A Guide to Buying Muhammad Ali Autographs.

This article written and compiled by Garry King of Autografica and reproduced here with his permission.


The views and opinions expressed within these pages are those of the author, and his alone. Before buying any autograph, or making a decision based on the views expressed here, the buyer should always seek a second opinion. First Published by Autografica in April 2008. Updated December 2011 – 2013 - 2014 -2016
Garry King has asserted his rights to be identified as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the express and prior written permission of the copyright owner.


Forward

I have been buying and selling autographs as a full time business now for over 20 years, and in that time have handled many Ali signatures. Over the last couple of years I have seen prices and demand rise, as Ali gets older and less able to sign. I have also seen the rise in the forgeries, and how they had at one point almost taken over eBay with their sometimes crude, but sometimes more expert forgeries. 



I am very pleased to say that eBay and the law have now started to do something about this appalling situation, although not it seems, here in the UK or on ebay.co.uk. We have recently seen a number of cases in court, which has finally proved that the forgers could indeed end up with a jail sentence. Those of us who were involved in the Sporting Icons case, believe that the sentences passed were nowhere near long enough, and that the probable forger behind the whole scam is still at large, indeed, the judge even made this comment himself when sentencing. Both Walker and Medani turned over a huge amount of money, flooded the market with forgeries, and helped to put a number of other dealers out of business in the process. To the bitter end, both defendants pleaded that they knew nothing about these forgeries, and even after Medani was arrested at the court itself on suspected credit card fraud charges, both still protested their innocence, and blamed the whole thing on each other. Thankfully, the jury could see through this smokescreen, and found them guilty on all but 4 of the 70 plus charges.


This type of dealer is fortunately not that common, but if you do come across one it’s unlikely that you will know anything about it, as they are professional crooks who know exactly what they are doing. Don’t think ‘hang on, I’m a smart guy, they won’t fool me’ because the chances are you will only recognize them as the tricksters they are when it’s far too late. 


I have taken great care in compiling the information and signature exemplars shown within these pages, and hope that the guide will be of use to everyone who uses it. I welcome any comments or assistance in improving or updating the guide, and you can easily contact me via my website at www.GarryKing.co.uk


Muhammad Ali is without doubt the most popular and well-known sporting personality ever, and as a result his signature is in constant demand from collectors and fans the world over. With this in mind, is it so surprising that his signature is forged so often? Because of this, it has become almost impossible for those without the right knowledge to be able to obtain a genuine signature, without ending up with a dud! 


I have tried to create this guide with the collector in mind, and not the expert, and as such it is not meant as a signature study, but more a guide with some instruction as to what may be real, so that you can more easily spot the genuine article within the autograph market and then safely buy. 


We are fortunate that Ali spent much of his life devoting time to signing his autograph for fans and collectors, and for this we must all be very grateful. Anyone who met him will confirm that he was indeed the greatest, especially when asked for an autograph. His signing habits are well documented, and have been mentioned in a number of books about him. During the late 80’s and early 90’s it was possible to simply write to Ali, and he would write back with an autograph. 


I will update the guide as often as time will allow, in the meantime, I sincerely hope that it will prove to be of use to everyone who reads it. 


The collectors guide to buying signed Muhammad Ali items

Let’s start by looking at signatures of his original name, Cassius Clay. If you want one of these, then you will have to look long and hard, and be prepared to spend some serious money too. My advice here is simply to ignore everything and simply ensure that if you do buy one, then buy it from a dealer who really does know his stuff. The Clay version of his signature is not often forged, but does turn up from time to time. The forgers know this is a rare one, so tend to leave it alone unless they are expert forgers. If forged you will find it will be either very good, and possibly good enough to fool all but the best dealers, or so bad it won’t even fool Stevie Wonder. And of course, you are much more likely to find this with an American dealer, although Ali did of course fight under that name in the UK, for most of his time as Cassius Clay, he lived and worked in the USA.


