Photograph Authentication Process


To combat counterfeiting and provide peace of mind to collectors, PSA employs a four-level Authentication System. The process includes:

STEP 1: Examination

Each photograph is examined to determine if it was made from the original negative, a duplicate negative or a wire transmission. The stampings on the reverse of the photograph are identified in order to date the photograph to the approximate era of production. As a final step of analysis, each genuine photograph is given a classification from Type 1 to Type 4 based on its characteristics.

PSA Photograph Type Classification

  • Type I – A 1st generation photograph, developed from the original negative, during the period (within approximately two years of when the picture was taken).
  • Type II – A photograph, developed from the original negative, during the period (more than approximately two years after the picture was taken).
  • Type III – A 2nd generation photograph, developed from a duplicate negative or wire transmission, during the period (within approximately two years of when the picture was taken).
  • Type IV – A 2nd generation photograph (or 3rd or later generation), developed from a duplicate negative or wire transmission, during a later period (more than approximately two years after the picture was taken).
  • Type 1 photographs are the most desirable and valuable of the four photograph types because of their vintage and originality.
  • Many Type 4's were issued after 1970, either for latter-era publication of earlier original images or for the general public consumption.
  • Duplicate negatives are produced by taking a photograph of an existing original photograph thereby creating a second negative that is of inferior quality to the original
  • All photograph types are collectible; a Type 3 photograph of a Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle may be worth considerably more than a Type 1 photograph of a common player from the 1920's.

STEP 2: ANTI-COUNTERFEITING

A label bearing an alphanumeric serial number is applied on the back of the item in a discrete location away from any inscriptions, notes or stampings. Or, the label can be placed on the Letter of Authenticity. This service is not available for Encapsulation.

STEP 3: CERTIFICATION

Letter of Authenticity

Letter of Authenticity – A detailed letter on your authenticated piece is composed and issued with your item. The letter provides several security features to prevent counterfeiting:

Option 1: Letter of Authenticity – A detailed letter on your authenticated piece is composed and issued with your item. The letter provides several security features to prevent counterfeiting:

  • Double-watermarked paper; simply hold the LOA against a lamp and look for the official PSA logo and a series of double helix DNA strands.
  • A detailed, color-changing PSA logo hologram embedded into the custom paper- not a sticker placed on top of the page, but part of the paper itself.
  • A high resolution photo of your item.
  • Hand signature from one of PSA's representatives.
  • A report of the expert's findings.
  • Seven digit alphanumeric serial number that matches the tamper evident label.
Photo holder option

Option 2: Encapsulation – Photo will be encapsulated in our tamper-evident, sonically-sealed holder.

  • Lighthouse Label Security- featuring PSA Lighthouse Logo, fugitive ink graphic, and QR code for instant access to Cert Verification.
  • The photograph is encapsulated in a sonically-sealed case. These attractive, hard plastic cases provide protection from pressure and most damage.
  • Once encased, you can rest assured that your photograph will remain secure from further wear. Note that the case will not protect your photographs from extraordinary events like fires and floods.
  • View PSA’s current holder sizes to see if your photograph will fit.

STEP 4: DOCUMENTATION

Letter of Opinion

All authenticated memorabilia is available online for verification. Simply visit Cert Verification and enter the certification number. The verification page will display (if applicable):

  1. The Item
  2. Primary Subject
  3. Type Classification
  4. Size
  5. Photo Genre
  6. Item Era
  7. Issuer
  8. Notes
  9. Item Image

Photographs that do not meet the above requirements, and in our opinion are of questionable authenticity, will receive a “NO PASS” designation. With the Letter option selected, the photo is returned with a Letter of Opinion (LOO), which provides an explanation of our experts’ findings. With the Photograph Encapsulation option selected, the photo will be returned to you unholdered.

Occasionally, our experts cannot express an opinion on a photograph. 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.

Autographed Photos: Autograph and Original Photograph Authentication are separate services. In order to have the autograph authenticated, you must fill out a separate PSA authentication submission form, in addition to your Original Photograph submission form. Both submission forms must accompany the photo. Separate authentication fees apply.

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