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AUTOGRAPHS & FORGERIES

1. The Current Market Environment
I am not alone in the opinion that over 75% of the SRV autographs on the market since the mid-1990's are not genuine. On eBay, it is my opinion that  98% are forgeries, in other words, 49 out of every 50 on eBay are forgeries. I acquire very few autographs. Not only must they appear genuine, but I must be satisfied that the seller had access to Stevie (photo, witness, etc.). Keep in mind that a "certificate of authenticity" (COA) does not actually guarantee authenticity; at best it only guarantees your money back. At worst, a COA is completely worthless. There are well publicized "authenticators" advertised in internet auctions, claiming to have been affiliated with the FBI or "forensic experts." Here's what a fan discovered about one of the most often used "forensic authenticators:" "I did some checking on Mr. [name omitted] and was able to actually speak with an FBI agent that headed up a sting operation called 'Operation Bullpen.' Basically it was to uncover all the fraud in the baseball memorabilia industry. He said although Mr.[name omitted] was never prosecuted, he has 'authenticated' thousands of items that were deemed fakes for several big autograph houses. He was never prosecuted because it takes a lot of money and in his COA it says he 'deems the item authentic'...basically saying he could be wrong." Ask yourself these questions about any dealer - what qualifies him/her to conclude any of the autographs are genuine? Forgeries outnumber genuine signatures on the market, so how do you know the dealer isn't comparing what he has to another forgery? 

2. "How Do I Know If It's Genuine?"
Start with the assumption it's a forgery, and don't buy the first one you see on some internet auction unless the provenance is impeccable.  Some red flags warranting caution: a "Soul to Soul" inscription (a favorite of a particular forger), a dealer who seems to have an endless supply of SRV autographs, and cheap prices (dealers know what Stevie's real signature is worth). Prices are going to vary widely based on a number of factors, the main one being what is signed. Scraps of paper to guitars signed by Stevie have sold for $400 to $9500. On internet auctions, another red flag is "private auctions," which is a way for a dealer to prevent bidders from being contacted and warned about bogus autographs. Another red flag is auctioning a Stevie autograph with a Buy-It-Now price. The relatively inexpensive Buy-It-Now price shows the dealer has plenty more where this one came from and he just wants to sell as many as he can as fast as he can. Be particularly wary of autographs being sold on eBay by sellers in England.

WARNING: Band_signing.jpg (12880 bytes)  Stevie_Signs_guitar.jpg (9137 bytes) Vaughan_Double_T.jpg (63755 bytes) eBay Sellers "AuthenticAutographs98035" of Kent, Washington, "backstagefun" and "Great  American Autographs" of Seattle and "losangelesrocks92684" of Los Angeles appear to be all the same seller, listing different guitars using the photos above to mislead fans into thinking these photos were taken when his merchandise was signed.  This seller has used many different eBay IDs, so please look at the photos above and compare them to those posted by any seller on eBay. The first two photos were taken by a friend of mine and fellow fan club member, and are being used without her permission (and probably illegally copied from my book, and the seller doesn't have my permission, either). I know what guitar Stevie signed when these photos were taken, and it is not any of the guitars this seller has put on eBay in the past several years. This seller has continued to use stolen copyrighted photos to deceive Stevie fans despite my repeated requests for him to stop.  If you see someone using these photos, in my opinion he is using them in order to deceive you. If the seller I'm referring to is reading this and not liking it, I would be happy to sit down with you in the local FBI office and discuss with you the evidence I have. 

The good news - Stevie signed a lot of autographs, so be patient and buy one you know is genuine.  I offer a money-back guarantee if any autograph I sell is proven to my satisfaction to be a forgery. I am very comfortable doing that because I don't offer anything that I have any doubt about. 

3. The basis for my opinions:
I have received some flak from dealers who complain about my opinions on alleged SRV autographs. My opinions are based on having studied hundreds of known genuine examples of Stevie's handwriting and signature, including:
    signed cancelled checks
    signed contracts (beware secretarial signatures)
    signed letters
    signed hotel receipts
    signed medical documents
    signed applications
    signed membership cards
    signed items from family, band mates and business associates
    signed items for fans with conclusive documentary and/or photographic proof of access to Stevie
    personal items "signed" to mark ownership (i.e. records from Stevie's personal collection)
    handwritten lyrics and letters
    pages and pages of handwritten notes.
I do not hold any certifications or professional designations as an autograph dealer or "expert." I am not a member of any autograph dealers' association. I cannot guarantee I would be accepted as an expert by any particular judge or court. If you are a dealer/seller and you don't like my opinion, put your "COA" where your mouth is and prove your wares are genuine to your customers.

