Determining autograph authenticity in sports cards has been an issue for years. It is also likely an issue that will never be solved until the companies invest in its solution. I want to reinforce that this is something that can be prevented by the companies, but ultimately it is the player that should be held responsible. Players having cards ghost signed is not like situations presented with cards like the 2007 RP autos – that is all collector douchebaggery at work.
Here is the breakdown. On blowout, some of the hardcore collectors of Robert Griffin III are claiming that there is a part of the print run from his 2012 Contenders autograph that are signed by someone else. This is evident when comparing version one versus version two, and if an amateur like me can tell – it’s an issue.
Here are some of the real ones:
These loopy signatures are the ones in question:
I have met Griffin personally, and his autograph looks nothing like this on the ones he signed for me.
This is not new to Panini either, as other cards like we saw with autographs from players like Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, and Cordarrelle Patterson had the same issues.
Real Patterson: 2013 Topps Five Star Cordarrelle Patterson Auto RC
“Real” Patterson: 2013 Crown Royale Cordarrelle Patterson Silhouette Auto Patch
Unlike Topps, almost all of Panini's signings are done through the mail with a signed affidavit from the player saying the cards they are returning are real. The issue is that many of the players A) dont need the money, B) dont care about a lawsuit, C) know a lawsuit isnt coming because of the need to get other autographs. If collectors ever question the authenticity of an autograph, the company goes to the agent and asks for clarification. Of course the agent isnt going to out their client, so it all comes back as real. The grading companies wont help either, as their relationships with the card companies are too important to tarnish with truly giving their opinion.
However, thanks to the huge community of pictures online these days, its almost too easy to spot when things dont look correct. In reality, this is a vicious cycle that can only be fixed with in person autograph signings, which not only take a ton of time to coordinate, but a ton of money to execute. Topps has said on numerous occasions that they strive for this with every signing, and as a result have had the least amount of problems of this nature. Panini has no doubt had the most problems, but Topps hasnt been without issues in the past.
Card collectors really dont know what to do either, because they automatically assume that ever autograph they get is real. Since the beginning of widespread autograph content in packs, this has been a challenge that has never gone away. We are just much more able to identify it these days. Players are getting pressed more and more to sign thousands of autographs at a time, which only exacerbates their frustration with the process.
For amateur sleuths like myself, I can easily pinpoint the issues when ZERO certified in person autographs bear the signatures in question. There are times when players will switch the content of their autographs, without question, but there will also be in person examples to reflect the change.
Because the worst offenders are usually higher profile players, its hard to ban them from signing. Cam Newton was accused frequently back in 2011, but has since come back on board with regular signatures that look player signed. Dez Bryant has never really had the opportunity to sign more cards after collectors outed him. From what it seems like, the companies never went back to him. It should come as no surprise that the most immature players are the ones that have a tough time fulfilling commitments, but that is always a risk. Its why the Rookie Premiere is so important each year. The companies have a captive audience and they try to milk it for all its worth. I dont blame them one bit. Players are humans who usually see autograph sessions with card companies as a nuisance.