Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

September 16, 2013

A photo alleged to have been signed by Tarzan star-chimp "Cheetah" is being sold on eBay with a JSA LOA despite the fact the chimp signing was exposed as a fraud in a 2008 Washington Post investigative report.

Scroll to Bottom For Update on eBay’s Removal of JSA-Certed Lot:

Auction giant eBay is currently offering for sale an 8 x 10 photograph allegedly autographed by the famous chimpanzee “Cheetah” who starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and with Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolitle in the 1960s. The seller, “presspasscollectibles” indicates that the photo has been authenticated by James Spence Authentication and a JSA sticker is afixed to the lower right hand corner of the glossy photo signed in black sharpie by the famous primate.

The first question you may ask upon looking at the alleged “Cheetah” signature is: “How can Spence and JSA authenticate a scribble executed by a chimp and have the ability to distinguish that so-called handwriting from any other chimps?”

The photograph is accompanied by another letter of authenticity issued by an outfit called “Collectibles of the Stars” and is signed by the company, the chimp’s owner, Dan Westfall, and the chimp himself, “Jiggs” a.k.a. “Cheetah.” The LOA, dated March 10, 1997, notes that Cheetah “appeared in many of the original Tarzan films opposite Johnny Weissmuller.”

JSA certifies the authenticity of the chimp signature but, in reality, an extensive investigative report published in 2008 by the Washington Post illustrates that the “movie-career” of the alleged chimp owned by Westfall was a fraud and that the primate never starred in any of the Tarzan films with Weismuller.  This information has been widely disseminated since the report, “Lie of the Jungle:  The Truth About Cheetah the Chimpanzee” was published by writer R. D. Rosen.

It’s yet another striking example of how JSA authenticates items without examining the actual signatures and issues certificates of authenticity based solely upon the existence of other unverified letters of authenticity and a stories from customers.

The chimp alleged to have been the Cheetah of Tarzan fame autographs an 8x10 glossy in an alleged private signing.

In this case JSA could have easily discovered the Washington Post expose by simply Googling “Cheetah the Chimp.”  The fraudulent photograph is currently for sale on eBay for $399.  JSA, along with PSA/DNA, is the officially endorsed authenticator of the auction giant eBay and anyone looking to sell an autographed item on eBay is likely to enlist the services of Spence and his team of “so-called” experts.  The eBay seller tells customers:  ”JSA is one of the most highly respected authenticators in the business and is an eBay approved authenticator.  Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal.”

Despite the fact the photo was never signed by Cheetah the Chimp, the eBay seller assures customers: "Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal."

Author R. D. Rosen was considering writing a book about the famous chimp but in the course of his due diligence he uncovered overwhelming evidence illustrating that the chimp signing 8×10’s was not the original Cheetah and had never appeared in any Hollywood films.  The fraud dated back to the chimps first owner who, on the record, had stated a myriad of conflicting stories related to the chimps personal history which included a story that the chimp was smuggled out on a flight from Africa after filming ended in 1932.  Rosen, however, discovered that commercial flights weren’t available until 1939.

Rosen examined the Dr. Doolitle film and determined that the alleged Cheetah was not the same chimp in the film and even tracked down Hubert Wells, a retired animal trainer who knew the chimp’s original owner Tony Gentry and told him, “It’s not true, Tony got that chimp from Wally Ross. Wally was a premier chimp and elephant trainer. He was one of the managers of Pacific Ocean Park on the pier in Santa Monica. When Pacific Ocean Park closed [in 1967], he had a chimp he owned and trained, about 6 or 7, the turning point for a chimp. He said, ‘Here, Tony, do you want this chimp?’ Tony said, ‘I’ll take it,’ and he took it.”

This scribble was executed by a chimpanzee who was exposed as not being the chimp from the Tarzan movies. Despite that fact JSA authenticated the signature believing they can actually authenticate the handwriting of primates.

