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August 21, 2009

Let me start this latest story by reminding my readers that this is meant to be an educational
yet lightly humorous approach at bringing the fun back to autograph collecting. A similar site
dwells on the negativity of a few people and companies that they compete with thus leaving
collectors wondering “why am I even in this hobby”. Well folks the hobby is alive and well and
through education and prosecuting the bad guys in this hobby it will be the wonderful hobby
it has always been. Greed is the downfall of any industry but a few apples will not ruin what
we as collectors have spent 100’s of years enjoying.

Let’s talk about Court certified document examiners

Everything I am going to write here are pure facts. There will be no smoke screens or twisting of words or phrases to make them sound better or worse then they are. I have put a lot of time into studying these examiners and their education process and will reveal it all truthfully below.


Please don’t be fooled by confusing words like “graphologist” or “graphology”. These terms are used for the study of what someone’s handwriting says about their personality not if it is authentic or not. A handwriting analysis expert is what you should be looking for.

Now let’s look at “so called” credentials of a widely used “court certified handwriting expert” really says in their resume:

I am not trying to pick on anyone person but this name Christopher Morales seems to show up on my items that I see offered by Dealers, Galleries and Auction Houses around the country. Let’s use him as an example just for educational purposes.

We’ll start this by looking into the education in HANDWRITING that he has studied.


Bachelor of Arts, George Washington University , Washington , DC, August 1983. Major: Political Science, with additional concentration in Journalism.

Master of Forensic Science, George Washington University , Washington , DC, May 1986.

Master of Arts in Security Management, George Washington University , Washington , DC, May 1989.

I pulled the curriculum of this college and below is the ONLY course they offer on anything related to handwriting. This is a one semester 3 credit hour course that is offered for $60. It is 2 hours a day, once a week for 3 months giving a total of 24 hours of knowledge.


Examination of Questioned Documents (3)


Theory and principles of handwriting and hand printing, duplicating processes, paper manufacture and fiber analysis; studies of paper and methods of examining questioned documents. Laboratory fee.

This is what he shows as his credentials on his company’s website:

“President. Morales Forensic Investigations, Falls Church , Virginia , Private forensic services and investigative company. Company provides services in all areas of questioned documents, including handwriting and hand printing examinations, typewriting, stamp impressions, photocopies, writing instruments, ink, paper, detection of erasures, alterations, erased and obliterated text and paper. Company also conducts firearms examination (ballistics), fingerprints, crime scene work, and other forensic science disciplines. Court qualified forensic science expert. October 1995 to Present.”

Maybe I’m missing something but studying of autographs does not seem to appear anywhere on this over view including the omission of handwriting comparison. The word comparison is the key part of studying autographs, “comparing the item in question to known exemplars”.

Regarding ANYTHING to do with ink on paper in his career this is what is listed;

“Examined all evidentiary aspects of financial crimes and fraud, including handwriting and hand printing comparison, typewriting examination, as well as examination of counterfeit currency and credit cards, government checks and other government obligations, during detail at Forensic Sciences Division as Questioned Document Examiner. February 1985 to July 1989. “

That’s it folks! That was 20 years ago and doesn’t really state what he did.

examinerTo the right is a photo of Mr. Morales hard at work studying what looks to be the autographs of the Beatles on an LP. Notice the very nice high powered magnifying unit he is using to study these autographs with what looks to be just the beginning as there are other albums by Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd on his table either getting ready to be examined or already examined. I am impressed with the cleanliness of his work area with his Blackberry phone and assorted writing instruments ready to be used for his signature. My that is a nice magnifier he has.

Something seems to be missing though… maybe it’s the authentic known exemplars that he should be comparing the signatures to. What good is his fancy magnifier if he has nothing to compare the item in question to? That is what you do when determining if an autograph is authentic or not, you compare them to known exemplars. Usually between 12-25 known exemplars is sufficient sometimes maybe less but never none at all. Maybe it’s my eyes missing something. If anyone out there sees something I don’t, please let me know.

Below is an official LOA from Mr. Morales discussing his findings on a questioned Jim Morrison signed LP.




Authentic #1 signed in 1968

Authentic #2 signed in 1968

Authentic #3 signed in 1969

Now this is an interesting story here. It’s so nuts I don’t know where to start but here I go:

#1, He states that the LP in question is authentic using principals of forensic document comparison. Remember the photo above? What did he compare it to?