Also, be aware that the infamous Marino family had Cassius Clay’s name on their list of forgeries, and that these can still be found, resurfacing from time to time on eBay etc. For more info on this, do a Google search for ‘Operation Bullpen’, which was a huge FBI operation in the 90’s


A word too here about the forgers, as some are not as stupid as you may think (although some are incredibly stupid!). First, a good forger will create some provenance to go with his (or sometimes her!) handiwork, so don’t be taken in by the bullshit that some of these guys spout. By all means make note of it, after all they may turn out to be genuine, but in my experience, the forgers are much more likely to have a great story, than someone who is selling the real thing. I have lost track of the number of forgers who have tried to fool me with Beatles signatures, all backed up by the greatest story ever told! The whole story can of course be checked, and proven to be truthful, but the signatures can still be fake! Along with the Beatles and a few others, Ali is one of those celebrities whose past can be checked almost to the day simply by reading any of the many hundreds of books and articles that document their lives.


Forgers are also clever in that they will not only create a great story to go with the signature, but will also often add the signature to something which is contemporary to the style of signature they intend to create. In other words, it will be signed on the correct type of paper (often a torn out blank page from a book of the same period) or added to something that is relevant in some way, or something that they can build a story around. For instance a period menu or similar from the Savoy Hotel might be found at a boot fair or ephemera dealer, the forger will then simply add a signature to it of someone who was known to stay there (Ali for instance normally used the Savoy when in London), then perhaps claim that his mother worked there as a waitress!


Our advice to collectors has long been, check the provenance of the dealer first, not the provenance of the item. There have been many sometimes high profile court cases of late, and most dealers are aware of the names involved, some have even given evidence for the prosecution in such cases. Many people would have been a lot better off if they had spoken with established registered dealers, rather than spend money with Sporting Icons of Chester; as a quick chat with almost any dealer would have told them the facts about that particular outlet.


For the uninitiated, Sporting Icons and those behind it, Faisal Medani and Graeme Walker, were not just fined £25,000 and banned from being a company director for 5 years, but were also found guilty on almost 70 charges of selling fake or forged signatures and were sentenced accordingly. The case was heard in March and April of 2008, and much about the case can be found simply by typing in their names or Sporting Icons into Google. Sporting Icons of Chester are not related in any way whatsoever with any other company with a similar name. 

  

Ignore too, those collectors who claim that Ali never or very rarely signed AKA Cassius Clay. It is true that he rarely signed it, and they are certainly not common, but he did sign like that from time to time, and there appears to be no reason behind it. It seems to be something that he just did every so often, or when he was paid or perhaps asked to do so, it’s as simple as that. 


So if it’s a Cassius Clay signature you are after, my advice is wait until you can buy one, which you can be sure of, from a dealer that has some pedigree. Stick with UACC Registered Dealers (that’s Registered Dealers, not just members), PADA members, and AFTAL members in the UK. Here are a couple of Clay signatures which have been through our hands in the past.


 

Moving on to Muhammad Ali signatures, these are much easier to come by, and you should have very little difficulty in finding an Ali signed item from a number of dealers, and we ourselves normally have several examples in stock on gloves or images. 


As has already been stated, he signed freely for many years, and very rarely turned down any request to sign. It was not until around 2000 that he started to find it hard to sign, and at this time his signature starts to become simpler and scruffier and more varied, sometimes only being M Ali. I have seen some earlier signatures where he has signed only M Ali, but these are few and far between, and do not command such a high price. This later period, where Ali was struggling to sign due to his Parkinson’s, is often used by the forgers, as it allows them to get away with a poor forgery on the excuse that Ali was having difficulty signing. My advice with these later short ‘in person’ signatures is to avoid them, they don’t look good, and in the years to come I feel sure that they will be much harder to sell as well.


From around 2001 Ali only signed via his own company, and these are available from a number of outlets. The signatures can vary a lot, but they are at least 100% authentic, and often come with a deluxe leather folder with COA from Online Authentics etc. These are not cheap, but you can be assured that they are 100% authentic. 


There are other companies that had signings with Ali in the 80’s and 90’s and this included; Mounted Memories, Steiner Sports. Upper Deck, Stacks of Plaques, TriStar and Superstar Greetings. These were the best known, and if you can find any signed items (at the right price) with their COA’s and sometimes a photo of the signing then buy them if you think the price is right for you. But beware of items, which come only with the photo and no COA, or come with a COA from companies other than the above, but are accompanied by a signing photo, as these have been widely copied and added to fake items. Stacks of Plaques and Superstar Greetings both issued photos of the signings, and always as a photograph, not an inkjet or laser copy of a photo! 