Based upon the trainer’s story, the chimp signing the pictures authenticated by JSA and being sold on eBay was born in 1960 or 1961, nearly three decades after the Tarzan pictures were made.  When asked by Rosen if he was positively sure about the chimp Wells said, “Absolutely, no doubt, not for one minute. Absolutely. I’d known Wally since ‘66, and used him on God knows how many pictures. And that chimp was never in any picture, much less a Johnny Weissmuller picture. The big lie is that he was never in the Tarzan movies, never in ‘Doctor Dolittle,’ never in any movie.”

When the autograph-signing “Cheetah-the-Chimp” died in 2011 several news outlets still reported that the chimp was the star of the Tarzan movies, but many amended their reports when notified about Rosen’s Washington Post report.  Rosen told the Associated Press, “I’m afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O’Sullivan is long gone.”

Author R. D. Rosen did not respond to our inquiry for comment about JSA’s authentications of the “Cheetah” autographs being sold on eBay.

How could JSA ever differentiate between any of the alleged Cheetah signatures that accompany the LOA's issued by the chimp owner. The LOA (center) was offered with a Cheetah sig offered on eBay by seller "collectstars" for $29.99.

Considering the controversy over the authenticity of the chimpanzee, let alone the handwriting of the chimp, it is hard to believe that Spence and JSA can actually authenticate anything attributed to the Tarzan chimp named “Cheetah.”

The chimpanzee authentications also illustrate how JSA’s standing as an eBay-approved authenticator helps facilitate the creation of LOA’s which add false values to fraudulent items.  Ebay seller “collectstars” recently offered a similar Cheetah autograph with only an LOA signed by the chimp’s owner and the chimp for $29.99.  Seller “presspass” offers the same type of bogus chimp autograph with a JSA certification and a Buy-It-Now price of $399.

The lack of expertise and authentication malpractice exhibited by James Spence and JSA in this instance has created an illusion whereby an eBay seller tells customers they can rest assured they are getting the “real deal” when, in fact, they are a “But-It-Now” button away from being swindled.

UPDATE: Author R. D. Rosen, who first exposed the “Cheetah” scam in his 2008 Washington Post report issued this statement after the article was published this morning:

In 2007, after I was asked to write the biography of Dan Westfall’s then 76-year-old “Cheeta,” my months-long research proved beyond a doubt  that the chimp in question had been born in 1960 and obviously could not have appeared in any Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. At best, the chimp’s connection to Tarzan might be that his first owner, animal trainer Tony Gentry, may have trained, much earlier in his career, one of the many chimps who shared the role of Cheeta in the Tarzan movies. As for a second “Cheetah,” who died in 2011 in a Florida primate sanctuary at what was said to be almost 80 years of age—an unheard of longevity for the species—I can only surmise that he too was an impostor. The heart-warming, charming fantasy that Tarzan’s sidekick is still alive has itself achieved a kind of immortality—and I wouldn’t be shocked if, 20 years from now, the tabloids are still reporting on some “original” Cheeta’s 102nd birthday. Primate autograph hounds beware.”

UPDATE (Wed. Sept. 18): Two days after publishing this article about eBay’s offering of the bogus JSA authenticated signed photo of a chimp who never starred in the Tarzan or Dr. Doolitle movies, the eBay listing is still live and additionally the same signed photograph is being offered by another big JSA customer “SportsMemorabilia.com.” for $504.49.

The same bogus chimp photo being offered on eBay is being sold for an even higher price at SportsMemorabilia.com.

If you have any information about other fraudulent items being offered on eBay let us know at:  tips@haulsofshame.com .

UPDATE (October 3):  eBAY’S FRAUD DIVISION REMOVES JSA-CERTED FAKE OF “CHEETAH THE CHIMP” IMPOSTER

It took a few weeks, but the autographed photo alleged to have been signed by “Cheetah the Chimp” of Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle movie fame has been removed from the eBay auction site.  As reported on September 16, the photo features a chimp who never starred in any movies and was the subject of a Washington Post investigative report by author R. D. Rosen who presented overwhelming evidence illustrating that the Chimp who was being pimped by his handlers as the real “Cheetah” was indeed a fraud.

