The Legend?

Rumor (or maybe fact) has it that a young boy named Cassius Clay asked boxer Ray Robinson for an autograph. He refused to give one. The boy hurt, swore that he would never turn down anyone that asked him for his autograph if he ever became famous.

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1992 Classic World Class Athletes  10/9/09

This certified Muhammad Ali autographed card was released in 1992. There are three different versions of this signed card. There is the basic autographed card, one numbered to 2,500, and one that has the added inscription of "1964 KO" numbered to 250. You will find that some of each version has been encased in a plastic holder with a plaque on the base describing the card (numbered to 2500, etc.) that was originally sold on QVC.

The unsigned base card can be easily obtained for under $5 and the entire set of 60 for only a few dollars more. Which makes this another card that can be forged and sold as the real thing if the buyer doesn't know what to look out for. One thing to pay attention to is the back of the card. The back of the base card has a photo of Ali along with a bio and career stats. The back of the certified card is blank, with only the words ’Congratulations; You have just received this extremely limited Classic autograph card.’

You will sometimes see this card being sold online with only a photo of the front. Without seeing the back you don’t know if it’s the certified version, one obtained in person or ttm, or a forgery.  Just like the Pro Line card, condition determines value.

Occasionally you will see a card in a condition less than mint, this card can usually be has for much less than current value. The basic autographed card typically sells for $250-$350, the version numbered to 2500 for $250-$400, and the '1964 KO' version for $350-$500.


Other notes on this card

Every certified card I have seen has been signed at the bottom of the card in the white area.

The card numbered to 2500 is hand numbered, usually in the top left corner on the front of the card.

The '1964 KO' version is hand numbered on the back of the card.

I have seen certified cards signed in blue and black felt tip marker.


                                     

                              Regular autographed version                                                  #'d to 2500 version                                                          "1964 KO" version


                        

                                                 Back of the regular and #'d to 2500 versions                                                                 Back of the "1964 KO" version

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Recent AKA Clay signatures and forgeries  9/27/08

The most desirable Muhammad Ali signature is one with the added inscription 'AKA Cassius Clay' (other than a vintage Clay autograph).  It was very rare for Ali to sign this way, if at all until sometime in the late 80's.  Even then, this form of signature was limited.  He would add this inscription if asked at public signings, even though people were discouraged from doing so by promoters.  He would also sign this way on other occasions if asked, more commonly at private signings held by major autograph companies.

Because of the value of this signature, it has been a favorite target by forgers.  The most well-known and widespread example of this is from Operation Bullpen.  Many of these and other counterfeit 'AKA Clay' signatures can be found online on sites like ebay, Craigslist, and private dealer's sites.  They can also be found in autograph shops around the world.  More often than not, these worthless signatures can be found with COA's guaranteeing authenticity.  Several years ago, these phony autographs could be found everywhere from TV shopping networks to major auction houses.  At this point, it is common knowledge to most people in the industry that these signatures are not real.  However, occasionally you will still find one in a auction house's catalog.

With a little searching on the internet, you can find many sites offering what they call authentic 'AKA Clay' autographs, most of them will be forgeries.  The sad part is that it's a loosing situation with these dealers.  Either they know that the signatures are fake and choose to sell them anyway or they don't know that they are forgeries in which case, they shouldn't be in the autograph business.  The same goes for the authentication companies who have authenticated these forgeries.

In most cases, the 'AKA Clay' forgeries don't resemble a normal Muhammad Ali autograph.  Real 'AKA Clay' signatures look like a usual Ali signature with 'AKA Cassius Clay' added underneath.  Like everything else, it is important to know what you are buying because many people are unsure about this particular signature.

                       

                       

The top row of pictures are authentic 'AKA Clay' signatures, the bottom row are in my opinion, forgeries.   The first forgery is the Operation Bullpen style, you will find it signed in all different types of markers from the blue sharpie (shown) to various paint pens.  The second is another somewhat common forgery. notice the high loop on the 'M', the choppy writing, and the lack of an 'l' in 'Ali'.  The last two are poor forgeries that can be found at many online shops.

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1992 Pro Line Autograph 

This card was inserted into packs of 1992 Pro Line football cards.  There are two versions of this card, an unsigned card and a signed card.   There are key differences to look out for, such as: The base card (unsigned) has the words "Team NFL" and the number 1 in a teal box in the bottom right corner, the autographed version does not.  The autographed version has a embossed seal which says "Certified Authentic" with the NFL logo in the bottom right corner.  There are also some signed 'Cassius Clay', it is unknown exactly how many were signed this way.

Once-in-a-while you will find a Pro Line card being sold that someone got signed later in person or through-the-mail.  Be aware of what you are looking at.  Sometimes the seller won't mention that it's not the certified version or may not know themselves.

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that there are many of the 'certified' cards that don't bare an authentic Ali autograph.  There are several possibilities for this.  One possibility is that some of the cards mi it out the 'back door' by employees of the company.  More likely, when the company went out of business, their assets were sold off and unsigned, yet certified cards made it into the wrong hands.

To read more about the Pro Line forgeries, see the 'Forgeries etc' page.


                                                           The base (unsigned) card.                                                                                  The certified Ali version.  

