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By Peter J. Nash

June 1, 2012

PSA/DNA authenticated this Ty Cobb signature as genuine after someone cut up an authentic Ty Cobb check. The signature was written by Cobb's wife.

Any authentication company specializing in baseball autographs and charging a fee for its services should know Ty Cobb’s signature like the back of its own hand. The Georgia Peach’s scrawl is quite distinctive and authentic exemplars from every stage of his life are abundant for the experts to study.  Cobb autographed items regularly flood the big auction house catalogs and eBay stores as highly marketable commodities.

That being said, we’ve recently seen big authentication companies like PSA/DNA and JSA (James Spence Authentication) make critical errors in authenticating forged Ty Cobb signatures as genuine. One was a bogus signature signed on a baseball manufactured almost fifteen years after Cobb’s death (reported on Deadspin) and another was a suspected laser-copied forgery of a genuine Cobb autograph that PSA/DNA certed and encapsulated in one of its cut signature holders. The item was removed from eBay by its fraud division after being listed for sale for almost $2,000.  No one knows for sure what has since happened to the item and it still appears in the PSA database as genuine.

Now, it appears PSA has made an even more egregious error in relation to another Cobb item; they have certified and slabbed as authentic, a cut signature that was actually signed by Ty Cobb’s wife.

EBay seller, “khw,” a top rated seller with a 100% positive feedback rating, listed the cut along with two others paired with Perez-Steele cards of  Cobb.  The three cuts appear to have been submitted together and have PSA registry numbers in succession.  Two of the cuts were authentic, but the third was signed by Mrs. Cobb.  The “Tyrus R. Cobb” that PSA authenticated in no way resembles an authentic signature of the baseball legend.  In particular, the letter “T” in “Tyrus” is executed in a formation that does not resemble any authentic Cobb signature.  That fact alone should have tipped PSA off.  Further research should have revealed other specimens of Mrs. Cobb’s handwriting that would have confirmed for PSA that the alleged signature was not signed by Cobb.  One would think that an operation like PSA, a subsidiary of public company Collectors Universe (CLCT-NASDAQ), would have exemplars of Mrs. Cobb’s handwriting at their disposal?

The seller (or another party) appears to have taken an authentic check signed and endorsed on the back by Cobb, himself, and then sliced up the check in order to have “cut signatures” encapsulated by PSA along with the Perez-Steele cards.  Checks have long been considered the safest medium for collectors to acquire a genuine signature of a Baseball Hall of Famer, and even trading card companies have cut up authentic checks to create special cards for contemporary issues.

This authentic Cobb check was cut up and submitted to PSA for authentication and encapsulation. The check was originally sold at R&R Auctions.

The check allegedly used to create these cuts was sold by R&R Auctions in 2006 for $1,582.70, but it only featured two signatures of Cobb along with Cobb’s name written as the payee on the front of the check.  As was their practice at times, Mrs. Cobb wrote out the checks and then had her husband sign them.  In this case he also endorsed the check on the back when he cashed it.  R&R correctly sold the item as having only two Cobb signatures:

“Check, 6 x 2.75, filled out in another hand and signed by Cobb, “Tyrus R. Cobb, Pres,” adding “United Apt. Co. Aug. Ga.,” payable to Tyrus R. Cobb for $943.13, December 30, 1947. Check is also endorsed on the reverse in green fountain pen, “Tyrus R. Cobb.” In fine condition, with expected cancellation stamps and holes, mild showthrough from stamps on reverse and front signature a bit cramped. COA Steve Grad/PSA/DNA and R&R COA.”

When the check was authenticated by PSA and Steve Grad in 2006, they recognized the check itself was written out in a different hand.  However, when the three cut signature items were recently encapsulated, PSA certified the handwriting of Mrs. Cobb as a genuine Ty Cobb.  PSA had to have examined all three cuts at the same time and still failed to recognize that the third signature was not Cobb.  All of this, with PSA having originally certified the item correctly for R&R in 2006.  The eBay seller with the user name “khw” appears to be one of PSA’s big customers.  The registry numbers on his three Cobb items do not currently appear in the PSA database.

The three alleged Cobb cuts were removed from an authentic check and authenticated by PSA/DNA. They were submitted at the same time as evidenced by their successive PSA registry numbers.

