Ellen Auctions Off Counterfeit ‘Star Wars’ Autographs for Charity
It looks like Ellen DeGeneres has fallen victim to one of the biggest scams that no one ever wants to talk about: counterfeit autographs.
Selling fake autographed pictures and memorabilia is a huge business. Some experts estimate that up to 90% of the autographs being sold on eBay are fake. Every day, fans looking to own personal items from their favorite celebrities are routinely duped into spending their hard-earned money on completely worthless items.
It's no secret that I'm an avid collector of Star Wars autographs. So when I was tagged in a post from Ellen Degeneres about an auction for a poster signed by the original Star Wars cast I just had to check it out. Upon seeing it, however, I immediately knew something was just not right.
The poster was described as "an incredibly, rare, priceless original, framed Star Wars poster signed by the cast." It included big names like George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness and others. The item was being sold to benefit The Ellen Fund, which raises money to help endangered Gorillas.
Taking a closer look at the poster I immediately noticed Alec Guinness' autograph looked very suspicious. Guinness' signature is rare on cast posters, and this one just seemed off. I am lucky enough to have recently purchased a trading card signed by the Obi-Wan Kenobi actor, and the signature on this poster didn't look anything like the one I know to be legitimate. Carrie Fisher's signature also looked very wrong. And then, as I took a closer look, each of the remaining autographs caused even more red flags to pop up.
Now, I'm certainly not an expert in authenticating autographs, but luckily I am friends with one on Facebook. Steve Grad from Beckett Authentication Services is the leading expert in identifying legitimate autographs. You may recognize his name from the History Channel series Pawn Stars. Grad is routinely called in to determine if signed memorabilia being offered for sale is real or not.
Grad also happens to be an avid Star Wars autograph collector and a member of the Star Wars Autograph Universe Facebook group. That's where I've had the privilege of relying on his expertise in making sure the pieces I add to my collection are the real deal. The SWAU is a dedicated group of collectors who look out for, educate and support collectors in an attempt to keep the hobby legitimate and honest.
I decided to ask Grad's opinion of Ellen's auction piece and he immediately replied with the bad news. The autograph expert confirmed that the signatures on this item were, in fact, not real.
At this point, the auction was already up to $15,500. This is quite a high price for someone to pay for a poster that has a bunch of fake signatures on it. So I decided to reach out to The Ellen Fund directly to let them know about the problem with the poster and see if they had any comment about its authenticity.
At the writing of this article, The Ellen Fund has still not replied to my request for comment. The auction, however, appears to have been pulled from the charity's website. Social media posts promoting the poster auction have also been deleted.
Luckily, this item was caught before someone unknowingly purchased a fake. But that's sadly not always the case. Many charity organizations sell autographed sports and movie memorabilia not knowing that the items are completely fake. Just because an item is being sold for a good cause or allegedly comes from a "discerning Hollywood collector," as this piece did, does not mean it's real.
Another big mistake collectors make is relying on a certificate of authenticity. Just because an item has paperwork to back it up does not mean that the item is legit. If someone is going to fake a signature, they'll have no issue typing up a certificate promising that it's real. The only way to be certain that the item you're buying is real is to make sure it's authenticated by a trusted service like Grad's Beckett Authentication Services. Even then, it helps to also rely on the opinion of trusted collectors, like the ones in groups like Star Wars Autograph Universe, who are willing to help fellow hobbyists from falling victim to scams.
Unfortunately, there are fake autographs everywhere. And if Ellen can fall for it, you can too.