I have seen some sellers suggesting that you should only buy an Ali item if it comes with an Online Authentics COA, this of course is complete nonsense, as Ali did many well known signings with a number of companies, and also attended a number of public signings at shows etc during the 90’s. Saying that, those items with an Online Authentics COA do tend to sell at a higher price, and as a collector, you may find it easier to sell them on at a later date as well.


As far as I am aware, all of the above companies offered a variety of signed Ali items, and this would include gloves, photos in various sizes, and shorts. I have seen some shorts and gloves that were either signed in the wrong pen, or were cheap PVC gloves, where the signature has ‘bleed’ This looks like the ink has run, or has a halo affect around the signature. This is caused by the plasticizer preventing the ink from fully drying out, and instead allowing it to very slowly spread through the plastic or material. This effect is most common with felt pens and PVC or plastic man made materials, and does not happen with all inks, but can sometimes be seen on ink jet prints and some photos. The value of these items is obviously lower than a perfect item, but does at least prove that the item was signed some years ago.


Islamic Leaflets 

These are often overlooked by collectors, but should not be. Agreed, they don’t always look great, but you can be almost 100% certain that they are genuine, even without any form of COA. Ali gave away thousands of these leaflets over a period of years, both on the streets via the mail and at book signings. He would keep some in his pocket already signed to give out to anyone he met, and send them out with letters etc through the mail. His theory was that people would keep it, because he had signed it, and he was right. I doubt if anyone ever threw them away, although they would often cut the signature out and mount it with a photo. 


A word of advice here, never ever cut a signature from something just so that you can display the signature on its own. It is rare that an item will have less value complete than as a signature on its own.


I have never yet seen a forged signature on an Islamic leaflet, and have never yet seen an Islamic leaflet unsigned, so the chance of creating one is very slim. In addition, many of these signed leaflets include a dedication, and the date, although this is not always the case. It would appear that Ali would sometimes sign and start the dedication at home, only filling in the recipients name later to save time. Take a close look at the signatures on the leaflets we show here, and note the way in which Ali wrote the words ‘To’ and ‘From’ and the way he did his numbers and date, as all of this is valuable knowledge in the search for the real thing. 


Take a good look at the signature itself too, and note how there are many subtle ways in which his signature is always the same from this period. Note how the Ali tends to rise after Muhammad, and the way the h in Muhammad joins the a almost dead centre. These are the kind of things you need to look for when comparing them to a possible fake, and its only by having a number of exemplar signatures to compare with a fake, can you really start to see what you are looking for.


The dates he would often add in numerals (3–3–87), very rarely writing the date (i.e. May, March etc). His dates also always had a dash between the numbers, (I have never seen a stroke), and he did this in the US style with the month first, day second, year last.


Very occasionally he would also do the odd doodle in the same way. A smiley face, a boxing ring or a heart, are all extras that add to the value of the signature, although these are rarely seen on the leaflets.


You should have no problem finding these leaflets at a dealer or even on eBay, and you should have no problem in believing that they are authentic. They are also the cheapest of the Ali signed items, so if your budget is limited, then this is where you should start.   


Album pages and notes

Ali would always sign whatever was put in front of him, so you will often come across autograph albums, small notes and scraps of paper etc, all of course have a value, but in this form they can be easily faked. 


The faked ones to look for are signatures from the late 90’s on, as this is the easiest of his styles to fake, and the one most forgers go for. So from that angle I suggest you avoid those of that style and try and stick with signatures from an earlier period and written in Biro rather than felt pen. The ones to look for are those where Ali has added an inscription, date and doodle, as these will command a far higher price, and will always be in higher demand. 


Ali often added an inscription as well as his signature. ‘Greatest of all time’  ‘3 times heavyweight world champion’  ‘after me their will never be another’ are the most common, and all of these can add greatly to the value of his signature. Others he is known to have used include; ‘love is the net where hearts are caught like fish’ ‘Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth’ ‘Serve God he is the goal, and if you are lucky, ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ On occasions he may even put two of these phrases on the same page. Most of these inscriptions are normally found on album pages, notes etc but seem to be less common on photos, although certainly not unheard of. 


