Authenticating Signatures and Autographs
There are eight methods to authenticate a signature or autograph.
Comparison – An authentic signature is compared with the new signature to see if it matches. Our files contain over 5900 artist and famous person’s signature examples, as well as monograms and indiscernible signatures. It is the largest in the world, collected over 60 years. Museum files are not as extensive as ours.
Stylistically – A person’s signature varies over their life, but still retains several dominant characteristics. The letters in Lincoln’s autograph are written in four ascending heights. Does a 1905 Picasso drawing have a 1905 period signature? (He used his middle name Ruiz in his early work).
Structurally – Has the ink permeated the paper or does it sit on top of the fibers just recently applied? Does the signature paint blend into the background and applied when it was still wet, or is it on top of the dry background paint, obliviously applied at a later date.
Scientifically – Was the type of paint used in the signature the same as the rest of the painting and even in use during the artist’s lifetime? Microscopic and clinical analysis in our lab can easily prove this.
Historically – Although the signature may look correct and done in the artist’s lifetime, the art object may not be consistent to known facts. Van Gogh did no sculpture. Da Vinci did no still lifes, although purported examples have been shown to us.
Psychologically – Fake signatures always seem to stand out. They always are larger or darker than necessary. They violate the mood or feeling of the art work and try to be more important than they should. This takes decades of experience to spot.
Artistically – Does the autograph flow in a clean decisive manner as written by a person who had nothing to hide? Or are the letters drawn, clumsily and hesitant as if the person constantly looked back and forth at another example to see what to do next?
Age Toning – 200 year old ink has acid and actually etches the paper over time. Modern pencil drawings have graphite shine until they oxidize. Modern paper deteriorates and becomes more brittle. Brown mildew spots appear called foxing. Microscopic analysis can tell if the signature was applied recently on old paper on top of the old foxing.
To add more confusion, it is entirely possible to have an authentic painting with a fake signature. It is even possible to have an authentic signature where a forger added words or a drawing above it.
Authenticating documents, drawings and art work is the core of our business. We can often do it from clear photos or color Xerox copies. Our minimum fee is $195.00 and up to authenticate works. We provide you with a formal certificate of authenticity. We are the world’s foremost “FAKE-BUSTERS”.
An authentic Lincoln signature written without hesitation and spontaneous.
A Fake Lincoln signature, note the hesitating “A”, the “c” has been gone over twice, the “o” is crude, and the forger picked their pen up and started again on the “l”.
This piece recently sold at a well known auction house for $50.000. The auction house was informed before hand it was fake but sold it to a trusting collector anyway.
Always hire an independent appraiser before you purchase at an auction.
WE DO NOT DO SPORTS AUTOGRAPHS!