Ebay has changed the way we do business. It is a great place to buy and sell just about anything, and with world wide users has somewhat kept prices fair. Have you ever gone into your local memorabilia store to buy a Muhammad Ali autograph only to find out that they are asking for $300+? That's what's great about ebay, competition. One of the problems with ebay, you are buying these autographs basically unseen. Sure, there may be a photo of the item for sale but is it the item? I will get into some of the things you need to know when buying on ebay and similar sites here in this section.
* I am in no way saying that most of the sellers on ebay are dishonest but everyone needs to understand that most of the Muhammad Ali autographs on ebay are fake. You need to know what you're looking at before you buy. *
Average Prices 2/22/08
Here are average price ranges for basic Muhammad Ali autographs in each category.
Small photos (3x5, 4x6, etc.) $80 - $150
Small Photos (authenticated) $150 - $200
8x10 photos $150 - $250
8x10 photos (authenticated) $250 - $400
16x20 photos $250 - $400
16x20 photos (authenticated) $350 - $800
Gloves $250 - $500
Gloves (authenticated) $350 - $800
Pamphlets $75 - $150
Pamphlets (authenticated) $125 - $200
Magazines $100 - $250
Magazines (authenticated) $200 - $350
Cut Signatures $75 - $200
Cut Signatures (authenticated) $125 - $250
Another day on ebay 7/3/07
On June 24, 2007 I decided to scan through the Muhammad Ali autographs being sold on ebay. I stuck with the regular auction items, staying away from the ebay Stores. After weeding out the preprints, there was a total of 74 'autographs' being sold.IT was my opinion, that out of the 74 items, 25 were real. Gloves had the worst real-to-fake average of them all.
Here is the breakdown:
Gloves Other Autographs
Total: 20 Total: 54
Real: 3* Real: 22**
Fake: 17 Fake: 22
% real: 15% UTD: 9
% real: 41%
* Of the 3 real signed gloves, all 3 of them were OA and Steiner authenticated.
** Of the 22 other items that were found real: 6 were Steiner, 2 were Mounted Memories, 1 JSA, 1 GAI, 1 Fossil, 1 Score Board.
Issues with Photos
When searching on ebay, photos are the only way that we know what we are in for. I wouldn't buy a autograph without a photo of it.
The photo in the item description not the item for sale
Sometimes if a seller has multiple items such as the pamphlets he may not want to scan each one. Read the description, occasionally you will read something like 'item in photo is not actual item'. If you read this and don't feel safe bidding on the item, e-mail the seller and ask for a photo of the item that you are interested in.
A photo that is blurry, far away, or with a flash across it
Sometimes you'll see a photo that will be far away when using a digital camera to try to capture the whole image or just not in focus. Also if the item is in a frame or case the flash may obstruct the auto. In any of these cases, e-mail the seller and ask if he could send you or post a better close-up photo of the item and auto. In most cases the seller will be happy to do so. If the seller refuses or gives you some kind of hard time, sometimes it's better to stay away.
Here are some examples of item titles that may be misleading.
Muhammad Ali hand signed auto
Sure the item may be hand signed but whose hand signed it?
Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali signed photo
This may be in fact a photo of Spinks fighting Ali signed by Spinks only. Read the description. This goes for any other fighter.
Muhammad Ali book The Greatest signed
This could be a book about Ali signed by the author of the book.
Muhammad Ali 16x20 Lithograph signed
Again, may be a lithograph of Ali signed by the artist.
Muhammad Ali AKA Cassius Clay autographed photo
Could be a signed Ali photo without the description of ‘AKA Cassius Clay’
Preprints, Reprints, and ?
Always read the item description fully. You will see where there are preprints or reprints for sale but the seller will not say that in the title. The item may have a title like this: Muhammad Ali autographed 8x10 photo. If you read the description you will read "this is not an original autograph". This is done by some sellers to draw more attention to their auctions. The prices on these items will be low and most of the time, 'buy it now' items. If you don't read and think you're getting a great deal you may be stuck with a reprint that is worthless.
This is a great tool when buying on ebay. It lets you know what other members say about the seller you may buy from. But you need to take the time to read the feedback before you make an investment in an Ali autograph, especially if it is a high dollar item.
If a seller has been inactive for a long time it is a possibility that their account has been hijacked. Here is a quick explanation of one of the ways that accounts are hijacked. People will send fake emails to people with ebay accounts, the email looks like it is from ebay and say that there is some kind of problem with their account. It then asks the ebayer to click the link and enter their username and password. If they do so, these people now have their info. They then list items for sale sometimes it is months before the account holder knows if they are not active on ebay.
Other things to look out for in feedback are:
No feedback or low feedback.
When a seller has under 20 positive feedback.
There are several ways that a seller can run their feedback up. One is to have multiple accounts or have friends add to his feedback. Another is to buy a bunch of penny auctions to give him positive feedback.
Less than 95% positive.
Take the time to read what the negative comments were and if you can, see what the items were.
No Seller feedback.
The seller has never sold anything on ebay and only has 'buyer' feedback.
The first black Sharpie pen marker was created in 1964. It wasn't until 1979 that they came out with the extra fine tip in four colors. And it wasn't until sometime in the mid '80 that they became popular among autograph collectors.
UACC and IADA
You see dealers boasting about how they are a member of UACC so their autographs are authentic. Being a member of UACC or IADA doesn't really mean much. Anyone can join. UACC membership dues are $35 a month and IADA is free if you qualify. Remember this, UACC DOES NOT issue COA's. If you see a seller offer one do not buy from that seller.
Muhammad Ali autographs are not cheap, don't think a dealer is going to cut you a break. They are selling for one thing, money. You will see 'buy it now' auctions for prices well below what you'd expect to pay for an Ali auto. They even offer a COA from...somewhere. Why would you put an item up on a BIN for $100 when in a regular auction a similar item would reach $200+? Because educated buyers would not bid. The seller is hoping for the newer collector to see it and see a great deal and click that BIN button. Remember, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
What it's Worth
Again, you need to know what an item is worth. Do some research, look at past auctions and get to know an item's average value.
Beware of signatures done with thick markers or paint pens because they can hide details of the signature. Ali's late signature especially, it's small and scrunched, perfect for a forger to use a thick marker to copy.
Take Your Time
Don't rush into any item and don't let the seller pressure you into anything. Know who you're dealing with and about the item you're interested in. Look at his feedback and past auctions. Look at his current auctions. See how much he charges for shipping and so on. If you rush into an item without knowing details you may get burned.
Sellers usually list how much they charge for shipping. Depending on the item, the cost could be up to $20. I know it seems like a lot but remember, seller's s&h charges include: actual shipping costs, time to the PO, covering fees from ebay and Pay Pal, and shipping materials, among other costs. If the seller doesn't list exactly how he is going to ship an item, ask him. Personally I like Priority Mail with a Delivery Confirmation #, and Insurance. It gets a little pricey but it's worth it in case something happens. Plus, you can go online and track your package.