The source who gave the tip to Haulsofshame.com in regard to the Mrs. Cobb signature first reported his concern that all three of the cut signatures slabbed by PSA, along with the Perez-Steele cards, may be laser- printed forgeries.  He suspected they were like the other example removed from eBay a few months ago.  However, upon closer examination it appears it is more likely the cuts are actually from a check and not laser copies.  Of course, in both situations, one could only be certain if the questioned documents are removed from their plastic tombs.

PSA allegedly confirms the Cobb cut is a fake, but done by hand?

The alleged Cobb autograph removed from ebay last month appears to have been created from an authentic signed post card owned by Cobb expert Ron Keurajian.  Experts believe the forgery was created via laser printer, but the eBay seller and original PSA submitter, Donavon Arabie, claims that he sent the item back to PSA and was told the Cobb was the creation of a master forger using a pen.  He also threatened to destroy the cut by burning it.

When Haulsofshame.com first exposed the PSA Cobb cut as a forgery, the eBay seller responded:

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

Hobby veteran Richard Simon has called out Arabie on collector forum Net54, asking him not to destroy an item that, if examined in person, could shed some light on how to properly expose these types of forgeries and also help ascertain how often laser-copied forgeries are certified as authentic by PSA.  Arabie, however, has vanished from the memorabilia scene and has not responded to inquiries.  Simon and another collector, Travis Roste, have been vocal in challenging Arabie and both doubt that he ever sent the slabbed cut back to PSA/DNA.  Arabie did not respond to our request for confirmation that he sent the Cobb cut back to PSA.

In regard to the Cobb controversy, Simon told us, “Seems like when a Cobb signature has to be authenticated, considering the entombed one of a prior story, care goes out the window.”

The eBay fraud division removed the latest “Mrs. Cobb” cut last week after it was being offered by seller “kwh” for $1,175.  It appears eBay has also removed the other two cuts paired with Perez Steele cards.  Sources indicate that there are still lingering questions as to whether those two cuts were authentic or laser-copied forgeries.   We asked PSA/DNA CEO, Joe Orlando, for an explanation as to how Mrs. Cobb’s handwriting was certified as an authentic Ty Cobb autograph and also for PSA’s explanation of how the company certified the alleged laser-printed Cobb forgery that was removed by ebay’s fraud division last month?  We also asked Orlando if he could confirm that Donavon Arabie had sent his PSA-slabbed Cobb cut back to the company for examination?  Orlando did not respond to any of our inquiries.

Considering the likelihood that his experts have already slabbed a laser-copied Cobb forgery, Orlando has to have some doubts about the thousands of other cuts PSA has certed. PSA customers, dealers and collectors we spoke with are understandably concerned.

Richard Simon told us, “Are we to believe this is the one and only time this forger has tried this?”


30 Comments »

  1. Another victory! Keep up the great work! If Ebay really knew how many fakes are listed, it would stagger them!

    Comment by Linda — June 1, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

  2. The ebay seller with the slabed cuts and perez steele cards has lots of others that look very suspect, some of them look really bad. Are you checking into those too?

    Comment by Vin Spadea — June 1, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

  3. Just noticed that the third cut signature(slabbed with the Perez-Steele card) could not have been the endorsing signature from the R&R check: it’s on paper with a serrated edge, while the Bank of America check has clean edges.

    Comment by Bill Panagopulos — June 1, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  4. Go get them Peter, you have been 100% right on the money all along and have put some of the so called high and mighty authenicaters asses on the wall.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — June 1, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  5. Bill, It does look that way, but the R&R images of the front and back of the check could be cropped and do not show the entire check. I can’t tell for sure, but it is a possibility. That might explain what you’re seeing, but the only way to know for sure is to see that cut outside of the holder and the actual photos R&R shot of the check when they sold it.

    Comment by admin — June 1, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

  6. Hey, this “thrice signed” Cobb check just sold in March at Legendary Auctions. Here is the URL: http://www.legendaryauctions.com/LotDetail.aspx?lotid=127466

    And was part of the famed Dreier Collection! HOW????.

