Buying Advice (con't)
Certificates of Authenticity
I have spoken to many people who are happy to buy anything as long as it has a certificate with it and won't touch anything that hasn't. The posher the certificate, the more confident they feel about it. In fact, a certificate of authenticity doesn't mean very much at all. If someone is prepared to sell you an autograph knowing very well that it is a forgery, they will have no qualms about sending you a beautiful certificate with it. I always give a certificate to buyers because it is expected, but I make sure that it has my reference number on it. This number corresponds to the permanent scanned record that I keep of every autograph I have ever sold and ensures that if somebody tries to send me back a forgery they have bought elsewhere, I can immediately prove that it didn't come from me. But that doesn't prove that mine was genuine! There are innumerable small, inexperienced autograph dealers out there who really do have no idea that they are selling forgeries. Many buy indiscriminately and have a mixture of genuine items and fakes in their stock, honestly believing that they are all authentic. These people are cheerfully issuing certificates of authenticity when they have no more idea of what the real autograph looks like than the buyer does. There's lots that can be said about this subject and I will expand upon it in a later article, but suffice for now to say that if an autograph is genuine, it's genuine and if it's a fake, it's a fake, and no piece of paper can change that.
Some people believe that if the price on an auction is too low, the item can't be genuine and if it's high enough, it must be OK. It's probably true that in a fixed-price retail situation, a very low price may well point to a fake, but even in that situation, a higher price doesn't mean the item is genuine. This becomes even more complicated in open auctions. There are a number of genuine sellers who believe that, as long as enough collectors are looking at their auctions, prices will find their right levels no matter how low the minimum bid price is. I know one exceptionally good dealer who lists everything at 1 cent with no reserve, obtains good final prices and invariably sells 100% of her items. At the same time, many forgery dealers set their prices quite high in order to avoid suspicion (and make even more profit!). Obviously, experienced dealers and collectors don't join in the bidding for fakes, so the average final prices obtained for genuine items are likely to be a little bit higher than for fakes, but, with the rapid growth of the hobby, there are an awful lot more inexperienced buyers than experienced ones.
I hope that the comments and information above are of some help, if anything I have said stops one collector from buying a forgery, it has been worth the time spent on it.