                   

      

                                                   The certified Cassius Clay version.                                                                                 The questionable Clay.

                   


                                               A signed base version (in person or ttm).                                                            The base card with a forged signature.

                   

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Hologram Stickers and COA's  12/30/07

Recently forgers and unscrupulous sellers have found a new tool to help them pass their bogus autographs, hologram stickers.  All throughout the internet you can find these holograms used on COA’s and on the autographed items from sellers you never heard of.  Or worse yet, from sellers you know that you can’t trust.  Do a google search for ‘custom holograms’ and see what you find.  There are hundreds of companies that will make you hologram stickers with any picture, name, or number you want; including those dual serial numbered stickers that you see on COA’s and the item.

Quite a few times now I have received an email or spoke to someone who said that the item came with a hologram sticker and COA, which made them feel more comfortable with purchasing the item.  (That's exactly what these sellers want you to think.)  In all of these cases, the autographs that I looked at were fake.  The fact is still the same; most COA’s aren’t worth the paper that they’re printed on.  Even if they now come with a shiny sticker on them.

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Is my Ali autograph real? Part I

Some people have asked me "How do you know if a Muhammad Ali signature is real?" The truth is some of them (unless you see them being signed) you can never know 100%. But if you are educated in collecting Ali autographs, you can sleep better at night knowing that you most likely didn't get ripped off.  This is the first of a series.

One of the first things that I do is I examine the autograph under UV light (black light). This helps me rule out preprint because you can see the strokes and stop points when a marker is used. On a preprint the signature will be under the gloss of the photo. This is important, I have found several preprints that were thought to be authentic signatures. You can also see if the item has been modified such as removed personalization or a forgery that has been practiced and erased. These types of modifications will usually show up as a dark purple mark under UV light. (See examples below)

                       
                                                         This is the original autographed photo.                                        The seller removed the personalization.


                                                                                                    Under UV light the erased portion looks looks this.

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Pamphlets 3/28/07


For the beginner Muhammad Ali autograph collector I would recommend the signed Islamic pamphlets. You may ask, why? Because they are the most reasonably priced Ali autographs on the market and I have not seen one yet that I thought was forged. The Islamic pamphlets that Ali singed are usually dated from the mid 80's to mid 90's. Ali distributed these pamphlets at signings and sent them through-the-mail to people who wrote him asking for his autograph. He even carried them with him to hand out. He signed these pamphlets so people wouldn't throw them away and to make people aware of the Nation of Islam.


Most of the pamphlets you find will be dated and/or personalized. Sometimes he added a little heart or smiley face. I have not seen any that have been inscribed with one of his famous 'Ali-isims'. The most common pamphlet seems to be the one titled "Is Jesus Really God?" which is light green and measures 8 1/2x 4 1/2 inches, mostly dated from the late 80's and early 90's. The most desirable pamphlet is the 4x6 inch pamphlet titled "I'm Calling on You." which features a photo of Ali on the phone. Every example of this pamphlet that I have seen was dated in 1990.

                          

One of the first Ali autographs that I bought was a pamphlet. I paid less than $30 at the time, which was the average price for them. The average price now is more than $90. I will post the average prices of pamphlets sold on ebay and other internet sites.

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Proof Shots on the internet 1/3/07

Proof shots are the most deceiving things that a dishonest seller can have. In the photo you have Ali signing an autograph. But in reality it has nothing to do with the item you’re about to purchase. When I started to collect Ali autos, I was burned by this type of deception and that is one of the reasons I have made this site. Here are some common things to look out for concerning proof shots on the internet..

Make sure the item in the PS (Proof Shot) is the same as the item being sold. (Example, item advertised is a glove, in the PS.Ali is signing a magazine.)

If the photo is the same item as in the description, make sure the signatures match and that they are in the same place. If you can’t tell, e-mail the seller to send you some better pics. Most sellers who are honest, will have no problem doing so. If the sell has no other pics, sometimes it's better to stay away.

Also some sellers list proof shots that show Ali signing, but you can’t see what he is signing because the photo is cut off at the pen.


                   

                                                                 Actual Proof Shot                                                                                              Cut-off Proof Shot

Look out for proof shots that are taken from a distance. Anyone can take a pic of Ali signing for someone else.

Be aware if a seller has a bunch of autos listed and has the same proof shot for all of them. Especially if the PS is a candid photo (like at a car or in front of a hotel).

Look out for the photo of Ali sitting on the floor in front of a pile of boxing gloves, signing one. Anyone can write Ali’s name on a glove, download and print the photo, and slap it on the internet as authentic.


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COA's 11/5/06

It had a Certificate Of Authenticity so it has to be real, right? Wrong. A COA is nothing more than a piece of paper saying that the autograph is real. Most of them (and you'll hear this a lot) aren't worth the paper that they are printed on. Think about it. Would you buy a George Washington autograph signed on today's newspaper just because it had a COA stating it's authentic? Most big name companies offer COA's with a matching serial numbered stickers on the item itself. Even though the COA is from a reputable dealer, the item may have been switched by a dirty seller. Be aware of thing like this. Get to know what these companies offer (like Steiner, UD, PSA, GAI, JSA) and the difference between COA's, LOA's and other forms of authentication.

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