    Comment by Greg Nazareth — June 1, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  7. Wow, nice find. So, if Legendary sold the check again in the last two months, the ebay seller would likely have been the buyer. When PSA certed it in 2006 they said it had two cobb sigs and by the time it was slabbed by them and sold at Legendary, it became “thrice signed”. When the check was taken out of the holder and chopped PSA was just following their “thrice signed” opinion, even though the third sig was clearly not Cobb’s.

    Comment by admin — June 1, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  8. Nice article. I`m not much of a collector, but I find these `cut` autographs to be one of the stupidest phenomenah I have ever seen. Destroying original documents with historical value like that just so they can fit into a plastic holder (or card) which 30 or 40 years from now will have no real historical interest or value is just beyond reprehensible. The fact that they compound the injury by also certifying non-authentic stuff just takes it to a new level.

    Comment by Sean — June 1, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

  9. Looking at the back of the check when it just sold at legendary, it lookd like only one edge of thecheck was perforated. That pretty much matchesthe cut in the psa holder. I’d say that’s an original and they got that right but how could they examine the Mrs. Cobb three times and screw that up.

    Comment by Pat Kennedy — June 2, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  10. After looking at the Legendary check photos, it looks like the R&R auction photo of the back of the check was actually cropped. I’d have to say the cuts in the PSA holders were cut from the Legendary check, but how the Mrs. Cobb was certified twice after it was first identified as another person’s handwriting (other than Cobb) by PSA in 2006 is what has to be explained.

    Comment by admin — June 2, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  11. the person buying the “thrice” signed cobb from legendary would have some recourse because he bought what he thought was three cobb signatures and he only got two for his money. psa should know better when it comes to cobb, they should take their time, do it right. How they can see the T in Ty in the wife signed example and think it has any chance of being a real Ty Cobb I will never know, but the guy on the clock at psa looking at these could be anybody, who knows. They certainly won’t let us know. Calling Joe Orlando?

    Comment by TravisLRoste — June 2, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

  12. hello yes i was the ebay seller of this item. i was also the buyer in the legendary auction in march. i bought a cobb check that was advertised as thrice signed. to me two signatures were fine but checked on the third. unlike alot of the “fake” autos and scammers being grilled on these websites this along with just about every item i have for sale , i can show where it came from. and no not a attic find i just came up with. it is pretty easy to see i paid over 1600.00 for a cobb check, after it was slabbed and authenticated by psa/dna and a extensive write up from a major auction house legendary. and it was brought to the attention as well before it was cut . it was then taken out and cut into 3 , sorry folks its a business, and it is a cobb check not the constitution. i was the one who resubmitted it. i will add i did not add any reference in the submission it was from a thrice signed check or whatever auction. if they thought it was or not i do not know. it was returned in 3 holders and listed . i placed 2 on ebay , the good bottom signature and the pay to line. both were removed . i contacted ebay and showed them the other and we agreed 2 were good… 2 were relisted as they are on now , and yes i am at the present out a few bucks. i contacted psa and they will be owning a slabbed cobb perez steele this week. so whoever said one of the signatures isnt from whatever check is wrong all 3 are from same check, thats just a fact. and i would like to add i have around 14,000 pieces on ebay so whoever sees all the suspect signatures i have well my track record is just about perfect and anybody who has dealt with me knows this , i am not going to engage in a bunch of hashing with internet watchdogs . but this is the check story from the day i bought in until now i buy alot and sell alot and have for over 25 years and over 20 nationals , bottom line signature is off gone and i am getting some money for it and time to move along

    Comment by khw — June 3, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

  13. Thanks very much for your comment and the additional information you provided. Just curious if PSA is reimbursing you for 1/3 the Legendary hammer price or your listed price that was on eBay? Also, did PSA admit to you that they made an error on this one?