The photograph was authenticated by James Spence Authentication (JSA) despite the fact that the fraud could have easily been documented via a few Google searches.  The Chimp fake joins a host of other notable removals of JSA items from the auction site including single-signed baseballs featuring signatures of Biz Mackey, Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson.

The JSA-authenticated fake of Cheetah The Chimp was removed by eBay's Fraud Division earlier today.

A source with knowledge of eBay’s Fraud Division confirmed that the Cheetah photo was removed because of its “authenticity issues.”  The photo was being offered by eBay seller “Press Pass Collectibles” of Scottsdale, Arizona.  Several calls to Press Pass for comment on its offering of the fake after it was exposed on Hauls of Shame were directed to the company’s owner who did not return calls.  When Press Pass representatives were asked for the name of the owner they stated, “It doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

A call to James Spence III of JSA for comment was not returned.  The JSA authentication of the fraudulent chimp photo is another embarrassing blunder by the authentication company eBay considers one of leaders in the industry.  In the past JSA has made serious authentication mistakes ranging from its certification of a misspelled $35,000 Ed Delahanty letter to the infamous Sal Bando video released by a FOX news crew.

While the Chimp controversy has provided laughs for many onlookers, Hauls of Shame has been contacted by several people who collected Cheetah material and were disappointed that their alleged Cheetah autographs and paintings were created by a chimp with zero Hollywood-movie pedigree.  Most of the Cheetah fakes ranged in price from $100 to $400.

Author R. D. Rosen, who exposed the fraud, recently told Hauls of Shame he’s working on a book chronicling his investigation of Cheetah with the working title:  Chump.


27 Comments

  1. Can we call James Spence “Lord Grade-Hoax”. Get it? It’s a reference to Tarzan’s title, Lord Greystoke.

    Maybe it’s easier to just reference the chimp and call him Cheater!

    Comment by Alexander Emmanuel "Alex" Rodriguez — September 16, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  2. Say it ain’t so Jimmy. Say it ain’t so.

    Comment by Boomer — September 16, 2013 @ 8:46 am

  3. Spence, eBay and PSA/DNA have to be STOPPED!

    Comment by Brenda Johnson — September 16, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  4. This would be hilarious if it weren’t so revealing of some people’s disgusting greed.

    Comment by Dorothy Mills — September 16, 2013 @ 9:19 am

  5. ebay also has a Lassie signed “pawprint” and the link below will take you to a signed 8×10 of that Wookie guy from Star Wars. LOL
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/John-Coppinger-Autographed-8×10-Wookie-Senator-Photo-/400567021287?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d43a7aee7

    Comment by Jim McCormick — September 16, 2013 @ 9:24 am

  6. What the hell kind of crap is this ?? This now has gone to far and if some idiot out there buys it, they are crazy and it just proves, they like to piss their $, s away on worthless garbage.I think Jimmy is definitely barking up the wrong tree this time !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Herbie Buck — September 16, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  7. did the chimp sign his letter of authenticity?

    Comment by STEVE CUMMINGS — September 16, 2013 @ 11:47 am

  8. Yes, the chimp who never appeared in any Tarzan movies appears to have signed the LOAs from “Collectibles of the Stars”. But how can you really tell? I guess JSA can.

    Comment by admin — September 16, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  9. I think this is crazy. What is next, THE DEVIL’S AUTOGRAPH?????

    Comment by Mark S. Lawhorne — September 16, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  10. I have an autographed copy of The Bible, if anyone is interested.
    It’s signed “To Gary, Love God”. I know it’s true because he held my hand as I signed it.

