Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

March 12, 2012

This Cobb fake was "slabbed" and certed by PSA/DNA.

Hot on the heels of their reported authentication of a fake Ty Cobb signature on a Little League ball made fifteen years after the Hall of Famer died (as reported by us on Deadspin last Friday), PSA/DNA has made another monumental authentication error. A Cobb item appearing on eBay for the past few weeks as an alleged cut signature of Cobb that was certified authentic and graded in one of PSAs air tight encapsulated holders was just pulled by eBay’s Fraud Investigation Team.

Collectors refer to these items as “slabbed signatures” and they have become an extremely marketable commodity thanks to PSA who has sold consumers on the belief that such items certified by them are unquestionably authentic.

The eBay seller BigDaddySportsCards of Alexandria, Louisiana, was offering it for almost $1,300.00 until the item was removed from the site earlier today.   The seller was apparently sold on PSAs expertise stating that the, “Gorgeous Green Ink Cut” has been graded a “Mint 9″ by the company that is a subsidiary of Collectors Universe (NASDAQ: CLCT).

Unfortunately for “Big Daddy” and PSA, the nation’s leading authority on Cobb’s signature happened to be browsing the eBay Cobb offerings and immediately determined the offering was a counterfeit.

Ron Keurajian is the man who in 2009 told the Baseball Hall of Fame its Ty Cobb diary, purchased from Barry Halper, in 1998, was a fake.  The FBI agreed with him and the diary, forged by Cobb’s biographer Al Stump and once  displayed in Cooperstown, has been wished away into a cornfield.

When Keurajian saw the slabbed Cobb cut on eBay he noticed something looked familiar about it.  It was familiar because Keurajian actually owns the exact same authentic original signature that Cobb actually signed on a full-size government post card, not on a cut signature.  PSA authenticated what appears to be a laser copied piece of paper (perhaps old) that features a facsimile of Keurajian’s original example.  The PSA holder would have to be opened to determine what process was used to create the forgery.

This is the authentic signed Cobb postcard owned by Cobb expert Ron Keurajian. The signature on the card was copied and used to create the PSA authenticated forgery on eBay.

In 2009, Keurajian wrote an article for Autograph Magazine about Cobb’s handwriting and utilized this same Cobb signature as an exemplar in the article, which is still posted on the magazine’s website.  The forger simply grabbed the screen image of his authentic exemplar and then proceeded to manufacture his fake.  (The signature is also being utilized as an exemplar in Keurajian’s soon to be released book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide, by McFarland).

That bogus signature was submitted to the experts at PSA/DNA and was subsequently authenticated and graded a “Mint 9.”

This forgery was likely created with the help of a laser printer and some old paper. PSA deemed it authentic and slabbed it in one of its encapsulated holders originally created for graded baseball cards.

PSA/DNA CEO, Joe Orlando, wrote a column in June of 2010, on the company website detailing the success of PSAs system of grading and slabbing cut signatures and also stated that the process created a great marketing tool for the sale of cut signatures, which have long been considered suspect by collectors and dealers.

In his article, “The Hobby of Holders,” Orlando wrote, “There is no doubt that if a collectible can be encapsulated inside of a PSA holder, the collectible tends to become more marketable.”

Orlando added, “Even with autographs, when we decided to utilize the various holders we already had in-house to encapsulate signed items such as trading cards, index cards, postcards and cuts, it changed the entire market so we decided to expand the holder selection. Over the last several years, we have slabbed hundreds of thousands of signed items because the hobby demanded it. Just like with cards and tickets, the PSA holder completely changed the market.”

eBay's fraud investigation team had the bogus Cobb cut signature removed from the site after learning Ron Keurajian owns the original.

But is it a real market?  Is this Cobb fake indicative of other fakes included in the “hundreds of thousands” of autographs PSA has already slabbed?  How many?  Does this problem warrant a recall of all PSA slabbed cuts?  Is this the only time this forger (or others) has fooled PSA in this manner?  Nervous collectors holding PSA products in their own holdings  are asking the same questions.

One collector and vocal critic of PSA, Travis Roste, responded to the news and told us, “How can a laser copy ‘autograph’ have flow? Pen pressure? Or did they mean printerhead pressure? As the auction houses put it, ”Encapsulated by PSA/DNA for unquestioned authenticity.”

Veteran dealer and authenticator Richard Simon was not surprised by the news, “I guess that they don’t look very closely to see if anything they are examining is laser copied as they had apparently made this mistake before.”