    Comment by admin — June 3, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  14. i havent decided yet but somewhere in between , it is pretty well documented our conversations about the check throughout the process. but what strikes me as funny is how all 3 of these signatures were already suspected of being laser copies . , i see no evidence of these being laser copies and if one turns out to be the wife why on earth would the other two from the same check then be suspected as laser copies.one conspiracy theorist had already decided the back signature was not the same. it is almost a flat witch hunt to try and just find fault mainly at psa or jsa. not to try and clean up ebay or save some poor sole . just to prove psa and jsa dont know what they are doing. if anybody posting on here or commenting actually sells anything or steps up and has a website i am sure i could go in and find plenty that are bad , difference is i am not going to start accusing them of outright criminal activities. why do i use psa or jsa it is because it is what the people want . i sell over a million dollars a year in this business even way more when upper deck has money to spend. sure i make mistakes from time to time so does anybody , when you do you fix them . if psa and jsa are so bad how bad would ebay be without either of them? it is like the people that complain about the police all the time, want to try and live without any? imagine ebay where you could just list anything , i have direct communication to ebay to get items removed , when i am sure i see a bad piece i turn in and i have it removed . but to just keep on beating a dead horse about it is silly. psa makes mistakes so does jsa partly because they offer opinions on anything you give them. but on my end i ok what i send in first. in the case of this cobb check it was questioned all along and they made a mistake and they are aware of this, i called and raised hell way before this post every came around . but without insulting anybody all i see are these witchhunt post like these being laser copies from who? who are these people? what do you know? what do you sell? how long have you been in this business? what did you get some autographs through the mail as a kid? i mean you always have the right to start your own service where you back side will be on the line. in the past 4 weeks i have spent just about 85,000.00 on autographs and there may be a bad one in there but thats what you call putting it one the line. again no disrespect meant and if anybody should need anything please let me know

    Comment by khw — June 4, 2012 @ 12:43 am

  15. the signed check replicas on ebay look just like the real thing

    Comment by Andrew G — June 4, 2012 @ 3:36 am

  16. Thanks again for the information. Many collectors and dealers have voiced their opinion that since PSA appears to have authenticated at least one laser-copied Ty Cobb cut, they are skeptical of all slabbed PSA cuts. Considering cut signatures are the most treacherous of all autographed items to collect in the first place, this scenario has only added to the concern that PSA is certifying non-genuine cuts on a large scale. It looks like you have submitted a large number of cuts to PSA recently. How many of your submitted cuts did they reject in the past 6 months?

    Comment by admin — June 4, 2012 @ 9:54 am

  17. yes the replicas look like the real thing same thing with 8×10 sharpies that are copies all look the same in a scan. what it is made to sound like on here is if it is in a psa holder then it has a better chance of being a copy . not making excuses for anybody because god knows how pissed off i am most of the time at them but psa handles thousands of pieces a day and yes if it is a cobb they should look way better at it on top of that …they actually graded it a 9? a 9 on a laser copy? i mean nothing should slide through but i would expect when a mistake is made it is on oil can boyd not cobb. i dont get very many 3×5`s and cuts rejected one reason is because i am sending them good stuff so it should be in a holder i got 14000 pieces on ebay start picking out the bad ones if somebody is a expert but…. back it up they know what they are talking about. what gets me is the number of good pieces that i get back as bad , that are just no way bad , heck alot they have precerted , you send back and they are good next round , i have learned to live with it . like i said not making a excuse for psa or jsa but you are paying for a opinion , part of the responsibility falls on the customer to know a little about what they are buying . what i have seen lately which is disturbing is you ship a certed 8×10 or ball and it has the hologram sticker on it , it is drop dead good nobody would argue. and the buyer gets it and has a fit because it doesnt have the cert card . they are really just interested in the cert vs the signature. i tell them the autograph will be good forever but these companys may be gone in six months , getting back to certing and what fails , i see more cards failing psa then cuts and 3×5`s and to me the one flawed part of the process is the authenticators dont have the history of the item at hand when they look a piece, take a cut from a album, in the raw album form the cut is intact between other vintage signatures , the album is consistent with dates etc , when it is cut up you dont have that anymore. same with signed cards i have bought cards that i think are good but i know who they came from , i know they got all of these in person as well, they are just good but they fail . it was on that exact day a opinion of who was looking at them , a safe system would have to have 2 people look at each piece and then it is still going to happen . but what gets me on here is almost a fanatical following that have this ax to grind with authenticators , they are a part of this business and they are not going away , face it . what i will tell you is alot of these rants come from other autograph dealers who were used to having stuff they sold uncerted and either they have so many bad pieces that psa and jsa has hurt their business or are too cheap to have their stuff done so they can make real money . so instead of working hard spending money to better their business , it is easier to try and discredit the competition , now this folks i can assure you is the case because i have been in this business way too long and it was the same thing with the trimmed cards, psa missed a ton of trimmed stuff so did beckett and sgc but those dealers that made the money trimming were soon gone. and buying online became much more safe ,not perfect but better . i have the option from this day on to stop sending items to psa or jsa and saving tons of money and going the same route of trying to bash anything with a psa or jsa cert and telling everybody buy from me instead because they dont know what they are doing but thats just plain stupid

    Comment by khw — June 4, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  18. thats why i only collect licensed trading cards that i know, by contract, the person in fact did sign the item. I would stay away from cuts all together. If you do not have proof that the autograph is 100 percent real then it should not be in your collection and should not be sold.

