Our policy on authentication is everything we sell is GUARANTEED AUTHENTIC FOREVER. Should anyone or any company disagree they MUST put in writing that the item is a fake or secretarial or we cannot issue a refund if any third party’s opinion is not in writing. A guess by a third party means nothing if they cannot put their expert’s guess or opinion in writing.
Authenticity is a art, NOT a science. Those that claim they have fancy machines or use DNA to determine authenticity might as well be using a crystal ball or magic wand for better results. Experts are not created overnight just because they create a business name with the word “authentication” in the title. True experts with a documented background in analyzing signatures and determining (not from a scan) if they are authentic or not obtain this knowledge from years of studying autographs and knowing the patterns of secretarial signatures versus authentic ones. True autograph authenticators know the difference between real signatures verus fakes and have skills to obtain knowledge about the person’s signature and knowing it was not possible for them to sign something in 1950 when they died in 1948. Authenticating is not something that can be learned over night in a crammed online tutorial, although many companies that specialize in giving an opinion for a fee without any guarantee whatsoever don’t want you to know this.
All reputable dealers in this industry do agree on one point, “experience doesn’t happen overnight, it’s gained from years of reviewing material and research”. They agree that true experts in authenticity are those that purchase the most material. Why? Because dealers who have been doing this a long time who purchase the most material see the most items and actually put their money where their mouth is, by investing in what they know as authenticate signatures.
It is somewhat ironic that the growth of third party authentication has survived in many cases while helping out in others. With fraud running rampanit in this hobby, some with bad intentions have realized that it is easier to forge a signature than to counterfeit money. Third party authenticators thrive off this problem by attempting to clean up the hobby while others claim they became the scapegoat for dealers and auction houses to offer fake material with third party COA’s.
With this stated, even third party companies or self-proclaimed authenticators failed far too often by passing fake material and failing authentic items. They must have also realized this so they likely decided the easy way they could make a buck is to give opinions on items submitted by scan, photocopies, or the actual items without guaranteeing their opinion financially. So for a fee you receive a piece of stationary with an opinion with absolutely no guarantee that the opinion is correct or wrong. Therefore no refunds are given if they got it wrong. To complicate this process you, the true autograph collectors are not even allowed to know who rendered the opinion because there’s a good chance that if you knew the person behind the opinion you likely never heard of them. The companies are clever at bolstering the credentials of otherwise novice collectors by saying things like; “Years of experience,” yet the authenticator is only 24 years old, or; “He has handled millions of dollars worth of material,” without explaining that he was the shipping clerk for an autograph company and so forth. In other words, the new authenticator had NO credentials whatsoever in authentication, therefore, more than likely the reason the opinion is not guaranteed.
This created a problem with many experts with 15-40 years of experience in authenticating. An expert dealer with high name recognition would go out and spend $30,000 on a private signing with say Gene Sarazen, only to have the item be called a pre-printed signature by a third party authenticator. Who is this novice with no clue to the difference between ink and pre printed ink? The very people or companies calling them fake didn’t guarantee their own opinions. As a result of all this nobody got any guarantee worth anything. The result of all this nonsense was a rush by some dealers to join third party authentication companies thinking they could either make a difference or be part of the team or just avoid having there stuff be denied by the third party groups. Early on in this movement many third party authenticators stated; “You're either with us or against us?” Translation was clear. If you don’t like us we will fail your material. They must have copied this from the movie; “The Godfather” because some dealers got scared and joined a team.
I have heard over a thousand horror stories from those that have used third party authenticators. A simple collector who got Mickey Mantle’s signature in person and the third party authenticator called it “likely not authentic.” Lance Armstrong’s agent stated he saw over 300 fake jersey’s proclaimed to be signed by Lance with third party authentication attached yet they failed his authentic one. This is Lance Armstrong’s own agent for crying out loud. Personally, I have my own horror stories, like, the failing of highly documented signing’s I personally did with famous celebrities that were turned down as likely not authentic but these loose terms didn’t bother me much since I had contracts with the celebrities, photographs of the signing’s, bank checks cashed and all sorts of documented proof showing these opinions meant nothing. But still how could this be? It is somewhat humorous but one should ask them! I have been asked to join PSA/DNA but declined the offers. I did briefly join GAI for awhile but was absolutely blown away by what I saw first hand and resigned because I didn’t want to be involved or associated with this bunch. All of the negative press (and there is a lot) towards third party authenticating companies get a response with statements like “anyone who dislikes us is just mad because they have to give refunds based on our opinion”. Absolutely False. The UACC had a statement on their website for over a year that no UACC member should give a refund based on a third party authenticators guess. Furthermore, why should any knowledgeable authenticator who guarantees his material forever give a refund based on a third party company opinion (companies don’t authenticate autographs people do) not knowing who the person was and that the company doesn’t even guarantee their own work. This is like the potato farmer telling the brain surgeon how to operate on a brain. It will never make sense!