He would also often add the date as well, and this has been covered previously under Islamic leaflets. 


The best things to look for here are notes or pages with an inscription etc, as these are far less likely to be fake. Forgers do not like to fake more than the signature, as this makes it so much harder for them, for as well as faking the signature, they now have to learn how to fake the whole style of writing as well. Fortunately for us, Ali almost always added the ‘To John’ dedication first, and rarely allowed this to run into any of the inscription or his signature below. So any item that you see that has a dedication (to John etc) can normally be mounted so that this dedication cannot be seen. 


Study the examples shown here with extra inscriptions carefully, and you will see that Ali almost always left a good spacing between his lines of writing, and this did not vary a great deal either. This line spacing, together with the letter spacing, the way he wrote his dates, the size of his writing, are the things to look at and compare when looking for an authentic Ali signature. Take note of all these things and you will find that you will be able to differentiate between the real and the fake, as well as signatures from different periods with relative ease. The same rules apply of course to checking any other signature that you intend to buy, so remember this, and you will soon be able to spot the basic forgeries with ease.


The value of these pages and notes will be higher if they contain more than just a signature, and as with everything size matters. The more you have the more its worth. Only a dedication (to Mike etc) will reduce the value, although in Ali’s case, not by a great deal.


Photos

Again, not hard to find, although everyone wants the Neil Liefer photo of Ali over Liston, as this is probably the most famous boxing photo of all time, and at the time confirmed Ali as Heavyweight World Champion of the world. There was a lot of controversy over the fight at the time, but it was at this fight that Ali showed he was no fluke, and that he really was the greatest. Interestingly, this fight had the smallest audience ever for any heavyweight world championship fight, and Neil Leifer, the photographer who captured that iconic image, was one of only two photographers who were present on the night.


Photos will again vary in price dependant on the signature, inscription, size, and of course the fight. The most common are the later fights, and the most sought after, the Liston, Frazier and Foreman fights. You will normally find these in either 10” x 8” or 16” x 20” size, the latter being preferable for most people. Ali signed plenty of these for the various companies named earlier, and also signed them through the post and at the various in person shows he did. Some of which also issued a COA with each item signed. I understand that TriStar issued some form of COA at their shows, and also Stacks of Plaques did some public signings at which they issued COA’s as well.


Unless you can be certain (and accept that as a non expert you can’t!) then avoid any signed photo, which does not come with a COA from those companies mentioned previously. If they don’t come with a COA, but are being sold by a dealer with a good pedigree and established trade background then do your homework, and be prepared to take the risk, but be careful.


Gloves and shorts etc. 

I think it fair to say that unless they come with a COA from any of the previous mentioned companies, then avoid them. The Marino family signed loads of these, and I know that some were initialed inside on a tag with the letters JDM, standing for Joe DeMaggio. This was one of the names used by them to disguise their fakes, and these items were issued with Joe DiMaggio COA’s as well. So look out for initials on tags, or if any seller has read this article, then look out for items where the tag has been removed!


Gloves in particular were signed in their thousands by the Marino family and they’re outlets, and most came with COA’s from one of these companies. If you find something with a COA, which comes from or is signed by any of the names below, then I suggest you avoid it. Most of these names were either involved with the sale or manufacture of fake-signed sports items, so beware! Remember too that Operation Bullpen raided the operations of no less than 18 forgery rings in the USA alone, and it has been proven that some of these fakes ended up being sold by the less scrupulous dealers over here too. Sadly it seems our own Police Force did nothing about this.


Any COA’s issued by any of the names below, should be treated with the utmost caution. In some cases COA’s issued by these people are not even allowed to be used on eBay. In others, the signers are known forgers, or have sold items in quantity that are known to be forged, or been barred from the UACC or eBay etc.  


This list is nowhere near complete, but does contain the most common and best-known offenders. The names are a combination of those from the FBI website and the ebay banned COA list....yes, they do have one!