#2, Of course, he compared it to copies from supposed known authentic examples from printed TEXT BOOKS from “three reference books that are commonly used as resource tools in signature authentication”. Used by who? Not by me. Not by anyone I know. I own a printing company and know how to enhance signatures to make them look bolder for print or a pressman who runs the ink too dark or too light this is no source, they are not even in color. Are you kidding me?

#3 of the 3 exemplars he is using only one is authentic and the other 2 look nothing like it. Please tell me how you think the last signature looks anything like the other 3 signatures. I’m not saying that’s the authentic one but that alone is a joke in itself.

#4, I have posted 3 exemplars of authentic RARE Jim Morrison autographs. Now I will let you in on the real one of the four if you haven’t figured it out yet.

Nope you have to guess then scroll to the bottom for the answer.

Now all I have done here is showing you the facts. Everything I wrote here is true and not distorted. This being said would you want to bet your hard earned money that an LOA from someone with these credentials and work habits was what was guaranteeing your Beatles signed album, Babe Ruth signed ball, Abe Lincoln document or Neil Armstrong signed photo? Many galleries, dealers and auction houses do. They call me the idiot. I just call them as I see them.

Next issue I will show you what a real resume of a court certified document examiner should look like and what sort of studies they should have required.

Answer to the quiz
The album in question is done by the same person who did the first example on his certificate and that was not Jim Morrison. The example to the bottom left is the authentic one! It in my expert opinion is not even close the one on the album. Congrats if you guessed correctly.

August 13, 2009

A lot of negative things have been said on a similar website about third party authenticators. Well let’s start my saying that the writer of this site who is the only writer (even though he has a partner that funds it… hint towards my quote clues) has worked for a third party authentication service and offers this service himself on his own web site. He also claims on his website that his letters are accepted by every major dealer and auction house worldwide, I would beg to differ on this point. (along with driving (sic) planes into the twin towers.. hint hint) It’s very odd how he can write such awful things about others when he does it himself. There is something very fishy about that. All I can say is if he attacks me or my credibility he better have all the facts the straight like I do when I write and not go by “what someone said” like he does in most of his articles.

Before I go forward let me clarify I’m not yet talking about “forensic document examiners”, that story will come out later.

Third party authenticators like PSA/DNA, REAL, Frank Ciazzo and JSA were created to give the average the collector a swinging chance of weeding through all of the non authentic autographed stuff that has appeared over the internet since the world wide web changed the face of the business. While Ebay has been a harbor of much of the non authentic stuff to appear (and props to them for their fraud division who is working very hard to clean up their problems) many other so called dealers have been thriving on non educated collectors. There are so many of these dealers of non authentic autographs it’s hard to keep up with them. Third party authenticators are here to help people find out if what they are about to purchase is real by offering “quick opinion” service or if what they already bought is authentic by writing letters of either passing or failing items. Due to the incredible demand of their services some have experienced some growing pains and have made some errors along the way. Remember these companies are run by human beings not machines and to “err is human”, just don’t make it a habit. Companies like JSA and PSA/DNA look at 100’s of items a day, everyday, 7 days a week. The law of averages shows that a mistake could happen every now and then. Instead of exploiting the rare mistake that the other website does I praise them on the great job they have done on educating the public and helping clean up the market. If it wasn’t for companies like these your collections would be worthless as what is considered rare in the autograph world would now be considered common as there would be these items everywhere.

Here’s my suggestion when dealing with third party authenticators;

#1 Make sure they are reputable. A fancy website does not make them reputable. Check out their client list, companies or auction houses that use their services. Be careful of reading websites bashing everyone in sight then hiding their identity. They often mislead the readers for their own benefit.

#2 Build a relationship with them. Even the larger companies are usually willing to talk over things with their clients. As a bit of advice “don’t be a pest though”. Just ask questions when they are needed. Authenticators are working hard and it can be tough to take calls when you are in the middle of studying autographs.

#3 Look for ones that specialize in the type of item you need authenticated. Not all third party authenticators can authenticate everything. There are specialized ones out there. These are usually smaller companies thus able to give a little more one on one relationship with their clients.

#4 Don’t let the “conflict of interest” BS get in the way of making your choice. Honest authenticators whether they also sell autographs or not will not offer you anything for sale during the authentication process. This isn’t a way to lure in new customers. If ever anyone who is authenticating an autograph for you says something like “sorry but this is not authentic but I have 2 real ones on my website for sale” run away. This is not an ethical dealer or authenticator.

