Since 1998, PSA/DNA has evaluated approximately three and a half million autographs. During this past year alone, PSA/DNA's team of experts reviewed over 400,000 autographs from collectors and dealers worldwide. Unfortunately, as a result of the popularity and value of many autographs, a good portion of them are forged by unscrupulous individuals.
In fact, it is not uncommon for the rejection rate at PSA/DNA to meet or exceed 50% on some of the more prominent names. What is most startling about that statistic is the fact that PSA/DNA does not often receive obvious forgeries since hobbyists are well aware of our expertise and standing in the industry. In other words, if the rejection rate for a particular autograph approaches 50% with PSA/DNA, you can only imagine how high that percentage of forgeries might be in the overall marketplace.
In addition, remember that forged signatures come in a variety of dangerous forms. Not all forgeries are created with malice. There are also non-malicious types of forgeries such as secretarial signatures, used by everyone from baseball players to U.S. Presidents, and clubhouse examples in the world of sports. These forgeries were not made for financial gain or produced to harm anyone else. These were often signed to satisfy autograph requests through the mail or to complete a team-signed item that was missing a player or two.
That is why it is so important to find and buy from reputable sellers - ones who use third party authentication to protect the interests of their customers. There are a lot of so-called "deals" that can be found on the Internet, at local flea markets and even at some collectibles conventions, but most of these "deals" are too good to be true. Genuine autographs do not often come with a huge discount. As the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for.
Below are the lists of the ten most dangerous autographs in two distinct categories: sports and historical/entertainment autographs. Each list was prepared by the experts at PSA/DNA, based on our observations in 2013.
There were some names that thrust into the top ten since the last time we generated this report, like MLB rookie sensation Yasiel Puig and the classic rock band The Rolling Stones, and others that fell off the list, like basketball star Kobe Bryant and movie legend Judy Garland. Now, that is not to say that large numbers of forgeries do not exist of names which didn't make our top ten because there are many autographs that are considered dangerous .
In our opinion, these lists are composed of The Most Dangerous autographs in 2013. Approximate values of genuine autographs are in parentheses. The values provided range from average quality cut signatures or photos to premium items such as high-end baseballs or jerseys. Please note that truly exceptional examples and special items can bring even more than the prices listed.
For additional information about autographs, please visit our new website - psaautographfacts.com - a free online resource with pricing, articles, biographical summaries and thousands of terrific images.
"The King of Swing" is the most sought-after autograph in the hobby. As a result, Ruth leads our list with a rejection percentage in the 60% range. With autographed Ruth items worth between a few thousand dollars to well over six figures, it is easy to see why forgers focus on this baseball icon. In fact, a PSA Mint + 9.5 single-signed baseball was auctioned for $388,375 in August of 2012, the highest price ever paid for an autographed Ruth ball. It is also important to note that large numbers of non-malicious secretarial "Ruth" signatures exist. In fact, during his final battle with cancer, Ruth's nurse was believed to have signed a large number of items on his behalf due to his failing health. The bottom line is Ruth remains king.
For more on Babe Ruth's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/42/babe-ruth
Gehrig's personality and signing habits were the antithesis of his legendary teammate - Babe Ruth - but the demand for the "Iron Horse's" signature rivals the demand for autographs of "The Sultan of Swat." Even one of Gehrig's signed contracts from his playing days (1935) sold for $115,000 as far back as 2004. While all mediums containing Gehrig's signature are scarce, single-signed baseballs might be the toughest of all, so finding a top notch example is almost impossible. In fact, the highest grade ever achieved by a Gehrig single-signed baseball is NM + 7.5. This results in very high demand and a large volume of forgeries. Even on team-signed balls, Gehrig would often leave the sweet spot open for his outgoing teammate.
For more on Lou Gehrig's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/17/lou-gehrig
In the world of autographs, these three baseball legends are virtually inseparable. They all were A-level Hall of Famers on the field and top autograph draws during the hobby boom of the 1980's. Mickey Mantle remains one of the most desirable autographs in the hobby. Even though Mantle signed an enormous amount of items in the 1980s and up until his death in 1995, the number of forgeries is greater than the amount of authentic examples available. The majority of those forgeries are attempts at his more recognizable post-career signature style, which is quite different compared to his early-career style. Expect to pay a minimum $150 for an authentic signed photo and $500-$600 for a signed baseball. In fact, a PSA/DNA Mint + 9.5 single-signed baseball sold for $3,107 in November of 2013.
