Taking My Hacks

Manufacturers and Autographs - The Reality

Joe Orlando

There is a subject in our hobby that has been discussed for a couple of years but, for some reason, it hasn't become as big of an issue as one would think. So, what's the issue I am referring to? It's the issue of autographed cards that come directly from the manufacturer, ones that feature both current stars and deceased legends, containing questionable signatures.

Since the late-1990's, the practice of including autographs in trading card sets has become more and more prevalent. Some of the most valuable cards produced in the last 30 years or so are cards of this nature. Some are limited edition examples that feature current athletes, some feature interesting autograph combinations and others feature cut signatures from stars of a bygone era.

The problem is; how do we know these autographs are real?

Well, let me start by saying that autograph authentication ultimately comes down to an opinion rendered by an expert and it is by no means a perfect science. That being said, it is the weight of that opinion that really matters, the credibility and name behind it, the respect that opinion generates.

In the case of autographed product produced by the manufacturer, there is no third party witness or authenticator in most cases, not all, but most. On the other hand, it is believed that most of the current athletes are signing in the presence of some type of witness. Whether that actually occurs is something that is questioned by some autograph enthusiasts.

Furthermore, please remember that when an autographed trading card is submitted to PSA for card grading, that is the only service being performed since it was the only service being requested. Autographed cards that come direct from the manufacturer, from 1998-present, are handled as such. The manufacturer is warranting that the autograph is authentic and that autograph is part of the original make-up of the card so, in turn, we will grade the card without commenting on the autograph.

An entirely separate issue concerns the cut signature cards featuring deceased legends. Some of these cards sell for outrageous prices due to their limited edition appeal; however, there have been problems. HBO featured a story on the autographed industry and made specific reference to a quad-signature card featuring autographs of Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb. It was believed that two of the four signatures would not pass most credible autograph experts.

There have also been other controversial cut signature cards featuring the likes of Lou Gehrig for example. Once again, if these cards are submitted to PSA for card grading only, that is what they receive... an opinion about the condition of the card... nothing more, nothing less. The same policy applies here since this is a product created by the manufacturer.

The point of this column is not to call into question every autographed card produced by manufacturers. It is simply to show that, in rare cases, you may not be getting what you pay for. In addition, we want to clarify our position. We do offer both services, card grading and autograph authentication, but you must request both in order to receive both.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.