Signed pre-War baseball cards can sell for a pretty penny. Authentic examples are rare, largely because collecting autographs on cards wasn’t really a widespread practice until much later and many of the players were dead when it became commonplace. Authentic autographs on T206 and Goudey sets are out there, but they’re generally limited to players who lived long past World War II.
Now, with increasing interest in autographed vintage cards, there’s apparently a forger who’s been busy buying unsigned T206s and adding a “signature” to them. At least a few of those fakes have been sold in recent weeks.
It came to light recently on the Net54 Vintage Card Forum when one collector posted pictures of a Rube Marquard autographed card that carried one company’s authentication but was rejected by another. While it’s not unusual to find authenticators who disagree, a member of the forum actually found a smoking gun: a “before” photograph of the exact Marquard card that now carried the fake signature. The unsigned version had sold online just a few weeks earlier.
That quickly led a resourceful board member to make a few more discoveries of authentic, graded cards that had obviously been purchased on eBay, cracked out of their holders, signed by a forger, passed by an authenticator and then sold at auction.
The rarity of signed T206 cards is such that even common players will sell for enough that a crook can turn a $50 or $100 card into something that can make him a profit of several thousand dollars for a few minutes of work.
SC Daily writer Anson Whaley does a good job breaking down the ongoing saga on his Pre War Cards website. There are links to the “outing” of the fake autographed cards inside his story.