By Barry Janoff
January 6, 2015: Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won his first MLB MVP award last season and joined a list of historic and iconic athletes.
Now, he has joined a more dubious list that also features renowned and iconic personalities from sports and entertainment.
Trout is among the Top Ten players whose autograph is forged on memorabilia items, according to PSA/DNA Authentication Services.
The "Most Dangerous" list of forged autographs from 2014 is topped by baseball icons Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, but also includes the likes of LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, according to PSA/DNA.
On the entertainment/celebrity side, the "Most Dangerous" list of forged autographs from 2014 is headed by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Neil Armstrong, John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, as well as articles featuring members of The Walking Dead.
"There's probably less than a 50-50 chance autographs offered in the marketplace of many current and former entertainment celebrities and sports stars are genuine," according to a just-released annual report by PSA/DNA Authentication Services.
PSA/DNA. a division of Collectors Universe, Inc., said that in 2014 its experts evaluated more than 400,000 autographs submitted by collectors and dealers worldwide.
Since 1991, Newport Beach, Calif.-based PSA/DNA said it has examined and certified more than 20 million trading cards, autographs and other entertainment and sports memorabilia with an estimated cumulative value of more than $1 billion.
The amount of money involved is, understatedly, significant.
A 1918 contract signed by Ruth and authenticated by PSA/DNA sold in auction last year for more than $1 million. A photo autographed by all four members of The Beatles and authenticated by PSA/DNA is currently going for $21,999 on eBay. A Minor League Baseball contract signed by Jordan in 1994 and authenticated by PSA/DNA went for $15,535 in auction last year.
Trout authenticated autographed items go for upward of $600.
"Unfortunately, just as in past years, a large portion of [the items we evaluated in 2014] were forgeries," Steve Grad, principal authenticator for PSA/DNA, said in a statement. "In fact, it's not uncommon for us to reject 50% or more of the signatures submitted to our company, especially when it comes to the more prominent names."
Like Trout, The Walking Dead is also new to the list of "Most Dangerous" autographs. Genuine, individual autographs of the cast members "recently have been selling in the range of $50 to $250 each, and cast-signed Walking Dead photos can sell for $500 or more," according to Joe Orlando, president for PSA/DNA.
Orlando said that PSA/DNA "does not often receive obvious forgeries for evaluation. So, if our rejection rate for a particular autograph approaches 50 percent, then you can only imagine how high the percentage of forgeries actually might be in the overall marketplace."
Regarding The Walking Dead, Orlando said that most of the cast has a reputation for being accommodating signers for fans "and that fan base has been growing in size with each passing season," leading to a proliferation of forgeries.
Presley, The Beatles and Ruth are among those who have appeared most on previous PSA/DNA buyer-beware consumer advisories because of widespread forgeries.
"There are a lot of so-called 'deals' for autographs that can be found online, at local flea markets and even at some collectibles conventions, but most of those 'deals' are simply too good to be true. Genuine autographs do not often sell for a huge discount," said Orlando. "With the proper precautions and education, collectors can participate in a safe hobby environment and avoid becoming prey for unscrupulous sellers."
According to PSA/DNA, the ten "Most Dangerous" autographs of entertainment and historical figures from the past year are:
1) The Beatles
3) Neil Armstrong
4) John F. Kennedy
5) Michael Jackson
7) Jim Morrison
8) Jimi Hendrix
9) The Rolling Stones
10) The Walking Dead cast
According to PSA/DNA, the ten "Most Dangerous" sports stars' autographs from 2014 are:
1) Babe Ruth
2) Lou Gehrig
3) Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio
4) Michael Jordan
5) Muhammad Ali
6) Mike Trout
7) Derek Jeter
8) Tiger Woods
9) LeBron James
10) Wayne Gretzky
PHOTOS: Courtesy PSA/DNA
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