  • Universal
  • Classic Memorabilia
  • Dave Niedema, a.k.a. Dave Madiema
  • Donald Frangipani
  • Forensic Document Services-Robert Prouty
  • Hollywood Dreams
  • J. Dimaggio Co. / J. Dimaggio Company
  • Legends Sports Memorabilia
  • North Shore Sports
  • Pro Sports / Pro Sports Memorabilia
  • R.R.'s Sports Cards & Collectibles
  • Rare and Signed
  • SCAA /Front Page Art Angela-John Marino
  • Slamdunk Sportscards Memoribilia
  • Sport Card Kid Hunting Beach
  • Sports Alley Memorabilia
  • Sports Management Group
  • Stan's Sports / Stans Sports Memorabilia
  • Steve Ryan
  • Universal Inc.
  • Universal Memorabilia
  • W.W. Sportscards & Collectibles 
  • The Monte Gallery
  • World Wide Graphs
  • MSPS Realgraphs
  • Jeff Lees
  • Princess Autographs
  • Truly Unique Collectibles
  • classy-collectables
  • Premier Autographs, COA’s signed by Sam Hall. (not related to any other autograph business with the same name.

And don’t forget the two guys that were sentenced in 2008, Graeme Walker and Faisal Medani who sold under the name Sporting Icons. Although not everything they sold was fake, I have yet to have shown to me a sporting item supplied by them that I would consider authentic! Also be aware that they sold large amounts of their signed items etc to TV auction channels, High Street retailers, and a number of eBay sellers as well, so although they may not come with a COA from Sporting Icons, that may well be where the item originated.


Magazines etc

Most of these would have been signed at the few shows that Ali attended, through the post or in person, and are not as common as photos. Currently, most of the ones I see on eBay and other auction sites, are probably genuine, but of course it is hard to tell sometimes from some of the scans we see, so these are best avoided unless they are coming from a reputable dealer.


Most of the ones we see appear to have late eighties or 90’s signature styles, but remember what I said previously about forgers using the right signature style on the right piece.


Cheques

If you think the price is right, then buy, although they are rarely seen on the open market, and will command a higher than normal price. Don’t concern yourself with a COA, as a cheque, unless it’s some kind of copy, which of course you will be able to spot! is unlikely to prove anything but authentic. 


Documents and contracts

Not often available but if you can afford it, and they are complete, just ensure that you buy from a reputable dealer. 


I came across a dealer some years ago that created his own documents or parts of documents, simply by typing them out on a typewriter. These documents were always dated before the computer became popular, as it was then normal to create an entire contract using a typewriter and some carbon paper. These he would then sign with whatever name he wanted, and then sell them on. He would always use old paper, and would cut around the signature together with a part of the document, giving the impression that someone had simply wanted the signature and cut it form the document, but at the same time helping to hide his own fake creation.


What let him down was that he always used the same typewriter, and as any typewriter expert will tell you, every typewriter is totally unique, no two ever type in exactly the same way. So his parts of contracts were easily seen to have been created on the same machine, despite the contracts saying they were from completely unconnected companies and from different time periods. This is a very good example of how checking out the provenance of the seller can prove a signature fake, even if you don’t know anything about autographs.


Books

Hundreds of books have been written about Ali and his life, and as far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong) he only ever joined a signing tour for two of them, and that was for the books ‘Muhammad Ali’ by Thomas Hauser, published in 1991, and ‘A thirty Year Journey’ by Howard Bingham. I do know that he was to join Hauser on the tour to sign books at various places around the UK, but I believe only Hauser actually turned up as Ali was prevented from doing so by a trip to another country.


The Hauser book can occasionally be found signed by both Hauser and Ali on a bookplate (a special sticky label stuck into the book). These apparently were signed by Ali at his home and then sent along after the book signing that he was supposed to attend. The plate is a special one which is printed with the words ‘To commemorate Muhammad Ali’s visit to Great Britain’ 


Second hand bookshops are a good place to look for these, as booksellers rarely know the real value of a signed book, I have now had several from charity bookshops and almost always for less than 100. 


I would avoid any other signed books by Ali, as I see so many on ebay, some that were only published after 2000 but contain an example of his signature from 1985! 


I understand that Ali did sign books on at least one other occasion when he attended some book signings around the UK. The date appears to be 1997, and he certainly made personal appearances and signed books in Nottingham, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford and London and elsewhere. I would be grateful if anyone has any more info on this. The books I have seen have all been signed by Ali only and often on a bookplate.


