So, You've Gotten Your First Fake Autograph...
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
These may be the stages of grief, but they’re also the stages of owning a fake autograph.
I started collecting in 1999, near the genesis of the eBay era when dial-up ruled the Earth and Episode I was breaking box office records. It truly was the Wild West. Comic conventions were things, but not the extravaganzas that occurred every weekend like today.
Through-the-mail (TTM) collecting was a common avenue, and I was able to add James Earl Jones, John Williams, Anthony Daniels and more. But for the rarer names, it was off to eBay. And boy…did I get hosed.
Fake Ed Norton and Brad Pitt Fight Club? Certainly! UACC approved FAKE HUGH JACKMAN! Sign me up! Autograph Czar Russell Crowe from Gladiator? Yup!
It was the Wild West, and of course these were all bad and relegated to the dumpster after being ripped up. Later, I was taken by Voldemort on Rebelscum to the tune of about $2,000 (a story well-described in our old Graphcast episodes. Truly dark times in Star Wars collecting).
In my youthful deal-making days, I got taken, a common tale we still see unfolding almost daily today. Some dubious autographs have been popping up in popular trading card sets and the denial is so blatant it’s depressing.
”My autograph can’t be fake!”
“I got it in person!”
“It has a COA!”
Here’s the best piece of advice when you learn your autograph is fake: OWN IT. The sooner you get to the point that you realize that you’ve got a fake and that it’s money wasted and burned, take the ‘L’ and use it as a learning experience. Most collectors, especially those that have been around awhile, will admit that they too have owned fakes. I would guarantee that the vast majority of collectors have had at least one fake in their collections.
The best part of collecting is the resources available. SWAU is one of the best resources in the world. Our sales groups ONLY allow autographs vetted by experts, so you can rest assured your purchases are genuine. There are reputable third-party authenticators, witness programs and more. Also, nothing substitutes wanting to learn about the hobby you are spending big money on. The best advice ever given is to take the time and study real examples yourself, even going so far as to make personal folders of real and fake examples so you can learn the difference. Over time you’ll be able to to rule out half of the junk you see off the top.
As for when you’ve come to accept that some autographs are fake:
-Don’t try to resell them on eBay. You’ll be outed and shamed. Just because you made a mistake, don't be a scumbag and try to take someone else for a ride.
-Destroy the item. No need to risk a family member trying to sell it to someone unsuspecting down the line.
-Don’t try to swear it’s real, or you got it in-person. It’s a low integrity move.
At the end of the day, remember to TAKE THE ‘L’- take the loss, and take the chance to learn and improve as a collector.