed thousands of autographs as part of his contract with UDA, so there are plenty of authentic examples available in the marketplace; however, because his popularity continues to grow each year, there’s just never enough. 2020 brought a resurgence to Jordan’s popularity with the release of “The Last Dance.” Suddenly more people wanted to own an autograph from the basketball legend, so naturally, we saw a spike in forgeries, in the already flooded market of forgeries. More than anyone else on this list, Jordan is truly a buyer beware, if it’s too good to be true it probably is, you get what you pay for type of autograph.
Kobe Bryant -
The unexpected death of Kobe Bryant earlier this year resulted in an alarming number of forgeries of the late basketball great flooding the marketplace. As we often see after the passing of a legend, everyone wants something to add to their collection to remember them by, and Kobe was no different. Like Jordan, Kobe signed thousands of autographs as part of different contracts over the years; however, that hasn’t stopped people from forging his autograph during the sudden spike in popularity and value. We are seeing more and more new styles of forgeries hit the market, especially on cards.
Tom Brady -
Considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady is a highly-popular but extremely expensive signature. Brady has done a handful of signings through Tri-Star Productions, but with fees like $1,000 per football (in 2019), he is not easily obtainable for the average collector. Helmets and jerseys often sell for $2,500- $3,500 or more depending on the inscription, so forgers see his autograph as an easy way to make a significant amount of money. Earlier this year, Brady signed an exclusive deal with Fanatics making them the sole distributor of authentic signed Brady Buccaneers products; so if you are in the market for his autograph, Fanatics is a good source to obtain it.
Mickey Mantle -
While autographs from Mickey Mantle aren’t rare due to the large amount of items he signed in the 1980s and up until his death in 1995, the market is and has been flooded with forgeries. The number of forgeries outweigh the number of authentic examples available. Mickey Mantle was one of the predominantly forged signatures from Operation Bullpen (check out this ESPN documentary) and many of those examples are still circulating today.
Manufacturer Autographs -
Not related directly to any one individual signer, in 2020 we saw an increase in forgeries from manufacturer released products. Everything from trading cards to autographed cds and books have had their share of autopen and secretarial signatures. Although buying signed-from-publisher/record label copies should be safe, that is not always the case. Ozzy Osbourne released his “Ordinary Man” album earlier this year using 3 different autopen variations. Nicki Minaj has been known to use a stamp on her signed albums, and well, there are a few others who won’t pass authentication with Beckett. Then there’s the Seth MacFarlane autopen issue in the 2020 Rittenhouse The Orville Archives Autograph Edition…
…and the list goes on. Card manufacturers and publishers/record labels cannot be taken at their word that the signatures appearing on their products are authentic. There is just too much that is out of their control when sending off items to be signed, and because these autographs often are not witnessed but just sent back to them, it feels as though the hobby is still operating with a fingers crossed it’s the real deal mentality. In today's climate, collectors need to go that extra step to ensure the authenticity of their items.
2020 saw an increased interest in the hobby of collecting trading cards and autographed memorabilia. More so than before, new collectors are coming in droves to this little community of autograph enthusiast. And while it’s fun to see the hobby take on this new spark of interest, there’s a lot of people who unknowingly sell forged autographs or maliciously try to defraud unsuspecting collectors. In 2020 we continued to see counterfeit forgeries of many popular sports and entertainment stars as listed above, and it will continue into 2021. There is an abundance of autographs in the market so please, do your homework. Know what you are buying, buy from reputable dealers and auction houses. Insist on third party authentication. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on forged signatures. And when in doubt, Beckett Authentication is here to help.