You get an autograph at a show. You see it signed. Do you really need to move to a nearby table to have it 'authenticated'? An embarrassing TV news report would seem to indicate the answer might be 'no'.
Autograph authentication is big business.
Ever since the FBI carted away millions of dollars in forgeries during the widely publicized Operation Bullpen, collectors and those who dug something out of the attic have relied on the opinions of those who supposedly have the training to render a generally accurate opinion. Autograph verification is really just an opinion, but thousands have come to trust the idea.
Studying the signature of Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth is one thing. Creating a 'brand' to place on a fresh autograph obtained at a card show quite another. Handing out holograms like candy brings big business to the authenticators who often assume the items they're handed are coming directly from the autograph line.
But there's a hole in the system. At one recent show, an investigative crew from a local Fox TV affiliate managed to get one company to authenticate the reporter's handwriting on a Sal Bando picture.
It's a case of assembly line authentication that doesn't reflect well on anyone.