Once these cuts are encapsulated there is a barrier placed between the item and any future examination that could determine if its authentic or a laser copied forgery.  One prominent collector told us he has one way to get around that problem.  He said, “I could care less about those slabs, when I buy one of those slabbed items I have them cracked open and put the plastic in the trash.”

Sources close to eBay operations confirmed to Haulsofshame.com that the Cobb cut was removed from the auction site “for authenticity issues.”  The identity of “BigDaddySportsCards” was not available in order to ask who actually submitted the alleged Cobb signature to PSA for certification.

Sources indicate the FBI, who have recently been taking a closer look at the business practices of the third party authenticators, are aware of the situation, which could represent an important lead in cracking down on forgery rings that have been flooding the market with fakes.


23 Comments »

  1. Why should anyone be surprised? Since this item was submitted to PSA before it was encapsulated it simply appears there is no one at PSA who can authenticate anything that is genuinely signed by pen verses a laser printed item. My opinion is anything placed in one of these plastic cases needs to be opened and properly authenticated by someone with autograph experience and familar with authenticating autographs.

    Comment by Steve Koschal — March 13, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  2. Nothing from PSA (or any “authentication service”) can really be trusted ever again (not that I personally did in the first place). I thought PSA, BGS, SGC and the like would be a scourge to the sport collectibles market when they first entered the marketplace in the late 1990s, and this revelation only reaffirms that belief.

    Comment by Lance Williams — March 13, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  3. [...] http://haulsofshame.com/blog/?p=11626#more-11626 [...]

    Pingback by Authentication « vintagephotographyusa — March 13, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  4. Wish them ALL into the cornfield, son!!!

    Comment by Gene Zonarich — March 13, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  5. People are funny and think of many ways to dupe the public,so I dont find this to be a strange case,just one that some fool got caught at doing.Lets chaulk up another one, for the good guys.Maybe ,just maybe some day,collecting will be fun again,without any worries of what is real or not real.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — March 13, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  6. As the owner & seller of this cut, I am currently seeking an explanation from ebay. I personally sent the signature in to PSA/DNA for grading & no, it is not laser printed as the author of this article has insinuated. The cut is written in clear green ink & the paper it is written on is clearly antique paper. Ebay & I are currently in a debate over the issue as we speak, and I expect full apologies from those involved in the misrepresentation of it’s authenticity. Considering that this cut was found with an array of 1930’s & early 1940’s original Goudey cards, I have little doubt that PSA/DNA missed this one. Ebay & the author of this article, however, should have done a little more digging before passing judgement.

    Sincerely,
    Donavon Arabie

    Comment by Donavon Arabie — March 13, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

  7. For clarification, we wrote, “….what appears to be a laser copied piece of paper (perhaps old) that features a facsimile of Keurajian’s original example.” The only way to know exactly what your cut signature is composed of is by removing it from its sealed casing and having it examined. Have you compared the signature on your cut with the signature on Keurajian’s government postcard?
    Are you suggesting that it is just a wild coincidence that the signatures are identical? Where did you acquire this cut before you took it to PSA to be slabbed and authenticated?

    Comment by admin — March 13, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

  8. For clarification, you also wrote “the forgery”, “this forgery”, & “his fake”. I consider those very strong words from someone who has not examined the actual autograph itself. Also….do laser copies have indentation on the back of the paper from the copy machine? If so, please refer on where to buy them. Yes….I have examined Mr. Keuajian’s piece & yes….they are nearly identical. Considering that they were probably written by the same hand, I don’t find that very disturbing at all. I have two Ted Williams balls signed from the 80’s that you cannot tell the difference between. They are identical. As for it’s origin, the cut was found with a trove of original 1930’s & early 1940’s Goudeys, along with a bunch of period hard backed books like I mentioned previously. I purchased the estate. When I examined the signature & the tell-tale green ink with no pixelation & no signs of stoppage in the flow of the writing, I sent the cut to PSA/DNA, along with a 1939 Exhibits Ted Williams autograph. They were both encapsulated & returned PSA/DNA 9.

    Comment by Donavon Arabie — March 13, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

  9. One cut autograph amongst a treasure trove of books and Goudey cards, that would create some questons in my mind.
    And Mr Arabie you statethat you have examined Mr. Keurajian’s piece and that it is nearly identical to yours. Nearly identical? If it is nearly identical where are the differences?
    And while signs of stoppage are a tell tale sign of possible forgery, no signs of stoppage are not a tell tale sign of a non forgery.

