One of the enjoyable features of collecting autographs is knowing that one possesses an original mark made by another human being, who for one reason or another has distinguished him or herself in the eyes of the collector. Facsimile autographs, autographs signed by someone other than the one whose name appears on the autograph, or photographs or copies of autographs do not comply with the definition of a true autograph; hence, they have no value to a collector.
The only way one can be absolutely sure that an autograph is authentic is to personally witness the signer as he affixes his autograph. Practically speaking, were directly obtained autographs the only ones collected, logistic problems would prevent anyone from having but a modest collection. While authenticity can only be assured by directly obtaining autographs, many sources offer a high probability that an autograph is valid.
Knowing how a person’s signature is supposed to look is the first step toward ascertaining authenticity. Facsimile autographs to compare with the ones you are attempting to validate can be found on baseball cards, in books, or in magazines. The reputation of the secondary source (dealer, friend, other collectors) from whom you are obtaining the autograph is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, even the most reputable source may be unaware that he possesses a nonlegitimate autograph.
Obtaining an autograph from a logical source increases the probability that an autograph is authentic. Other variables being equal, a resident of Boston is more likely to have a valid autograph of a Red Sox player than a resident of Butte, Mont. A 90-year-old is much more likely to possess an autographed Babe Ruth ball than a 15-year-old. Autographs obtained from the estate or from personal friends of the person who signed the autograph are highly likely to be authentic. Autographs from financial or legal documents, Such as canceled checks or contracts, or any notarized communications can be considered authentic.