June 13, 2012
After our last report was published regarding PSA/DNA’s authentication of a Mrs. Ty Cobb signature as a genuine autograph of her husband, eBay seller “khw” informed us that the Cobb cuts he offered on eBay originated from an advertised genuine “thrice signed” Cobb check he purchased in a recent Legendary auction. The check was incorrectly authenticated as having three genuine Cobb signatures when there were actually only two. PSA previously authenticated the same check correctly (stating the third signature was not in Cobb’s hand) when it was sold at R&R Auctions in 2006 and PSA even had a third crack at authenticating the three signatures when “khw” submitted them for authentication after he cut up his Legendary winnings. According to “khw,” PSA has confirmed that they authenticated that third signature in error and are working out a reimbursement for the eBay seller and PSA cut submitter.
In addition to revealing this new information regarding his own Cobb item, “khw” also claims that PSA has admitted to incorrectly authenticating a laser-copied Ty Cobb cut forgery that was the focus of a previous Hauls of Shame report.
The eBay seller posted this revelation in the comments section of our last report: “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.”
He also commented on the provenance story of the other PSA laser-copy submitter, Donavon Arabie, stating, “So the story of finding by chance in a pile of goudeys seems suspect. More than likely he was duped when buying it uncerted, and this was the tale, because it didn’t appear he had submitted others.”
PSA has refused to comment on the situation. Cut signatures of Hall of Famers are the most dangerous for collectors to purchase and for decades astute collectors have avoided them. But as PSA introduced their cut-signature holder products and in-house authentication of those signatures the cut-signature market has picked up as collectors gained new confidence in this form of autograph. PSA President Joe Orlando said as much on the PSA website in story entitled “The Hobby of Holders” where he endorsed the company’s product: “The holder creates more liquidity, it makes the collectible easier to sell via the Internet, it helps protect the collectible and provide better presentation. The label makes an impact as well because it contains all the pertinent information. It also takes much of the guesswork out of the equation. The collectible is summarized, concisely, identifying exactly what it is, noting the certification number and, if applicable, the grade.”
However, it appears that with the revelation and confirmation of just one authenticated forgery of a laser-copied Cobb cut, there is now considerable “guesswork” that has come into play. Because the cut signatures PSA encapsulates are entombed in air tight plastic holders, owners of PSA graded cuts can not be sure whether they own laser-copied forgeries too. This is an additional dilemma for PSA, which has already had many problems with their certifications of handwritten forgeries and secretarial signatures of greats like Cobb and Babe Ruth.
The problems both PSA and JSA have had with cut signatures are a hot topic among collectors and dealers. One prominent collector pointed out another PSA slabbed cut that he suspects is a laser-printed forgery, a $5,500 Cum Posey autograph currently being offered on eBay.
The collector, who asked not to be named, told us, “There’s just something very weird about this one. There are many school diplomas signed by Posey that have come on the market, but all of the Posey signatures are next to or under other signatures of school directors or officials. I can’t see how this slabbed PSA item could just have a signature line for Posey as a director and no other signatures around it. The typeset of the “Director” line looks like its the same as the diplomas. This is just really strange.” The suspicion is that a Posey signature could have been laser-copied from another authentic diploma and printed on an old sheet of paper, like the eBay offering that was slabbed by PSA (and the Cobb cut as well). The eBay offering of the Negro- League pioneer’s autograph does not appear to have originated from a document that was not a diploma.
The Cobb controversy and this new suspected Posey situation illustrate how big a problem PSA could have if customers were to demand that the authentication giant take a second look at their slabbed cuts. Already skeptical collectors are now even more skittish about the slabbed cuts certed by PSA and JSA. Contrary to what PSA President Joe Orlando has said in the past, the “guesswork” has not been taken out of the equation when it comes to PSA cut signature products.
UPDATE: 8:18 PM- eBay has removed the Cum Posey cut signature that was authenticated by PSA/DNA. A reader has also informed us that, “The psa registry doesn’t show it (the Posey holder) and all numbers from 83167186 to 83167225 don’t show up, about 40 items.”