Like Mantle, Ted Williams signed a very large amount of items during the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, he eventually signed for his own son through a memorabilia outfit called Ted Williams Family Enterprisesafter joining Mantle as a part of Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) in the early 1990s. Authentic signed baseballs tend to sell in the $350-$500 range, but it is not uncommon for inscription baseballs, signed bats and jerseys to command a significant premium with vintage examples carrying the biggest premium of all. Of the three baseball legends who signed significant amounts of material during their post-career years - Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams - Williams single-signed baseballs are the toughest to find in strict mint condition.
Joe DiMaggio rounds out the big three as he became a hobby fixture during his post-career years while the sports collectibles industry grew. Like Mantle and Williams, DiMaggio signed a large number of items during his lifetime, yet he remains a target of forgers due to his popularity. You can acquire genuine single-signed baseballs in the $300+ range but, as with the two aforementioned legends, special inscription-based items sell for premiums such as items featuring references to his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 or those that include "The Yankee Clipper" in addition to his autograph.
For more on Mickey Mantle's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/29/mickey-mantle
For more on Ted Williams' autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/46/ted-williams
For more on Joe DiMaggio's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/15/joe-dimaggio
When Jordan was still an active NBA player in the 1990s, a massive amount of forgeries entered the hobby. Despite signing thousands upon thousands of autographs while under contract with UDA, the supply was not nearly enough to satisfy the demand. Most signed photos, basketballs and jerseys range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars if authentic. Today, since Jordan remains one of the toughest modern autographs to find, forgeries remain a major problem. In fact, it appears as if Jordan's legacy has improved with time, with all new stars ultimately compared to him. Jordan, like Babe Ruth in baseball, has become the standard that all others are measured against. Evidence of that was seen year round as Jordan turned 50 in 2013 and hosts of tributes followed suit.
For more on Michael Jordan's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/54/michael-jordan
In Los Angeles, a young star emerged in baseball by the name of Yasiel Puig. This highly-touted prospect from Cuba, showed immense power, a rocket arm and an overall level of athleticism rarely seen on the field. Now, at only 22 years of age, Puig seems poised for a bright future. When word got out about his first private signing in 2013, the autograph tickets sold out immediately and at an unheard of price for a rookie - $150 per flat item! If the Dodgers can be competitive moving forward, Puig will be able to play on a big stage. As a result of his sudden rise and the general lack of genuine Puig autographs available to collectors, a large number of forgeries entered the market during the past year. In fact, PSA/DNA estimates that nearly 90% of the alleged Puig autographs submitted in 2013 were rejected. It will be interesting to see where his career and autograph market go in 2014.
For more on Yasiel Puig's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/762/yasiel-puig
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. This has caused Ali to vault onto the list of most dangerous autographs in recent years. Even when he was making public appearances at collectibles conventions not too long ago, the autograph fees started at a few hundred dollars. So, today, be prepared to pay at least several hundred dollars and higher for items such as photos and boxing gloves. Vintage "Cassius Clay" versions of his autograph sell for a premium due to the relative scarcity, but both versions of his signature are forged in large quantities. Since Ali's autograph has deteriorated with age, earlier "Muhammad Ali" signatures will also often sell for premiums for aesthetic reasons.
For more on Muhammad Ali's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/60/muhammad-ali-cassius-clay
Even though Tiger's popularity as an athlete and person has taken a serious hit in the last few years, he remains on the list of most dangerous autographs. Even in this down market, it is not uncommon for signed photos to sell for $500 or more. Like Michael Jordan, Tiger signed a deal with UDA to provide autographed memorabilia to the hobby, but it was not nearly enough to satisfy the demand. In fact, signed golf balls are extremely rare and have sold for $5,000 or more in the past. Still a young man with his future ahead of him, Tiger has a chance to go down as the greatest golfer in history despite his personal trials. If Tiger can resurrect his career in a dramatic way, his autograph will certainly take another jump in demand. Collectors and fans are often forgiving of most personal issues, as long as they don't impact the integrity of the game, so Woods' book has yet to be written.
For more on Tiger Wood's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/91/tiger-woods
Last year, Derek Jeter was out most of the season with an ankle injury. In addition, the New York Yankees missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years and pitchers Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retired. As a result, a greater appreciation emerged for Jeter despite the lack of time on the field. He is now the last active member of the Core Four (along with Jorge Posada), a unit that helped the Yankees pile up victories for nearly two decades. Unlike many of the top stars from his era, Jeter has avoided any link to PED use and he has been the face of the MLB's most popular team for nearly two decades. This past year was Jeter's least memorable as a player but arguably his most impactful as a modern hobby icon. Jeter has been signing for Steiner Sports, a collectibles retailer based in New York, for several years and he has been a somewhat accommodating signer in person as well.