#5 If dealing with a larger authenticating firm ask for the person you would like to look at it by name. Usually they will oblige.

#6 Just because there are signatures of all the authenticators that work for business on the bottom of their letters does not mean nor intend to mislead the customer that all these people have looked at the item. Trust me you wouldn’t want me authenticating a Mickey Mantle ball for you, I wouldn’t have a clue what to look for. What they are doing is the same thing that many large companies do is show you the resources they have available to them to look at specific fields of autographs. There are so many different fields I personally don’t believe any one person can learn them all. I only do music and it’s a full time job.

All in all third party authentication is a very good thing for beginners and professional collectors and dealers who are buying things outside of their expertise. Watch out for dealers who always slam third party authenticators as they usually are slamming them because none of the stuff they are selling will pass.

August 10, 2009

Autograph Alert Truth’s First Award!
As reported in the first posting of Autograph Alert Truth we would be recognizing and giving awards to dealers, collectors and individuals that have made a positive impact on the autograph world. We are very proud to have created this first ever award for outstanding honesty, integrity and pure commitment to collecting and selling “in person” autographs. We are naming the award after the person I feel is most deserving of this award and the very first recipient of this award.

“The envelope please...”

And this years winner of the Michael Wehrmann Award for in person collector of the year is…

Michael Wehrmann.

Having been a full time “in person” collector and still do some to this day I know how hard this can be. It can be the highest high or the lowest of all lows when chasing autographs. Michael has stuck to his work like no one else I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of collectors over the years. He has broken down some of the toughest signers in the business. As a collector I admire him, as a business man he is very stubborn, as to selling only items that are 100% authentic, EVERYTIME I worship him.  I have known Michael for over 15 years, never becoming what I would call friends but we both have a deep respect for each other. I’m sure if we lived in the same town we would be good friends just Texas isn’t the place to be collecting autographs on the grand scale that he does. So from the depths of my autograph soul I am proud to have Michael Wehrmann in the autograph world.

August 6, 2009

Real and Fake









Photo is fake circa mid 90’s

Postcard is real circa mid 70’s



Quite often I will be showing examples of REAL autographs and forgeries or secretarial ones. They will probably pertain mostly to music as that is what I do but I will ask some of my very well respected dealers for some other genres.

I Ithought we would start out this issue with Jimi Hendrix;

This is REAL circa 1969

This one is not real circa 2007

Note the differences in the salutations this is a dead give away. Jimi had very “artsy” handwriting; the forger below just couldn’t get that vibe that Jimi had.

Latest update!
On the last update I posted a quote and asked if you could guess who the person was that said this and to whom he was referring to. Well I’m not going to just give away the answer as this site is for the fun at heart. I will though give a clue as to who wrote it. He is known for such other great quotes as the following;

“An attorney friend and collector for many years of mine thinks they will all eventually fail because they cannot get great respected dealers on the same page with them. Names like Maddelena, myself, Raab, etc.”

OK on to the news

A lot has been written about third party authenticators, court document examiners and just plain autograph dealers good and bad. Many non truths have been spread about the laws and the morality of these people and I would like to do my best to set the record straight. This may take more than one article but I will tell you the facts not the opinions that some seem to do.

Let’s start this by first talking about the buyer:

Buyers need to understand a few important things before they start buying autographs of any kind. There are lots of really bad dealers out there with misleading websites and full page print ads in major publications. Lot’s of flash does not mean what they are selling is authentic.

Rule #1 Collecting autographs is different than collecting almost anything else in the world. An authentic autograph has a value a non authentic autograph has no value, ZERO! Example: If you buy a 67 Camero and buy it as totally original and let’s say you pay $20,000 for it. 2 years later you are getting something worked on and your mechanic tells you that this is not the original paint. He looks more into and finds out the seat upholstery has been replaced and the floor board has rusted out and has metal welded to it to make it look fine with carpet on top of it. Now you have a Camero that you thought was 100% original but now find out it’s not. The guy you bought it from is nowhere to be found anymore. The Camero you once thought was worth $20,000 like you paid for it but with the “modifications” it’s now only worth $13,000. At least it’s still worth $13,000! If it were a $20,000 autograph and you found out it was fake it would be worth nothing. Remember this.