To make it worse, several third party authenticators have gone on record by admitting that they fail their own competitors work. In other words, if third party authenticator “Company A” passed something and it is shown to third party authenticator “Company B” it will automatically fail. Not because of the autograph but because of a competitor who already passed it. This has been confirmed by several of the authenticators or opinionators themselves that work for these companies. So the customer becomes the victim with this internal competing conflict of interest.
It is highly unlikely that 95% of the autographs ever signed will pass all Five authentication companies and it is just as likely to pay for five opinions one will spend more on this service than the value of the autograph itself. It is also well known and can be proven over and over again that most third party authentication companies don’t necessarily even render an opinion on the autograph but instead on “Who sold it?” Therefore if” Dealer A” sold it and is a member of a third party authentication company than it is automatically rendered “Authentic” based on the dealer. But, if “Dealer B” sold it who happens to have 20 more years of experience in autograph authentication yet dislikes or doesn’t endorse third party authenticating companies his product with automatically fail just based on the source, without even giving the autograph the careful attention it deserves in the authentication process. I could go on and on with similar examples of unfair practices, and in my opinion, illegal work in this industry. My opinion is based on being a third party authenticator myself, hearing hundreds of horror stories by victims, and knowing all too much how third party authenticators work and handle these issues or lackthereof.
The real question in this argument is “Who do I trust”. I always go with my gut and trust a dealer that puts a financial guarantee on their product with no time constraints. You should trust someone who has been selling autographs full time for over a decade and backs their material forever and puts such in writing. In other words, you have a person with documented knowledge guaranteeing the signature forever in writing. This is far greater than paying for an opinion that is not guaranteed and no expert should back something forever only to have such overturned by an unknown person in a third party company that doesn’t guarantee their very own work, guess or opinion.
When I buy autograph collections some of it has already been stickered or authenticated with a letter of opinion by a third party authentication group. Many items submitted to us with third party authentication are not authentic and are returned or destroyed. Just because I receive a collection with a third party certificate does not mean I don’t personally review it’s authenticity. There are many times I return collections or portions of collections with third party stickers. There has been one case where over 200 autographs came in with third party authentication attached to each item and not a single autograph was authentic with some of the names being misspelled and others signed on items dated after the celebrities death. I feel the best policy is to sell authentic autographs and not be controlled by far less knowledgeable authenticators. The bottom line is, to back your product for life and don’t feel compelled to comply with the “Godfather” theory of doing business.
Todd Mueller Autographs policy is simple. Every single item offered within our catalog auctions or weekly auctions has been authenticated by at least one expert with over 15 years of documented experience in that field of collectible. We are aware of only one other company that follows this policy. Because everything we sell has this guarantee, do not bid on an item if you do not trust the authenticator with 15 years of expertise in that field. No third party guesses to the opposite will be allowed unless a mistake was in fact made by us for we can almost with 100% confidence guarantee that the person who would be doing this has less than a 1/3 of the experience in that same field. When the day comes where third party authentication is also held accountable they will have to begin guaranteeing their opinions as we do. This policy is simple because it makes no sense to do a signing with Farrah Fawcett as we did, the first one she ever allowed, only to have a third party authenticator who has sold nothing but secretarial signed Farrah Fawcett’s determine that his are authentic and ours are fake. It’s completely insane to allow this abuse to take place on any level. If however, we made a mistake we will always guarantee everything we sell forever if the party that believes we made a mistake puts such in writing, even when they are absolutely wrong! So if they fail our in person private signing with Farrah Fawcett ask them for a refund, not us who paid her to sign autographs for our company but even with this stated we would still give a refund if they put their incorrect opinion in writing.
It may appear that Todd Mueller doesn’t like third party authentication. This is absolutely false. He respects many who are involved in third party authentication but most never look at the material for the companies they are listed as authenticators. I have simply been around the business and been authenticating autographs longer than any third party authentication company and I know how all this works. Third party authentication companies pass tons of fake signatures and all to often don’t pass the authentic autographs. It empowers the forger when the con-man can sign Muhammad Ali’s signature 8 times and have it pass all 8 times. It discourages the collector who obtained Derek Jeter’s signature at Yankee stadium in person for his grandson only to go ahead and have it documented with third party authentication and have them fail it. Did they call him a liar or worse by their inability to authenticate it?