For more on Derek Jeter's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/23/derek-jeter
Much like Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan in their respective sports, Wayne Gretzky has become the standard that all other hockey players are compared to due to his unprecedented level of excellence throughout his career. Owner of dozens of NHL records, including some single-season and career numbers that seem unreachable, Gretzky was named MVP (Hart Trophy) an unreal nine times, and eight of those were consecutive (1980-1987)! Gretkzy has signed memorabilia for UDA over the years and has long been considered an accommodating signer during fan encounters. Premium items, such as limited edition hockey sticks and jerseys, sell for far more than the listed prices above and may range from $1,000-$5,000 each. As time goes on, Gretzky has become the symbol of greatness in a sport rich with history. As a result, his autograph values have steadily increased as his place in history is better appreciated.
For more on Wayne Gretzky's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/92/wayne-gretzky
Now that LeBron James has won two championships and continues to carry the label as the NBA's best player, he rightfully takes a spot in our top ten for 2013. James autographs have been in demand since his high school days when pro scouts were watching his every move, which means that forgers were already producing counterfeits before he ever stepped foot on the NBA court. There are very few athletes that ever live up to the hype, especially when the hype starts so early, but James has been an exception. Like Michael Jordan, James signed a deal with UDA and even signed photos tend to sell for hundreds of dollars. James remains one of the most difficult in-person signatures to acquire, making the number of authentic examples relatively low for an active superstar. With the amount of money a modern-day superstar can generate these days, it makes it harder and harder to incentivize potential signers.
For more on LeBron James' autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/177/lebron-james
Tom Brady has long been considered one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL but now, as he heads into the latter stages of his career, the appreciation for the New England Patriots great is headed to a new level. The new question, one that is asked frequently on sports talk shows, is whether Brady should be considered one of the best, if not the best, of all-time. The Patriots' win-loss record during his tenure is staggering, but it's what Brady has done this year in particular that has taken his all-time status to a new level. The Patriots, clearly depleted of their offensive weapons, remained atop the division due in large part to Brady's leadership; and there are many who believe that no quarterback has done more, with less, than Brady. Brady has never signed the large number of autographs that some of his contemporaries have, leaving demand to far outweigh supply in the marketplace. Expect to pay $200 and up for a genuine signed photo and $450 and up for an autographed NFL football.
For more on Tom Brady's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/739/tom-brady
Historical and Entertainment Autographs
"The King of Rock and Roll" leads our non-sports list in 2013, for the third time in four years. Passing away at only 42 years of age in 1977, the amount of authentic autographs is extremely limited. Elvis' popularity is global. For example, large numbers of forgeries can be found in Europe, not just the United States. More specifically, Germany and the Netherlands. Very few handwritten letters, which are extremely desirable, are known of this American Icon. Signed photos are the most prevalent type of authentic Elvis autographs, but they still have been known to sell for thousands of dollars at auction. In fact, even a 1953 draft card, signed by the music legend, sold for $26,290 within the last few years.
For more on Elvis Presley's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/105/elvis-presley
They are, quite simply, the most heavily forged band in the autograph world. George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr made up The Fab Four, a band that was together for a relatively short period of time (about 10 years from 1960-1970). Lennon's early passing, at the age of 40 in 1980, also contributes to the low number of complete, authentic examples of this mega-popular hit machine. In 2012, an autograph purported to be Lennon's last (dated December 8, 1980), sold for $72,000 at auction. Even a few vintage signed baseballs of the group have sold for over $40,000 at auction. A fairly recent example, dating to 1965, sold at auction for $65,725 in May of 2012. Finally, in 2013, a signed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album sold for an astonishing $290,500, setting a new price standard.
For more on The Beatles' autographs, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/111/the-beatles
It may come as a surprise, but astronauts are one of the popular autograph collecting themes in the hobby. With that in mind, it is easy to see why an autograph from the first man to set foot on the moon (1969) would be the pinnacle of these collections, especially in light of his passing in 2012. In fact, authentic signed photos of the entire Apollo 11 crew fetched more than $7,000 each at auction this past year. Over the past three decades, Armstrong had a virtual no-autograph policy, making it even more difficult for collectors to obtain the genuine article. One of the most sought after Armstrong signed items is the familiar NASA studio-style photograph, which the late-astronaut signed for fans. But beware, it is also a popular medium for forgeries.
For more on Neil Armstrong's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/101/astronauts
Beyond being one of the most popular Presidents in U.S. history, there has always been a mystique about Kennedy. Shot and killed at the age of 46 in 1963, the number of authentic signatures is very small. In addition to large amounts of forgeries, non-malicious "Kennedy" forgeries were produced by secretaries and via autopen during his tenure in office. A small group of love letters made out to Gunilla von Post of Sweden (a woman he had an affair with prior to his marriage) sold for $115,537 in March of 2010 at auction. Like most U.S. Presidents, autographs that were signed during his time in office usually sell for price premiums versus examples that were signed before election.
