I used to know a lot of people in the memorabilia business. A lot of them were crooked, a lot of them weren’t. But no matter who they were, they all agreed on one rule: if you didn’t see the guy signing the autograph, assume it’s a phony.
That rule seems even more useful after reading David Seideman’s article about autographs at Forbes, in which he speaks to an expert who wrote a book on autographs and believes that upwards of 90% of all Hall of Famer autographs are forged:
Fakes have many fathers. “The grim reality is that some of the greatest players treated the requests for autographs as a nuisance and had clubhouse boys and others sign them,” writes former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent in the book’s Foreword. These “clubhouse” creations, like my Dodgers ball, appear on team-signed baseballs. Examine the “flow of the ink,” Keurajian explains. Rather than the “rapid flow found in genuine signatures,” autographs done by the same hand show a “labored appearance [where] the thickness of ink will be wide and uniform.” In addition, a real team-signed baseball should have “ink strokes of various thickness, some thin, some fat, some in between as each person signed differently.” Plus, the signatures usually overlap.
I have always had a complicated and fairly unpopular relationship with baseball autographs. It’s bolstered even more by stuff like this.