Obtaining autographs from Sporting stars isn't always an easy ride. As the memorabilia business has grown in the last decade so has player awareness as to what will happen once that product has been signed. When four times Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson commentated on the World Championships for the BBC in August he based himself at the Holiday Inn Salford, Manchester for his daily analysis at Media City.

Renowned as being a difficult signer within the autograph industry we worked in a morning trip to Carrington to do Manchester United players and then headed over to Media City to try Johnson leaving the studio armed with a selection of historic photo's of his past Olympic triumphs. First words out of his mouth as we approached him were "I ain't signing autographs" now this isn't a particularly unusual stance as many modern day Sportsmen adopt this policy including Wayne Rooney and Michael Phelps who simply wont touch a pen if they thinks your likely to profit from there scribble. Generally speaking you can talk your target round but in this case Johnson made sure his position was clear telling us that he wasn't signing all week whilst in Manchester and to tell our "Autograph friends" that these were the rules. He asked us if we liked "Track and field" and said that if we were truly a fan then a handshake would suffice. Not deterred we tried him again the following day but this time trying a different tact informing him that we were indeed selling his autograph but to be informed once again, very politely we must add that his strict "no autograph policy" hadn't changed.

As autograph dealers we understand that we are profiting from someone's goodwill and in the words of David Walliams whilst at the height of Little Britain fame told us to "F*** Off, I'm not lining your pockets!" It's a tricky conundrum, often tarnished by famous figures as the bad guys our argument is that we are providing a genuine autograph for the fan that's unable to get them, perhaps they don't have the knowledge, time or are simply too embarrassed to ask. The reality is that autographs are an inconvenience for famous people and have been told first hand by former players that the camera phone has armed everyone with a potential photo opportunity which many resent.

Many of us would however swap the endless riches for those little so called inconveniences and the argument is that professional autograph dealers have somewhat spoil it for genuine fans. It is however an industry now and for as long as fans crave a memento of there hero autograph dealers will exist. Many Sportmen don't mind you earning from there goodwill - Johan Cruyff, Harry Kane, John Barnes, Martin Johnson and Dennis Bergkamp will happily sign endless realms of memorabilia if time permits despite knowing that your profiting from it and as long as these characters remain then the memorabilia game will continue to flourish. We just wont be doing Michael Johnson anytime soon...



Here at Sportsignings we work tirelessly to offer only real autographs. We can tell you where and when each of our items was signed. We call that “In-person” and it means we witness the item being signed and can give you an exact location of the signing & the circumstances surrounding where and when the item was signed. Sportsignings strives to document each of our celebrity encounters with photo or video evidence of encounter. By providing proof of our celebrity meetings and only selling autographs that we witnessed being signed in-person, we separate ourselves from the many unscrupulous autograph dealers who are flooding the marketplace with forged autographs. Here at Sportsignings we know that celebrity autographs are not easy to obtain and when they are obtained, it is generally in extremely limited quantities. The high selling prices commanded by these items reflect and compensate for the difficulty in obtaining these signatures. We believe that all customers should be informed and educated with the facts about the autograph industry, whether you choose to buy your memorabilia through us or another company.

Why is so important to only buy from in person autograph dealers? The above multi signed shirt is on dispaly in a Dublin Sports bar. The story is that the shirt came through a top contact at the FAI and the shirt takes pride of place in a city centre bar. However all is not as it seems...apparently back in the day Roy Keane refused to sign Ireland memorabilia for the Irish back room staff when the national team met up for international duty. (Keane is regarded in the industry as an illusive signature to obtain) The FAI obviously receive numerous requests (like most football teams) for autographed memorabilia & although all the signatures are genuine on the shirt the Roy Keane is clearly a fake! Rumour has it to complete the shirt one of the back room staff simply added Keane to the shirt.....

How many people received Ireland multi shirts during that period from what they thought was a reputable and trusted source? Choose your autograph dealer wisely and always look for IP. We get our products ourselves and dont use third parties, this is the only way you truly know that the piece framed above your bed is in fact the real thing!

"When looking at an autograph look for good speed, good letter formation, and someone who has signed with authority and spontaneity" the short video of Floyd Mayweathersigning pictures & gloves below encapsulates all the above perfectly!

Remember here at Sportsignings we wont tell you what autograph organisation we are part of because were not members of any, we wont tell you how we hold 100's of private signings and we certainly wont show you the same old photo proof week after week. We wont use our photo proof to reproduce poor fakes like some ebay sellers and we wont feed you with a string of lies how we have great photographic proof but never show it. We simply offer hard to obtain authentic Sporting autographs for the serious collector and offer people in the trade a safe supplier who are serious about selling genuine memorabilia. We WILL however continue to offer the best "pen to product" photo and video proof in the industry. Remember authenticity really is everything!