4. Examples of forgeries:
The information about autographs on this site constitute my opinions only, and are not directed at any specific dealer or seller. My intention is not to interfere with anyone's lawful business, but to provide guidelines to prevent intentional or unintentional fraud. Autograph dealers often rely on suppliers to provide what they may believe are genuine autographs. My advice to any potential buyer is to ask for sufficient information from a seller to satisfy you the item is genuine.  You are welcome to disagree with my opinions.

In my opinion the items pictured below are not genuine autographs. If you are a dealer or owner of an autograph you think is genuine which resembles one below, I welcome your documentary proof of authenticity. ("Certificates of Authenticity" are NOT proof, nor are unsupported opinions of "forensic experts"). Potential buyers should also be aware that some of the prolific "forensic experts" have been prosecuted for falsely authenticating thousands of forgeries. I have tried to take into account that there are many factors which can cause someone's signature to vary. There is also one forger who is more expert than any of the others, believed to have worked primarily for a criminal in Vermont.

Click on the pictures for a larger image.

forge28.jpg (7033 bytes) forge27.jpg (39013 bytes) The most recent items to crop up in the world of forgeries are photos which the seller claims are "preprinted" copies of original signatures. They aren't. Just another illegal product someone cooked up in their garage.

soulforge2.jpg (87794 bytes) soulforge.jpg (10180 bytes) forge11.jpg (19060 bytes) The "Soul to Soul" autographs are the most common forgeries on the market. There are so many that dealers probably use these as a guide, thinking they are genuine. The suspected forger cranking these out is believed to be in the Dallas area, but he sells to dealers all over the country, particularly Las Vegas, and probably the world. The signature is very close to Stevie's, but several aspects and circumstances strongly suggest they are all forgeries.

forge15.jpg (30312 bytes) forge27.jpg (39013 bytes) Anytime you see these photos signed, there is a 99.9% chance it is a forgery. forge21.JPG (29599 bytes) ANY time you see this, it's a forgery.

forge16.jpg (20967 bytes)This one is almost funny, it's so bad. I don't recall seeing Stevie misspell his own name or sign a photo of someone else dressed like him. I'm told it's Richie Sambora in the photo with Jon Bon Jovi, and the double-neck Taylor guitar was made nine years after Stevie died.

alpineforge.jpg (23858 bytes) alpineforge2.jpg (19745 bytes)  The photos above were taken literally a few hours before Stevie died. I do not believe the photos were circulated until at least two years after Stevie died. It is absolutely impossible that Stevie ever signed one of these photos. The Robert Cray signatures do not resemble the ones I obtained from him personally, either. Given the nature of this particular photo, I have significant doubt that Clapton would sign this photo, but I am not an expert on his signature. Most of these seem to be originating in England.

forge.jpg (30640 bytes) forge22.jpg (141656 bytes) forge2.jpg (21797 bytes) forge3.jpg (15990 bytes) forge4.jpg (17982 bytes) forge5.jpg (20706 bytes) forge6.jpg (18679 bytes) forge7.jpg (11456 bytes) forge8.jpg (18389 bytes) forge9.jpg (21710 bytes) forge10.jpg (14447 bytes) forge13.jpg (9260 bytes) forge14.jpg (11723 bytes) forge19.JPG (17441 bytes) forge20.jpg (28910 bytes) Just a small sample of the autographs I believe are fake that proliferate on the internet. The next-to-last one is a relatively new and prolific SRV forger. The last one has the added value of being a forged signature on a fake pass.

forge17.jpg (3812 bytes) This is the first time I've seen the 1985-86 style signature forged. I knew it would happen sooner or later. This one came from the land of the ultra-cheap forgery -- England. I hate to say it because I have good friends in England, but if you see an autograph on the internet from England, be extra careful. That being said, most of the forgeries are still originating right here in the US.

A new winner: forge23.jpg (13999 bytes) forge24.jpg (6985 bytes) forge25.jpg (8519 bytes) forge26.jpg (10002 bytes)  I think we have a winner in the worst forgeries contest! All of these were listed for sale by a dealer in Las Vegas. I guess the seller couldn't afford a better forger and had his five-year-old do them for his inventory! Fortunately, it looks like most of his victims are spending less than $100 on this crap. Maybe the victims can at least put something else in the frames.

5. Examples of Genuine Signatures:
I do not post genuine examples on this page because it gives the forgers something to work from. I prefer that they continue to make the same mistakes.

SEE ALSO THE NEW PAGE ABOUT ILLEGAL MERCHANDISE