I believe with 100% moral and ethical beliefs the whole reason we sell autographs is for the love of the hobby and we should use our expertise to insure that everything we offer is 100% authentic. Until third party authentication companies understand their moral obligations to our wonderful hobby their guess work should not be considered absolute by any standard but should instead be seen for what it is, which in their very own words is simply an opinion.
So if you as a collector want to buy from one of the best you have reached the right place. Everything we offer is guarantee authentic forever in writing. It is not our fault if someone with less knowledge won’t pass it but if they won’t please let us know and we will document such and assist anyone with such a problem, should it exists by getting to the bottom of this. We do not feel our customers should suffer just because someone guesses differently or incorrectly than us or our experts. In the rare case that this might take place we reserve the right to point the collector to a true documented expert in the area of collectible where he can get a COA outside of the one we either provide or our experts provide. But to offset such we also ask that no one bid on any item we offer unless they accept the authenticator that has already authenticated it to keep away from dueling experts who may have an axe to grind with one another which in my opinion has no place in our wonderful hobby. Since Todd Mueller Autographs, Inc is owned by Todd Mueller he is the authenticator of the items seen on our site with over 20 years of expertise in all fields. Sometimes autographs with third party authenticity or letters of opinion that are indeed authentic are listed on our website. Some customers feel we should not describe the items as being authenticated by them while others ask that we do for they feel the stickers damage the actual product and they don’t want to bid on items previously authenticated by a third party company. It’s a tough decision to make in how one should describe an item previously authenticated with foreign stickers affixed to historical documents but we try to do our best so the potential bidder knows what they are getting should they win the lot.
Our customers have found Todd Mueller Autographs to be honest experts in selling authentic autographs. Few disagree and in the rare instances when someone has taken a swing at our company it is always either due to jealousy, envy or greed. The bottom line is people make money or add to their collections when buying from Todd Mueller Autographs. I’m one of the easiest experts to deal with and have never played games with the auction process by shill bidding or putting hidden reserves on ANY of the items we offer. We don’t “Show and tell” the items we offer, we offer them so we can sell them. We have also never ever published a false statement or price about anything we have ever offered or sold.
This document is likely a timely document and may be deleted at any point in time for this issue is present and based on all the outrageous stories with third party authenticators who may soon become obsolete and no longer something worthy of writing about as more declare bankruptcy, or are investigated by the federal government or simply realize the customers have educated themselves enough to no longer see any need for an outside opinion backed by nothing. Three large companies who just a year ago used third party authenticators have either fired them, self destructed or declared bankruptcy. Supporting third party authentication has so far, in my opinion, been a bad mistake based on the evidence and facts. It appears to be a quick road towards failure. But with this stated, should any one of these companies start to improve and begin making positive strides in authenticity issues than we would really find that encouraging and believe much of the perception and attitude within the hobby would be supportive instead of discouraging.
This hobby is a blast and autographs can be a wonderful thing to collect. Many dealers have left the hobby due to authenticity issues brought on by companies that give opinions on autographs. While some may state the influence of third party authentication companies has helped the industry others state it has been the most harmful thing to enter the hobby since the forger. Whatever the case we would like to hope, with fingers crossed that their agenda and future focus is more on trying to get it right than increasing profits for if they start getting better than their profits should come but all indications are instead that submissions are dropping at large percentages annually. These signs are not good for this hobby and many dealers who collected only in person signatures later to hear only 40% passed this type of authentication have already given up on the hobby.
What we tried to accomplish in this report about authenticity is educate the reader about why there are varying degrees of wildly different opinions on the same items. Authenticity can be very subjective particularly if an authenticator doesn’t know what they are really looking at. As long as a reputable dealer guarantee’s and sells an item he should always accept it back so no matter what someone else may state the customer is still protected. While these issues don’t affect Todd Mueller Autographs other than rarely they are still something that should be addressed for all too often collectors are crying out; “Who Do I Trust?” We hope we have addressed this type of question accurately. I write this more out of seeing my peers frustrations and nobody willing to speak about it out of fear. This hobby should be enjoyed and remain fun. When people start getting scared of what they buy or what authenticators state than the hobby suffers as these dealers and collectors find some other area of interest.
Please learn more about who Todd Mueller is by clicking the “About Todd” link at the top of our website.
Todd Mueller Autographs