1 ) Turn it upside down.
The best way to compare a signature is to turn it upside down. This way, your mind isn't reading it and can look objectively for tell-tale signs and slight differences between the two which can reveal it as fake.
2) Beware stamped signatures.
Fake autographs are often mechanically reproduced. Run your thumb over the signature, particularly its outline. If it is flat, then the "autograph" is likely to be a facsimile
Alternatively, if you can feel the texture of the ink on top of the page, then you know that it has been added afterward.Also, bear in mind that this technique won't work on fabric items like sports shirts, which absorb the ink without leaving a raised layer.
3) Look closely at the ink.
Pull out your magnifying glass and look for visual clues.
With stamped-on signatures, all the ink is applied at the same time and squeezed to the edges of the rubber. Through a magnifying glass, you will be able to see more ink on the edges of the lines than in the middle.Look for autographs printed by machines that may have an unnaturally "smooth" effect.Check the color of the ink. If you've decided that the paper is likely genuine, look at the ink. If it is dark brown, like dried blood, it may be oxidized. Some old inks had iron oxide. If it's a dark brown that fades to yellow at the edges, there were inks that were made of a hard cake dissolved in a mix of water and egg yolk. But that would be very old. Any paper used for those inks would almost certainly be vellum. Nothing else was available then.If a name is signed with a pen, the nib will cut through wet ink to produce "tunnels" and "bridges" visible through a magnifying glass. However, autographs can be duplicated with an auto pen: a machine which uses a mechanical arm to drag a pen along a plastic or metal signature template - or "matrix". The next step will provide further insights.
4) Look for "robotic" tell-tale signs.
When you write your own name, you sign it in one continuous movement. Also, the pen is moving before you start writing, as you move it towards the page.
The auto pen, on the other hand, comes down with a dot and ends abruptly with another dot. This can be seen through a magnifying lens.If the signature appears unnaturally "shaky", this can be due to vibrations in the auto pen machine.Look out for machine-like straight lines - especially if these lines are interrupted by accidental "robotic" wobbles, which can reveal where the auto pen has slipped.Look for inconsistencies. Do the lines hesitate? Does it look like the pen was lifted from the paper? Some people do this, but it's often where the line is interrupted that may tell of a fake.
5 Hold it up to the light.
If the signature's ink seems too light, or has apparently had equal pressure applied throughout, then it is likely a fake.If it glows a shaded purple color, then it has almost certainly been stamped.Another trick is to get the celebrity to sign a negative of the photo, and then reproduce it. If the color of the signature is silver on the photo, then it is likely to have been stamped.If it looks like pulped paper, but the signiture is A Lincoln, it's likely a fake.Look for the lines of "laid paper." Those are the lines made by linen or vegetable fiber that has dried. Laid paper was common through the 18th century.
6) Think about the numbers
A forger can knock-out 30 or 40 fake David Beckham autographs. But Beckham would never sign that many himself. In fact, he will likely sign no more than one at a time, for fear that they will be sold. As a result, genuine dealers probably won't have more than one David Beckham signature a month in their stock.
Also remember that celebrities and other figures will often dedicate an autograph to an individual, so that it is only of use to the named person.
7) Beware of private auctions or any requests for privacy by the seller
- this is often a ploy to hide the sale. Really, there is no legitimate reason for a seller to ask for privacy in their dealings with you. A reputable seller will be able to guarantee the provenance of the signatures they sell, with supporting documentation. A business you can trust should offer you a lifetime guarantee. Also, reputable sellers will be open about their history, past dealings, references, and expertise.
8) Think about how, when and why it was signed.
If an autograph dated pre-1960s is signed in a felt pen, then it is fake. Felt pens didn't exist before the 1960s, and it should be signed in ink.
9) Ask yourself:
Would the person really have signed this? For instance, if you were the President of the United States, why would you sign an index card? There are tens of thousands of appointment or discharge certificates for military service, examples of paper currency, postmaster appointments and land grants signed after the 1930s which purport to be genuine, but aren't.
There are exceptions. There was a case spotlighted on Antiques Roadshow where several WWII Silver Certificate dollar bills were signed by several heads of state, political officials, and military dignitaries.
10) Go to a reliable authentication source.
Don't be discouraged, there are examples of the above documents which are genuine. But it is a good idea to seek professional advice - and to make sure that you do so from a trusted and reputable source.
Authentication services have been reliable in the past, but some have come under fire in recent years. The PSA/DNA and UACC, for instance, have each been held-up for misidentifying fake signatures as genuine.Also, don't automatically trust a seller if they cite Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC) membership or a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). UACC membership can be bought, and COA documentation can be faked by anyone with a computer.
11) Look for any additional text that may help authenticate the signature or autograph.
If it's Mark Twain writing about flying on a jet plane, something's wrong.It probably isn't real.
In the wake of President Kennedy's death, Jackie Kennedy relied on auto pens to sign her responses to the thousands of condolence letters she received.
Ask yourself: Did the secretary do it? Here, it is perhaps best to consult a trusted expert.
The more signatures there are on a piece, the more mistakes there are to spot. Put a sports shirt with 10 fake team signatures against a sports shirt with 10 real ones, and it is easy to spot the fakes.
Often, the fakes will have been written by one person. They will be the same height, evenly spaced and sometimes the same way up.
The best way to make sure a signature is authentic is to be there when it is signed. When writing to a celebrity for their autograph, don't assume that they are going to sign it themselves. In many cases, an assistant will do it for them. The best way to avoid this phenomenon, alas, is to be there yourself to witness the person signing it.
According to Principle Auctioneer, documents expert, and appraiser Wes Cowan, "Even the best experts can be fooled. Don't be afraid to get a second opinion." - Antiques Roadshow.
Period paper may give valuable clues as to the appropriate age of the autograph, and any other writing that may be used to prove its age. Vellum, or parchment, was used from as long ago as 1,000 BC to as recently as the 19th century, not including archival records. It was replaced by wood, cotton, or linen pulp fiber.[1