Third party authentication is one of the greatest things to happen to this hobby. While I rarely use their services, it is great for novice collectors and particularly autograph dealers. Collectors feel comfortable purchasing an autograph that comes with a COA (certificate of authenticity) from a major authentication company. Each authentication company has an expert(s) for each collecting field. Whether vintage, modern, sports, entertainment, political, space, etc, there is someone within that field that is highly knowledgeable of the individuals autograph. In the end remember that they are only giving an opinion, not a 100% guarantee.
The Autograph Report recommends the following authentication companies when purchasing autographs or getting items authenticated.
When purchasing autographs, be very cautious with items that are accompanied with a Forensic Document Examiners COA. While handwriting analysis is a good thing in certain areas, in the autograph world it’s all about experience and knowledge with an individuals handwriting characteristics. This means looking at 1,000’s of authentic and non authentic exemplars and studying key parts of the signature. Before purchasing an autograph, be sure to look at known authentic examples and compare them side by side. Also remember that as time goes by an athletes signature can and will change. Try to learn about the signing habits of the individual and different variations throughout his career.
One athlete that comes to mind is Derek Jeter. Take a look at his autograph that he gives Steiner Sports, and then look at an authentic in person autograph. There are some characteristics that remain the same, but at the end of the signature it changes. I will go more into detail with Jeter and other athletes in person autographs vs. paid autographs.