Autographed Baseball Authentication & Grading Process
To combat counterfeiting and provide peace of mind to collectors, PSA/DNA and PSA employ a two step process that includes a four-level autograph authentication system and a full evaluation on your baseball's condition. All items submitted for authentication are subjected to physical examination by our experts (turnaround is dependent upon demand). PSA/DNA Autograph Authentication, entails:
STEP 1: EXAMINATION
- Ink/Medium Analysis
- Autograph Structure Analysis
- Object Evaluation
- Side-By-Side Comparisons *
Video Spectral Comparator (VSC4) * - A powerful workstation designed to examine
questionable documents and autographs using sophisticated color and infrared imaging, magnification, coaxial lighting,
and side lighting on-screen. The VSC detects:
- Reveals masked and obliterated signatures
- Differences in ink types
- Other extraordinary tampering
* When Necessary
STEP 2: ANTI-COUNTERFEITING
Covert Tagging - Once an autograph is deemed genuine, the item is marked with invisible ink which contains a synthetic DNA sequence/combination specific to PSA/DNA.
The DNA-laced taggant cannot only be detected in a scientific lab but also with a proprietary infrared laser. In fact, by using the laser, the invisible DNA-ink will glow "RED." More importantly, the chances of replicating this exact sequence is 1 in 33 trillion!
Overt Tagging - A label bearing an alphanumeric serial number is applied on the item in a discrete location or on the Certificate or Letter of Authenticity. The choice is yours. Interestingly enough, this label was specifically designed to checkerboard when tampered with and can be completely removed! In addition, the label is non-destructive and does not harm your valuable item.
STEP 3: CERTIFICATION
Certificate of Authenticity - For items submitted at an authentication fee lower than $50, a small 3x3 certificate on your graded baseball is issued with your item. The COA features a certification number unique to PSA that matches the tamper evident label. For an additional fee of $10, a Letter of Authenticity will be composed and issued with your item.
Letter of Authenticity - For items submitted at an authentication of $50 or higher, a detailed letter on your graded baseball is composed and issued with your item. The letter features:
- PSA and PSA/DNA watermarks custom embedded into the paper stock to prevent counterfeiting; simply hold the LOA against a lamp and look for the official PSA and PSA/DNA logos.
- High resolution photos of your exact submission
- A summary on the characteristics of your baseball
- Hand signature from one of PSA/DNA's panel of experts
- A certification number unique to PSA
STEP 4: DOCUMENTATION
All authenticated memorabilia is available online for verification. Simply visit Cert Verification and enter the serial number. The verification page will display:
- The autograph
- The item
- Signature Location
- Overall Grade
Autographs that do not meet our requirements and, in our opinion, are of questionable authenticity will receive a "NO PASS" designation. Thereafter, items with an authentication fee $50 or over, and those with a purchased Letter Upgrade, will have a Letter of Opinion (LOO) is returned with an explanation of our experts' findings.
Occasionally, our experts cannot express an opinion on an autograph. These will be designated as "Inconclusive" and a credit voucher will be issued in the full amount of the authentication fee. This voucher can be used towards future submissions.
PSA Grading Process
Provided that the autograph is genuine, the baseball moves onward to PSA Grading. Our experts evaluate your baseball based on two aspects:
STEP 1: EXAMINATION
The PSA grading standards for signed baseballs are a product of two different factors: the condition of the signature and the condition of the ball itself. After rendering a grade for each category, a final grade (the average of the two with slightly more weight given to the autograph) is assigned to the item. For example, a Mickey Mantle autograph might receive a "10" and the ball might receive an "8", resulting in an overall grade of "9" for the piece.
In some cases, a grader may raise or lower the overall grade up to a half point depending on the strength of the eye-appeal. This is a crucial factor in the grading process and the impact of eye-appeal should not be taken lightly. Eye-appeal is a very significant factor in the collectibles world and there is no exception for autographs. The graders will reserve the right to add or subtract from the overall grade based on this issue. As an example, a ball that receives an overall grade of PSA 8.5 would be considered NM-MT Plus.
The standards and requirements for each grade are really a product of degrees. Degrees of boldness, fading, foxing, skipping, toning, etc. all contribute to the overall PSA grade. Eye-appeal, in the end, is ultimate factor. All of the grading is, of course, applied only after we have determined that the autograph is indeed authentic in our opinion.
Refer to the PSA Autographed Baseball Grading Guide regarding PSA's guidelines on autograph locations, personalization of autographs, ball varieties, autograph retracing, shellacking, pre-printed areas, autograph removals, hand painted baseballs, and labels of authenticity.
STEP 2: HOLDER
Once the grades are assigned, your autographed baseball is placed in a UV coated cube. This holder will not be sonically sealed like our PSA card case. This case will have PSA tamper-evident stickers affixed around the edges of the case — what we would define as vulnerable areas. These are, however, not permanent stickers. Their purpose is to merely let the customer know that the ball was examined and graded by PSA experts. If the customer chooses, they may preserve the ball inside the PSA holder.
Once the holder has been compromised, it will be evident as the stickers must be torn, removed or virtually destroyed in order to open the case.
At PSA, we realize that collectors choose to display their prized baseballs in a variety of ways so the baseballs may be removed from the holder if the customer chooses. This action will in no way affect the validity of the PSA grade. The PSA Grading Certificate will serve as the key component, along with our invisible/synthetic DNA marking, to ensure that this was the exact item sent to us for grading/authentication.
The Issue of a Grading Guarantee
Due to the inherent problems associated with autograph preservation, PSA cannot guarantee the assigned grade for the life of the item. As many collectors know, fading, soiling, bleeding, etc. can occur over time through handling and exposure. Even without future handling, soiling from previous handling may eventually stain the item in a clearly visible way. Sometimes, the damage to the condition of an autograph or baseball may be visibly delayed and, for his reason, PSA cannot guarantee the grade for life.
PSA can guarantee the grade of the item at the time of the authentication and, with the help of proper storage methods, your item can be preserved in such a way that will enable the PSA grade to live concurrently with the item. With the proper precautions, the vast majority of autographs can be preserved in their respective/current condition.