The only other signed books you normally see are the more recent GOAT limited editions, produced in relatively small numbers, and sold at a rather high price. GOAT stands for Greatest Of All time, and is Ali’s trading company.


Autopens

Ali has been using an Autopen machine for many years, and still does it would seem. An autopen machine can create a signature that looks so much like the real thing that it can fool even experienced dealers and collectors. 


The machine uses a matrix to copy the original signature onto anything that is put under the pen. The pen follows the pattern on the matrix as it is moved across the paper. The pen can be changed from a pencil to a felt tip, biro etc, so don’t think it will always be the same pen. Leave the machine running and it will simply keep on signing the photos or whatever you have put onto it. 


The problem with an Autopen machine is that it cannot reproduce the variation in speed and pressure that your hand can, and that is its downfall. Once you know this, you will be able to spot most autopens, although those done with a felt tip tend to be the hardest to spot. Look also for the abrupt stop and start at the end of each word, as the machine drops the pen onto the paper and then lifts it off at the end. This normally results in a slight dot at each end, and this is normally more pronounced when using a felt tip on porous paper, or a ballpoint pen. Felt tips on glossy photos are the hardest to spot, and for this you should concentrate on the lack of pressure and speed variation. Sign a nice glossy photo with your own name using a felt tip pen and then study it closely. You will see these variations as your hand speeds up and slows down, and the pressure varies. Get someone else to try and forge your signature on the same photo too, and then again study the differences. You can learn a lot by doing this.


As far as we know Ali only has one signature matrix for his Autopen machine, so all the items that are signed using it, end up with the exact same signature, or do they?  Well not exactly! Although they will be signed using the same matrix and the same machine, we actually see a very slight variation in the signature, which has been enough for many people to argue that they are genuine signatures and not Autopens. But, the reason for this is that there are adjustments than can slow down or the change the signature in size, and also wear and tear or simple lack of lubrication, can also change the signature slightly. A dealer recently showed me a number of these autopen signed photos. All the photos were the same, all obtained by writing to Ali and requesting a signed photo, and all signed in exactly the same place with the same type and colour pen. He showed me 6 of these, and said that they could not be autopens because they were all different lengths. However, I pointed out to him that were all exactly the same height, and all exactly the same style, and that the only real difference was that the first four letters of the signature were a little different in length, although they still looked almost identical, and that the remaining part of the signatures were indeed absolutely identical. 


All that was happening was that the machine in some cases was a little slow to get started, and was hesitating on the first few letters before it got into its stride, and I believe this created the longer or shorter first few letters of the signature. Below are two examples of the Autopen signature. Be sure to read my article on Autopen signatures, to see why they are not exactly the same!


Look carefully and you will see the small dots at the end of the M, one of the tell tale signs for an Autopen, but look very closely and you will see that that are not a 100% match for each other. This is due simply to the machine being fitted with a different pen, and a very slight adjustment having been made to the machine itself. But they are both clearly Autopen signed, and you should read my article on Autopen signatures to see what else you should be looking for.


I have never seen one of these postcard size photos authentically signed, so beware! 


Secretarials 

These are signatures signed by a secretary or someone else approved by the celebrity to sign items on their behalf. It is fairly common amongst the Hollywood superstars. There was one print issued which does contain a secretarial signature, and these were believed to have been signed by Khalilah Ali his wife at the time, and come with a COA also signed by her. It is also believed that a secretary signed the membership application form for his Ali fan club in 1989.  


COA’s

We have covered the names to look out for already, both good and bad, but here are a few things you should know about COA’s.


First, no matter how good a COA looks, fancy paper, Holograms, ribbons, blind stamps etc, if the signature on the item is a fake, then the COA is not worth a light, and can never make that signature authentic. Anyone can now produce a COA that looks fabulous, but it proves nothing. 


If you are buying an item from any one of the AFTAL, PADA or UACC registered dealers, then expect no more than an invoice and possibly something that states the item is authentic etc. It will also have their name and contact details on it too, but possibly not a hologram, blind stamp and a fancy ribbon!


It is often said that a COA is only as good as the person who signed it, and if his name is Marino it’s not worth the paper it’s written on!  