    Comment by Gary Alexander — September 16, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  11. JSA has no exemplars of the monkey’s autograph because it is a random scribble and not a repeatable autograph. This is NOT an in-the-presence cert as there were 200 signed but not all have jsa certs. so that begs the question. How does one get this certed?

    either
    1. you present this to jsa with or without the certificate that came with the autograph, and you either are friends with jsa and they know you, neutral and they don’t know you, or they know who you are and dislike you.

    Based upon those conditions only (remember they don’t have any proven exemplars of this non repeatable autograph on file), they will.

    a: give you a certificate
    b: reject your ’signed photo’
    c: give a no opinion

    but they are doing all of this based on the submitter and your backstory, what they believe to be your credibility, not on the autograph itself which is claimed on the jsa cert, (compared to exemplars we have encoutered in the hobby).

    This is wrong. it is NOT autograph authentication. because as we have seen with the Sal Bando incident, photographs can be switched out and the ‘little old lady from pasadena’ can sweet talk their way into a sticker or cert if all you do is believe their story.

    This should stop. Too many people say “Well, it has a so and so sticker so it is deemed authentic by the hobby. They don’t care whether it is real or not, only if they can resell. Where is integrity? Why isn’t the bar set high where it should be for these companies taking people’s hard earned money and claiming to AUTHENTICATE autographs? All we end up with is this – a supposedly 80 year old chimpanzee who scribbled on a piece of paper and it’s the autograph of Cheetah the chimp because JSA gives it a sticker? Is there any “autograph” on planet earth JSA will not certify?

    Did they do any RESEARCH and what value does a JSA sticker do for the piece when it is a non repeatable scribble anyway? What creedance does a JSA sticker give when they weren’t there and can’t validate the scribble from anything else. They believed the provenance and backstory, so it must be legit? This is the problem with the hobby.

    Comment by Travis Roste — September 16, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  12. People would have to be “bananas” to spend money for this garbage.

    Comment by Jay Gauthreaux — September 17, 2013 @ 10:48 am

  13. I have an autographed foot print of my famous cousin Grape Ape. I can’t understand why no one wants to buy it.

    Comment by Magilla Gorilla — September 17, 2013 @ 11:13 am

  14. It needs a Spence LOA. Then it will sell. Jimmy has a few signed Grape Ape rookie cards he uses as exemplars.

    Comment by Mr Peebles — September 17, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  15. If JSA was honest they would just say they have no idea what a chimps autograph should look like and just admit their LOA is based 100% on their belief that the LOA from chimps owner and collectibles of the stars is legit.

    Comment by Chris A — September 17, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  16. I knew Cheetah. Cheetah was a fried of mine. This autograph is no Cheetah.

    Comment by Bonzo — September 18, 2013 @ 12:03 am

  17. you can’t have cheetah with the word cheet.

    Comment by TRAVIS R0STE — September 18, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  18. Monkey autographs? Absolutely unbelievable!

    Comment by Jeff — September 20, 2013 @ 5:00 am

  19. Give me a break collectors!! I am sure you can help many people who are in dire need, rather than invest in this crap!! What a waste of a dollar! I always thought from the get go that PSA/DNA was not worth the paper the authentications are written on…this proves it. Wake up people..look around!

    Comment by Linda — September 24, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  20. Is anyone surprised that ebay is still s elling this thing? I guess JSA still thinks its the “real deal” They know its fake and they still don’t care”. BUT SPENCE GOT HIS FEE. That’s what’s important.

    Comment by Boomer — September 26, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

  21. Good for E-bay,they did the right thing and stopped JSA from a stupid act of nonsense.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — October 4, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  22. New to this site but have been following it for quite some time. Excellent site and comments. However, my question is what is the alternative to JSA and PSA? I collect Hollywood, WW II, and sports autographs as a hobby. I attend many memorabilia shows. I understand the challenge to PSA and JSA’s authentication expertise. But, what is the alternative? The dealers want a JSA or PSA sticker if you are going to sell to them and I want a JSA or PSA sticker if I am going to buy from them. Period. I have a Adolf Hitler auto that I have been trying to authenticate within the German militaria collectors world. There is no known, generally accepted expert on Hitler’s signature. I will have to take it to JSA. Once before they have rejected a Hitler signature I submitted. I have no idea who their expert is. My point here is that JSA and PSA have established a general reputation as being the go to authenticators. Snipping attacks on these two companies is not going to damage this reputation to a significant degree. They are too big to bring down. You have to live and operate in their world. I do not like it. But I am a realist.