    Comment by Richard Simon — March 14, 2012 @ 8:52 am

  10. For further clarification your item is not genuine, however, without seeing it out of the casing I couldn’t tell you if it was a laser copy or an autopen etc. You should request a refund from the estate you purchased it from. Show them this article when you request your money back.

    Comment by admin — March 14, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  11. Why not consign it to Heritage, they’d take it.

    Comment by Harry — March 14, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  12. What is the latest from psa on this one? Will they ever admit what they did?

    Comment by Chris A — April 5, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  13. The latest on this is that PSA has now discovered an amazing forger has forged this Cobb. They don’t concede that it was done by a computer printer, they blame an “amazing forger” and have proclaimed that the autograph is not authentic.
    I will say this is some amazing forger, best I have ever seen :) .

    Comment by Richard Simon — April 12, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  14. I should state that my statement above was based on statements on Net54 by Donavon, who does state that the amazing forger is the story that PSA told him. I don’t actually have first hand knowledge of what PSA has stated about an amazing forger.

    Comment by Richard Simon — April 12, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  15. As reported in SCD by T. J…………………..

    Well, maybe not.

    Comment by Marc Rettus — April 13, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  16. Amazing! If you go to the PSA website, and enter the cert number, they are still stating that this is an authentic autograph.
    Now who is telling the truth? The owner of the autograph who states that PSA told him it was an amazing forgery or the PSA website which states it is an authentic autograph.

    Comment by Richard Simon — October 16, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  17. Just started collecting autographs…are cut signatures more of a risk then a ball or photo? should i stay away from cut signatures? and what about cards that have Cut signatures on them like UD and Donruss are they better then regular cut signatures?

    Comment by Christian — October 21, 2012 @ 12:25 am

  18. I can write a better cobb signature from memory and i already have !

    Comment by John Eaton — November 30, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  19. I am Truly The Greatest !

    Comment by John Eaton — November 30, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

  20. I really enjoy your site at http://haulsofshame.com/blog/?
    p=11626. Really good knowledge involving this subject. Thanks a
    lot for posting about it.

    Comment by Attorney in Dallas — April 5, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

  21. [...] Originally Posted by Deathgate Well, since the only "fact" for signatures are if you are standing there, watching the person sign the item, and know the signer well enough that you are sure they aren't someone else in disguise, all you are ever going to see are opinions. We aren't talking about the opinion of some random schmuck off of the street, we are talking about the opinion of experts in their field. well according to this report, PSA cant tell the difference between a pen and a laser ink printer. and i thought they had like some $30,000 analysis machine to work with. Hauls of Shame – Breaking News [...]

    Pingback by Mark Twain Auto Help? - Blowout Cards Forums — May 9, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

  22. The Authenticating of items seems like the Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide of the 1980’s in that a majority of collectors took the priceguide then as “bible” and that was it. I recall selling my 1984 Dinruss Don Mattingly rookie cards in 1986 for over a hundred dollars each. I was 12 years old, and I had what was a lot of money then $1000.00 in my wallet at school one day and I laughed at the fact I was able to get so much for these cards. I was told Id regret it someday. Still Laughing. The PSA DNA thing is so familiar to those times. Dictation of the industry and what holds value and does not. Sad how quickly history was able to have tricked us into not recognizing that it was repeating itself. Also, a shame I will not pay to get my 1940’s and 1950’s cards put in plastic slabs so they are worthless to some collecting nerds. Oh well.

    Comment by Michael — September 6, 2013 @ 9:06 am

  23. [...] Originally Posted by Joed25 I have bought and sold a few hundred authentic Mickey Mantle signed baseball. I would like to see a PSA certified Mantle baseball that is really fake. There are hundreds on eBay. Please show me one fake. You are joking arent you? You dont think a company that authenticated a printed Bo Jackson signature on a book could screw up on the most forged autograph in history? This is the same company that authenticated thousands of 8×10s without EVEN LOOKING AT THEM. The same company that has authenticated a Ty Cobb signature that was copied with a laser printer and not even hand written? You really think they could not screw up on a Mantle? http://haulsofshame.com/blog/?p=11626 [...]

    Pingback by Do autographs last longer on baseballs or photos? - Blowout Cards Forums — September 13, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

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