Rule #2 Rare items do not come in bulk. Rare means exactly what it says, rare. There are not many of them in the world. Dealers who seem to offer numerous rare signed Photos, LP’s and other high end items should draw a red flag. How could they be rare if they are offering 6-8 signed Led Zeppelin LP’s at one time? I have seen less than 20 fully signed Zep lp’s signed in the nearly 20 years I have been selling autographs. That’s one a year on average. Don’t fall for the “these came from a record company person who wants to remain anonymous” story. The last person that would ask an artist for something signed would be someone who works for him. Trust me I know this for a fact.

Rule #3 Find out everything you can about a dealer before you make any purchase. After you feel comfortable with them build a relationship. Collectables may only come around once in a lifetime, you want to be the one there first if it happens to be the piece you always wanted.

Rule #4 Read their refund policy carefully. I bought a Dylan autographed photo (see Figure 1) years ago from a dealer and this is the guarantee he offered.


The above is the guarantee on his website exactly as written.

Sounded good then but read it carefully.



Figure 1

Figure 2

Nowhere does it state that he would ever refund your money if it was found out not to be authentic. There are no instructions on the procedure of how to get a refund whatsoever. It’s just smoke and mirrors. When I tried to return the autograph which was found out many years later to be a poor forgery this is the reply I got from him:

Yes, we offer a lifetime guarantee of authenticity. Every item we have ever sold came with a bill of sale to the original owner. In addition, any Dylan item we ever purchased came with a handwritten letter of authenticity from the "in person" collector, well known and respected by all.
Besides these two items required along with the original item in the same conditon as described on the invoice, we need to know who is the "expert" that stated this "in person" signed item is not genuine.
Lastly, please be advised of our policy which is well known throughout the autograph industry.
Guaranteed genuine! Opinions from PSADNA or JSA or those with a commercial relationship with these companies Not accepted for refunds.

Nowhere in the original guarantee are any of these requirements stated. I understand that maybe without the receipt how could he know that I bought this autograph from him. Good point but I bought this at a trade show with his handwritten note by him stating what the item was, where it was signed and for how much. So this being stated I either bought it from him or stole it from him and I’m not a thief. It sounds to me like he has left enough loop holes in his vague guarantee to avoid ever giving a refund. These are the kind of dealers you need to stay way from or make sure you get it in writing before you buy what the process of the guarantee refund is.

Rule #5 If sounds too good to be true it is. If you think you can scour internet auction sites and find the deal of a lifetime, stop while you are ahead. It’s the same as finding a $10,000 scratch off lottery ticket. Could you find one, sure but you will probably spend $50,000 to get it. My meaning is you will probably end up buying a ton of fake items while you are on your quest to find the deal of a lifetime. Instead, do your research on the market for the item you would like to buy then contact a reputable dealer with a real 100% authentic LIFETIME refund policy and let your investment slowly grow while you enjoy it.

Rule #6 No dealer is perfect. They do make mistakes now and then. Rarely should be what you are striving for. Dealers who claim to have never made a mistake should be avoided like the plague. I have refunded people for items I sold them when I was a rookie starting out that turned out to be forgeries. I knew the piece when it was returned and refunded the money promptly, without a receipt. With the many more years of experience these mistakes are very far and few between.

That’s it for this session, more next week.

August 5, 2009

First of all I would love to welcome all who visit this new and positive website. For a few years now negativity has ruled the web with any sites pertaining to autograph dealers, authenticators, trade organizations as well as collectors. It has so much bad aura around it many collectors or would be collectors have gone away. I hope with this site a positive spin will be taken along with teaching the beginner to the well trained collector and dealer of what to watch out for and who to trust. I would also like to give out some tell-tale signs of what to look for in a good dealer and a bad dealer. I will also be issuing yearly awards for people or businesses that go the extra mile to keep this hobby, honest and rewarding for all its members. At times it may seem like I will be singling out certain people and dealers but it will be for a reason. Either for their generous efforts in keeping up the integrity that is so needed in this business or exposing people through facts that are hurting the very soul of this hobby. This will not be like the nightly news, reporting mainly on the world’s downfalls but instead will bring a new light and new approach in reporting on the autograph world.

Upcoming news!

The first award of its kind given to an in-person collector and dealer of only authentic autographs will be announced with the name of the recipient being the official name of the award.

Also have you given any thought to the mystery quote? The person “flying the plane” maybe somewhat easy to figure out but the “farmer” may surprise you all. Stay tuned…