    Comment by Dennis Pluchinsky — October 5, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  23. To Dennis Pluchinsky:

    “…JSA and PSA have established a general reputation as being the go to authenticators. Snipping attacks on these two companies is not going to damage this reputation to a significant degree. They are too big to bring down. You have to live and operate in their world. I do not like it. But I am a realist.”

    Really Dennis, you’re a “realist”? We all should take your advice that we need to live and operate in their world?

    Sounds to me like you’re the sheep that buys into their game. WHERE does it say you don’t have free will to make your own decisions? If is smells like a rat, looks like a rat, and leaves pellet droppings all over the dang place like a rat….but JSA or PSA/DNA says it ISN’T a rat, you’ll keep it and feed it as a pet?

    Wake UP my man! It’s this kind of foolish defeatist attitude of lethargic passiveness that is deteriorating the very steel hull of America. You have a mind. Use it to your advantage, or peril. THAT choice is YOURS, not James Spence or PSA/DNA’s.

    Comment by Steve Mears — October 5, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  24. Dennis,

    Steve M. is correct, it is exactly that way of thinking that got us into this mess. If you don’t know JSA’s expertise on Hitler, then why are you bringing it to them?

    To say that all dealers want psa or jsa stickers on the items is nonsense. I buy and sell boxing and I never want a jsa or psa sticker, nor do I sell with one. I can sell any boxing autograph I want just fine without one, as well as my friends who also sell them without these dumb stickers on them. Why live and operate in THEIR world? They do not own the autograph hobby. If you don’t know their expertise, why do you want a psa or jsa sticker on an item when you buy. It’s asinine. Use your own brain or lose it. Do you have to kiss the ring and get their blessing? Why? You fall into their trap and you are volunteering for it.

    Comment by TRAVIS R0STE — October 9, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  25. A reader named Tracy left this comment recently on another JSA article:
    I have to say I am extremely disappointed in JSA. I am a fan of Beckett grading, and JSA has partnered up with them for their authentication process. I had seven cards from the 91 & 93 Heisman set, all autographed by the seven Notre Dame winners. I bought these cards through a JSA authorized dealer, each have gone through the stamp of approval program and each having JSA’s official sticker on the back. I assumed that sending them back to JSA was just protocol to having them slabbed by Beckett. To my surprise, only two of the seven passed and were sent to Dallas after almost three months. The other five have been deemed possibly not authentic. My question is why were they before and not now? JSA was kind and offered a reimbursement for the authentication process, as well to buy back the cards as to keep them off the market. I took issue with that and taking the authentication refund, but not the cost of the cards and asked for my property back. They are going to strip the stickers off the cards, now leaving them un-gradable, and sending them back to me. I am also pulling the other two from Beckett before they are slabbed and sending all seven to PSA. This situation is truly disheartening and I now question the validity of their process. They do not have faith in their own authentication to stick with their original assessment, so why should I? I am going to post this review anywhere and everywhere I can as I am sure they will not allow this post on the JSA website. I posted it there, so if they do, I will be surprised.

    Comment by admin — October 10, 2013 @ 2:45 am

  26. Re: the above comment: Tracy, did you take scans of these cards before you sent them in? If so, I think the readers of this site would love to see them.

    Comment by Chris J. — October 18, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  27. Little Jimmy refused to comment.

    When SCD, whether (the pathetic) Lemke, (the pathetic) O’Connell, or (the pathetic) Bartsch wants to do a “fluff” piece on their advertiser, Little Jimmy won’t shut up!

    Comment by Marc Rettus — November 8, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

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