Over half of the signatures of some famous sports, historical and entertainment figures submitted in 2010 to PSA/DNA Authentication Services of Santa Ana, California were judged to be fakes. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle topped the PSA/DNA sport list of the "most dangerous autographs of the year," and Elvis Presley, The Beatles and John F. Kennedy are at the top of the year-end historical and entertainment listing compiled by the company.
“This past year, our experts reviewed over 200,000 autographs submitted by collectors and dealers worldwide. PSA/DNA does not often receive obvious forgeries, so if our rejection rate for a particular autograph, such as Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley, approaches or exceeds 50 percent, you can only imagine how high that percentage might be in the overall marketplace," cautioned Joe Orlando, President of PSA/DNA, the world's largest autograph authentication and certification company and a division of Collectors Universe, Inc.
Information about the deceptive autographs will be available online at Professional Sports Authenticator (www.psacard.com) next month.
According to PSA/DNA, these are the "ten most dangerous autographs" of sports figures the past year with approximate values of genuine autographs in parenthesis:
1) Babe Ruth ($3,000 for a signed cut to $50,000 or more for a choice, single-signed baseball). The King of Swing is the most sought-after autograph in the hobby and the PSA/DNA rejection rate is in the 60 percent range.
2) Lou Gehrig ($3,500 for a signed cut to $60,000 or more for a choice, single-signed baseball). There is very high demand for his signature and there's a large volume of forgeries.
3) Mickey Mantle ($150 for a signed cut to $600 or more for a choice, single-signed baseball). Mantle remains one of the most desirable autographs in the hobby, and even though he signed an enormous amount of items until his death in 1995, the number of forgeries is greater than the amount of authentic examples available.
4) Michael Jordan ($175 for a signed cut to $600 or more for a single-signed basketball). Despite signing thousands upon thousands of autographs while under contract with Upper Deck Authenticated, the supply is not nearly enough to satisfy demand. Forgeries remain a major problem.
5) Muhammad Ali ($150 for a signed cut to $500 or more for a single-signed boxing glove). Even though Ali has been somewhat of a prolific signer in the past, the number of authentic Ali autographs fresh to the marketplace has decreased in recent times.
6) Lebron James ($125 for a signed cut to $450 or more for a single-signed basketball). James remains one of the most difficult in-person signatures to acquire, making the number of authentic example relatively low for an active superstar.
7) Ted Williams ($100 for a signed cut to $350 or more for a choice, single-signed baseball). While the demand for "Teddy Ballgame's" signature has declined slightly over the past several years, the amount of Williams' forgeries in the marketplace is staggering.
8) Tiger Woods ($250 for a signed cut to $1,500 or more for a single-signed golf flag). Even though Tiger's popularity as an athlete and person has taken a serious hit in the last year, he remains on the list of the most dangerous autographs.
9) Kobe Bryant ($100 for a signed cut to $400 or more for a single-signed basketball). With five championships under his belt and perhaps more to come, Kobe has become a real target for forgers the last couple of years.
10) Albert Pujols ($100 for a signed cut to $300 or more for a choice, single-signed baseball). His consistency as a hitter, positive overall image and the lack of authentic autographs in the marketplace provide ample reason for forgers to target this perennial MVP contender.
These are the ten "most dangerous autographs" of historical and entertainment figures in 2010, according to PSA/DNA.
1) Elvis Presley ($1,500 for a signed cut to $35,000 or more for a signed contract or letter). Elvis' popularity is global, and because he passed away at only 42 years of age in 1977 the amount of authentic autographs is extremely limited.
2) The Beatles ($5,000 for a signed cut to $15,000 or more for a signed photo). They are, quite simply, the most heavily forged band in the autograph world.
3) John F. Kennedy ($1,750 for a signed cut to $25,000 or more for a Presidential letter or document). In addition to a large amounts of forgeries, non-malicious "Kennedy" forgeries were produced by secretaries and via autopen during his tenure in office.
4) Marilyn Monroe ($2,500 for a signed cut to $15,000 or more for a signed photo). Yet again, another celebrity who passed away at a very young age (36 in 1962) which resulted in a very limited number of authentic autographs for fans of the iconic actress.
5) Michael Jackson ($200 for a signed cut to $1,000 or more for a signed photo). With his recent passing in 2009 at the age of 50, Jackson forgeries flooded the marketplace in 2010.
6) Jim Morrison ($1,200 for a signed cut to $4,000 or more for a signed photo). The lead singer of The Doors died at age 27 in 1971. Most of the genuine Morrison autographs found today come in the form of check endorsements, but forgers target record album covers, photos and even simple slips of paper.
7) Neil Armstrong ($1,000 for a signed cut to $5,000 or more for a signed photo). Astronauts are one of the most popular autograph collecting themes, and over the past three decades the first man to set foot on the moon has had a virtual no-autograph policy making it even more difficult for collectors to obtain the genuine article.
8) Jimi Hendrix ($2,500 for a signed cut to $7,500 or more for a signed photo). The earliest known contract (1965) of the guitar legend sold for just over $200,000 at auction in 2009.
9) James Dean ($2,000 for a signed cut to $8,500 or more for a signed photo). Like Marilyn Monroe, forgers often target photos of Dean as the "canvas" for counterfeit autographs.
10) Walt Disney ($650 for a signed cut to $3,500 or more for a signed photo). His signature is one of the most unique and attractive autographs in any genre, which increases the demand.
"It's important to buy autographs from reputable sellers who use independent, third-party authentication to protect their customers," advised Orlando who also serves as Editor of Sports Market Report.
"There are a lot of so-called 'deals' on the Internet, at local flea markets and even some collectibles conventions, but genuine autographs do not often come with a huge discount. Buyer beware because you usually get what you pay for."