It is our opinion that you should never buy anything just because it has a COA or letter from any of the known ‘authentication’ companies, PSA/DNA, GAI etc. These companies are creating problems for both buyers and sellers by offering authentications for items that are sent to them, very often only as a scan. Very few dealers accept these COA’s as absolute proof that an item is authentic, in fact even the companies themselves do not! This is taken directly from the PSA/DNA website. Q: Do you guarantee that the autographs you certify are genuine and those you do not are fake? A: No. We do not guarantee autographs under the Vintage Certified program. By using this program, you are paying for the opinion of the top experts in the world, using state-of-the-art examination tools and techniques. In other words if they say it’s real it might fake, and if they say it’s fake, it could be real! Or have I read that wrong? 


One final word on COA’s. If you were to buy something in a shop and were issued with a guarantee for the item, what would you think if it did not have printed on it the full name, address and contact details of the company that sold it to you? The same must apply to a COA. If it does not have the full geographic contact details of the seller on it, then ask yourself, what possible use is it?


ebay

A few lines here about the internet auction site are a must, as everyone knows it, although not everyone uses or trusts it.


During the past 2 years or so, ebay.com has made some efforts to reduce the amount of fakes on ebay, and Ali signed items is one area where this is very noticeable.


What they have done is simply take note of the reports they get from the general public, and act on these by then getting the opinion of a third party (normally PSA/DNA etc). If the third party suggests the item is not authentic, then ebay remove it. However, there has now been a suggestion that PSA/DNA staff could well report authentic items as fake. If this happened, ebay could remove the item, and tell the seller to have it authenticated by PSA/DNA (at a cost of course), and only then could they relist it. But they cannot relist it unless they get authentication first, and it has to be one of the ebay approved authenticators, as they will not accept the word of anyone else! Now it does not take a mastermind to work out that this could well be a scam in progress! and I believe under English law a restrictive practice too! But who are we to argue with eBay!


Whichever way you look at it, they have made some effort to clean the site up, and the number of fake Ali items on eBay.com now, is far less than it was a few years ago, so that can only be a good thing. The same does not apply to ebay.co.uk, where the number of fakes has risen again over the last year or so, despite there being several court cases all based around fakes being sold on the site. Here is just one of them.


Prices on eBay can be lower, but be warned, despite eBay’s efforts, unless you really know what you are looking for, then you can still get stung, and stung very badly too! Use our Quick Opinion option if you are not sure.


Prices

How long is a piece of string? It is always hard to give a price on anything, especially when it’s going down on paper, possibly to be read years later! But my advice is that if you look around at the better dealers, see what they


have on offer, and then compare those prices, you probably won’t find too much difference. Remember that a dealer has to make a profit, or he goes out of business very quickly, and that profit will vary depending on his own overheads etc.


As a rough guide, and to give you something to go by, the cheapest Ali signed item will generally be the Islamic leaflets. These are currently selling via dealers at around £160+ (as of April 2014) but as stated, don’t worry about buying these elsewhere, as the chances of finding a fake one are very unlikely.


Everything else will simply cost you more.


Conclusions

  • Well if you have read all of this, then you should now be able to draw your own conclusions, but if you can’t then here are a few pointers.
  • Avoid Cassius Clay signed items; unless you can be 100% sure of the dealer you are buying from.
  • Look out for Ali signed Islamic leaflets, and buy if you think the price is right, but don’t cut the signature out and throw the rest away!
  • Only buy signed gloves or shorts etc if they have a good COA with them from one of the names mentioned.
  • Buy any signed photos with COA’s from any of the good suppliers mentioned, especially those in larger sizes and of the most famous fights.
  • Be careful about signed photos without COA’s from those known suppliers, unless they come from a dealer with excellent pedigree who is a member of a named trade association.
  • Look out for signed album pages, notes or cards with added inscriptions.
  • Don’t buy something just because it has a COA from PSA/DNA, GAI etc. 
  • Avoid anyone by the name of Marino!

 

Authentic Signature Examples. - Not in chronological order

Here are some signatures from Islamic leaflets, take careful note of the angle of the writing, the way in which Ali does his ‘h’ and they way in which it joins the ‘a’ Also compare the ‘Ali’ on them all, as there is very little difference in any of them, and it's common for them to rise above the Muhammad at a slight angle