For more on John F. Kennedy's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/150/john-f-kennedy
"The King of Pop" found his way into our top ten this year. With his recent passing in 2009 at the age of 50, Jackson forgeries flooded the marketplace in 2010. A subject of great controversy throughout the latter half of his career, Jackson's contribution to music has received greater appreciation following his death than ever before. While genuine signed photos sell for $1,000 and higher on the open market, forgeries are often listed online for a fraction of that price. In 2010, a ball that was signed by Jackson and basketball star Michael Jordan sold for $294,000 at auction in China. It is not uncommon for Jackson's handwritten lyrics to bring well into five figures at auction.
For more on Michael Jackson's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/108/michael-jackson
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. Forgers tend to target photos of Monroe as their primary medium. Monroe-signed checks and documents do exist, and both mediums are very popular with collectors. A dual-signed baseball of Monroe and her former husband Joe DiMaggio sold for an astonishing $191,200 in 2006. A photo signed and personalized from Monroe to the Yankee Legend sold for over $60,000 in November of 2010. In 2012, what is believed to be Monroe's last signed check, dated August 4, 1962, sold for $15,000, and a personalized photo from circa 1956 sold for $32,500 at auction. Finally, in 2013, a signed letter from Monroe to Lee Strasberg in which she expresses her struggles with the pressures of Hollywood, sold for $156,000.
For more on Marilyn Monroe's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/107/marilyn-monroe
As the lead singer of The Doors, Morrison became a virtual overnight sensation in the late-1960s, but the rock-and-roll lifestyle contributed heavily to his undoing. In 1971, he died at the age of 27 in Paris, France, and there is still a cloud of mystery surrounding the circumstances of his passing. Most of the genuine autographs found today come in the form of check endorsements, but forgers target albums, photos and even simple slips of paper. In fact, a very simple, signed piece of paper sold for over $5,000 at auction in 2012.
For more on Jim Morrison's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/189/jim-morrison
Just like Jim Morrison, this guitar legend died at the age of 27 after vaulting to the top of the music world. His death was also shrouded in controversy and the way it happened is still a subject of debate today. While there are some similarities surrounding their deaths, Hendrix autographs, a common target of forgers, are considered even tougher than Morrison's. In fact, the earliest known Hendrix contract (1965) sold for about $200,000 at auction in 2009, one of the highest prices ever recorded for a signed contract of any sort...even in the sports genre.
For more on Jimi Hendrix's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/190/jimi-hendrix
Since the early 1960s, The Rolling Stones have been making hit records. Their longevity is remarkable. Not only does their music remain popular, but they are still performing like they were 50 years ago! There have been some changes to the band over time but the most recognizable members are Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards and, of course, maybe the most charismatic lead vocalist in music history - Mick Jagger. Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor, Dick Taylor, Tony Chapman and Charlie Watts have also been members of the legendary rock group at different times. Since the two key figures are still alive and well in Jagger and Richards, items signed by the band are actually relatively affordable, compared to those signed by The Beatles (including Lennon), considering their place in history.
For more on The Rolling Stones' autographs, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/192/the-rolling-stones
Rounding out our top ten is The Hunger Games, a film series based on the science fiction novel trilogy authored by American writer Suzanne Collins. The first film, which is titled after the first novel, The Hunger Games, earned $691,247,768 worldwide. The second installment titled The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which was released in late November in 2013, topped the U.S. box office once again as the highest grossing film during its opening weekend, surpassing even its predecessor's debut with a gross of $158.1 million. The final piece to this trilogy will arrive in two parts in the coming years, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I(2014) and Mockingjay - Part II(2015). The films, which were directed by Gary Ross and later Francis Lawrence, star Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as the three leading characters. Due to its overwhelming popularity, items signed by key cast members have been selling for strong numbers in the marketplace, enticing forgers into the fold.
Harrison Ford has become one of the true living legends of Hollywood after six decades as an actor and a host of blockbuster films. Ford's iconic roles, playing characters such as Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan, have ensured his permanent place in movie lore. Ford, while a relatively private person, has been an accommodating signer over the years when available. That said, limited quantities of genuine Ford signatures exist in the marketplace because the availability itself has been limited. You can expect to pay $350 or more for a Ford-signed photo, with autographed movie posters bringing a serious premium...especially ones related to his classic movie roles.
For more on Harrison Ford's autograph, please visit http://www.psaautographfacts.com/AutographDetail/102/harrison-ford