Sportsignings estimates a massive 80% of football signatures on the UK market are fake...many in the industry complain this figure is wildly exaggerated. The truth is nobody knows and nobody will ever know how many fakes are circulating in the market place today....

Buying and collecting autographs is a great hobby and more importantly a great investment! Many people are putting money into signed football memorabilia safe in the knowledge that over the years there value will increase! You have to choice your dealers carefully though.

It seems that the only tool an honorable seller has over a faker now days is photo or video proof...in a cynical & corrupt industry the paying customer is simply demanding more...you see its not just about the money angle, parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles buy autographed memorabilia for children who idolize these footballers. Honest people dont like the idea of a kid putting up a players signed photo on his bedroom wall that has been signed not by the player, but by a crook.

"Selling autographs is a very difficult and specialised industry to try and make a business out of. Think carefully if considering it!"


Don't be fooled into thinking a UACC member means a signature is real, we cancelled our membership with the UACC many years ago and all other "Signature clubs" in protest of the number of bogus dealers linking with them.

A forgery is when one forges a signature for the purpose of selling it to another under false pretenses. Some forgeries are excellent and can fool the most knowledgeable experts, however, most forgers are as unskilled as they are greedy and unethical. Many autograph dealers start with honorable intentions but as they realise how hard it is to obtain signatures they slip into bad habits which inevitably affects there business and reputation!

The hardest signatures to forge are those where the pen doesn't leave the paper from beginning to end, because, once he has started, the forger has to continue until he reaches the end. When the pen leaves the paper several times, the forger can do his work in short bursts, which is much easier. Short, simple signatures like, for instance, those of Alonso, Lampard and Nakata are easily forged. It is worth looking through an ebay seller's other items for more complex signatures to see how they stand up to scrutiny.

Look for the tilt and size of the signature. Most people are very consistent in the size and tilt or angle of their signature. Stay away from a signature that varies greatly from known authentic exemplars. Although most forgers make no more than a nominal attempt to copy genuine signatures and their efforts are fairly easy to distinguish from the real thing, there are nevertheless some very accomplished forgers around. It's important to spend at least as much time investigating the seller as is spent on examining the autograph. Look for tell tale signs...why are they selling a signed item on ebay and taking the picture from a far so its not as easy to see the signature...email and ask them for a close up scan! Also were possible ask them for proof, video and photo proof are vital tools to distinguish honorable from bogus sellers.

"Be wary if the signature looks like it was written slowly and deliberately or it looks like the pen stops in the middle of the signature. This happens when someone is trying to imitate or trace the autograph from another source. A perfect example of this is the clip below....see how fast Liverpool's Aurelio finishes each signature, no butt ends here just tails! "

An honest seller will always tell you dates and locations of when and were a signature was obtained...just ask! Be aware of ebay sellers that sell 100's of signed pieces each week....here at Sportsignings we are out 3-4 times a week getting graphs and the volume of signatures that these people are getting is quite simply impossible, however good they are! Also be aware of sellers that continually sell multi signed pics , shirts and balls every week.....too hard to complete.

Lets use the following Gerrard signatures to explain a few differences. A Real Gerrard signed Champions League photo is worth £60+...don't think because a signature is cheap on ebay your getting a bargain, chances are your getting a fake! The examples below are real Gerrard signatures....We recently went through 180+ signed Gerrard products on ebay and found 2 real ones!

Pretty poor Gerrard signature, "S" starting to go wayward and doesn't finish the end but still real! The sort of signature you get when Gerrard is getting mobbed
Slightly rushed Gerrard signature, doesn't quite finish the loop at the end, but the "S" at the start still consistent.
Nice full Gerrard signatures above.....you only get signatures of this quality if Gerrard isn't getting rushed.

Notice the "S" is pretty consistent at the start. Although autographs do differ slightly and no two graphs are ever the same there are certain things that never change, e.g angles of the loops etc

Players autographs can change over the years as well. A newcomer eager and flattered to be asked for an autograph, to famous players who'd rather not be bothered with what they see as a tiresome task, his obligation to the public, his signature travels on a downward spiral from neat to messy. Also a trade gimme that overseas players that join the Premiership are happy to sign and sign and sign but over time wise up to the fact that autograph dealers are profiting from there good nature.

Spotting a Fake?

The difficulty in spotting fake autographs is explained using the 2 signed pictures below. The photo on the left was signed by Liverpool's David Fairclough sat down , without interruption and in a controlled signing environment. The picture on the right was signed by fairclough at Anfield after a Liverpool home game amid the chaos of other signature hunters, while he walked and outside in the cold and the rain.....both real but signed under different circumstances. As you can see the one on the right bears no resemblance to the one on the left, this is how difficult it can be. Its up to you to dig as much information and history about the seller as possible.....remember your not just buying the signed pic but the sellers reputation as well, dont be blinded by startling ebay feedback either!