    Comment by Andrew G — June 4, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  19. Why has the original article not been updated to reflect that the check was purchased by the seller a few months ago and that the check at that time had all three signatures authenticated? The article appears to make several insinuations of misconduct by KHW, but as the comments clearly demonstrate, he did nothing wrong. If you read this article as part of the thread of articles, however, and not as an individual post, you don’t see the comments and thus makes it appear KHW engaged in wrongdoing. The responsible thing would be to update the post to reflect the new facts from the comments.

    Comment by Carl G — June 6, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

  20. Excellent article. Underlines the quandry many of us face when getting signatures authenticated. Who can you trust? Who can you trust all the time? I had a Lou Gehrig rejected by JSA but authenticated by the Academy of Manuscript and Autograph (AMA) and the Authentic Autographs Unlimited (AAU). What can one do? I know of no authenication service that has not been tarnished by fakes and faulty analysis. I appreciate these types of articles and the comments as it helps me understand this field better. Thanks to all.

    Comment by Dennis — June 6, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  21. Thanks for your comment. We are planning to update the article with that information, but we are also waiting on some additional information.

    Comment by admin — June 6, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

  22. Carl G,
    Because this is Nash’s style. Surprised REA didn’t get blamed for this one. To go along with his style, this comment will soon be deleted by him.

    Comment by Harry Stoltz — June 6, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

  23. Ok well if anybody wants to know the truth on the “laser” printed cobb this is it. it was returned to psa/dna and no it was not labeled a high quality hand signed master forgery. it appears to be a high quality laser printed signature, so the seller told some truth , he is not getting it back to burn and they kept it to use as a example to study and watch for any other like it. so the story of finding by chance in a pile of goudeys seems suspect. more than likely he was dupped when buying it uncerted, and this was the tale. because it didnt appear he had submitted others. now that is where thats at

    Comment by khw — June 6, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

  24. Thanks for the quick response Peter. I have bought a bunch of items from KHW on ebay and have never had any issue and was always treated well. Just don’t want a good seller’s name tarnished

    Comment by Carl G — June 7, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  25. “and they kept it to use as a example to study and watch for any other like it.”
    -quote from KHW in post #24.
    How many might have been passed already though, that is the question. Would someone who did it once successfully not want to try and try again? Who knows how many cuts that are in plastic tombs are computer generated copies?
    And I don’t think the seller can qualify as telling “some truth” when he told Net54 that PSA said it was a high quality hand signed forgery. IMO that does not qualify as any truth at all.

    Comment by Richard S. Simon — June 9, 2012 @ 9:57 am

  26. Still waiting for that apology.

    Comment by Donavon — June 9, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  27. PSA DNA has a terrible track record for online opinions. Who is there 24/7 that gives opions in minutes ? Are they experts in everything? They do not need research ? How can anyone make any sort of “Guess” using an image on a screen ? I saw an LBJ Autopen signed book on eBay that was PSA DNA Authenticated. I saw a common Dustin Hoffman Pre-Print with a PSA DNA Certification. What a waste of money ! $ 10 for an OPINION that has no merritt , no legal anything. The ten dollar opinion is a big con .

    Comment by Horace — January 22, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

  28. Are we sure that any signatures we purchase are authentic these days. I’m not even sure the authenticators know what the real signature looks like. It seems as if these authentication companies are trying to control the sports world. I don’t know about everyone else but I’m afraid to by anything out there.

    Comment by Robert Veros — April 21, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

  29. Hey I can really use some help on some high end hor autos that were certified by aau. Please email me billd@bayardad.com

    Comment by Bill — May 5, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

  30. Sorry HOF autos.

    Comment by Bill — May 5, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

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