Note below another example the Collina signature on the right was signed at a press conference in Barcelona whilst we jostled with dozens of journalists and signature dealers (more a go away signature!) the version on the left was signed at breakfast the following day as Collina left for the airport when no-one was about!

Another great example of the above theory is this Tim Cahill signature below. Cahill has always been very consistent with his autograph and it hasn't changed much during his career. On Thursday 9th August 2007 Cahill signed the photo on the right with this strange "never seen before signature." The one on the left is his usual sig and it just outlines the importance of trusting a seller as if you showed this strange new signature to an autograph expert it would be deemed a FAKE! Just shows its an almost impossible task authenticating signatures!


Autograph forums are a great way to share views and opinions on authenticating signatures. Collectors and in person dealers often exchange views to help newbies with ebay auctions. it's hardcore members and regular posters are people that understand the business and are more than happy to point you in the right direction. On the down side there has been cases were people will paste topics under hidden user names to try and damage a competitors reputation or to defend there own stock against criticism . Feel occasionally there is a sinister undertone when some people paste on forums and often the majority of "so called experts" are 15-18 year olds with mischievous intent, some hidden agendas and defamatory motives behind there posts.

http://www.isitreal.com is another well respected German forum.

Auto pen
A mechanical device that "signs" flat objects such as photos, cards, letters, etc. A writing instrument is inserted into the mechanical armature and the device "signs" a name using a preprogrammed pattern (matrix) that simulates the person's real signature. Almost any type of pen can be used by an Auto pen. (Note: Auto pen is capitalized because it's the brand name of the device.) Good Auto pens can be difficult to detect.

Exact matches - Auto pen signatures match each other exactly. This does not occur with real signatures. Sign your name a million times and no two signatures will be EXACTLY the same. If two signatures match exactly they are Auto pen signatures. Of course you need 2 samples of the signature to conduct this test. Publications like Pen & Quill, Autograph Collector and Autograph Times frequently publish known Auto pen patterns. George Bush typically sends Auto penned photos -- some signed with a fine point marker, others signed with a thicker Sharpie. At first glance they may appear to be different signatures, but they match exactly. It's just a different type of pen that was used in the Auto pen machine.


Preprints are usually fairly easy to detect. A preprint is simply a photographic copy of an original signed photograph. On a preprint, the signature often appears to be below the surface gloss of the photo and the signature is often very "flat." To test, hold the photo up at an angle to a light source -- a real signature is written on the surface of the photo and should have a different level of reflectivity than the rest of the surface. A preprint will blend right in with the surface because it's underneath the surface gloss. Obviously, preprint signatures will match exactly, AND the signature will be in the same exact place on each photo. Depending on the background color and contrast in the photo, some preprints are easier to detect than others. The Jim Carrey "Spank you very much" is a notorious preprint that has fooled many people.

Autograph Buying tips

. Don't be blinded by an ebayers startling feedback, doesn't make a fake signature real !

. Always when possible ask for photo proof/video proof or detailed history of were the signature has come from.

. Talk to people in the trade, visit memorabilia shows, learn about the industry! You find the good guys stick together & are happy to recommend other genuine sellers!

. Honorable dealers are often happy to chat about there passion for hours. Pick up the phone and speak to people.

. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is!

. Be wary of dealers that have been using the same proof pics for years or even worse have non to show you!


"This book should be required reading for dealers, distributors and serious autograph collectors. People who are in this hobby for life need to read this book."
--Sports Collectors Digest

"I just wanted to say that I love your book. It really touched a nerve with me since I am a memorabilia collector. Best thing I've read this year."
--David, a Missouri collector

"Alone once more, day turning into night, a galaxy of half moons started springing from his pen once more, the same signature written so many times over and over again. His eyes grew bleary and tired, the baseball stars name once more forming an unbroken stream of letters in his mind" --insert from book

This must read book can be bought from Southampton books in America and will cost you around £15 inclusive of shipping. You can pay using Pay Pal and the link to it can be found by clicking the "Operation Bullpen" graphics above. Even arrives signed by the author!


Best Gerrard ever? Never seen anything better!
Incredible full Maldini!
Rushed Rooney sig. Signed Oct 04 Old Trafford
Cristiano Ronaldo graph
Decent full Robben signature
One of the nicest Alex Ferguson's we have ever seen.....
Solskjaer signature
A real David Beckham sig, signed Barcelona airport 16/03/05
Real Rooney sig from book signing
Cruyff signature.
Real Pele signature!
A real Henry sig. Has NEVER signed for us without a dedication!
Paulo Rossi Italian Iconic 82 striker
Rivaldo signature.