Thursday, February 20, 2020

Houdini fakes are flooding online auction sites

Fake Houdini signatures have been flooding online auction sites such as Liveauctioneers and eBay lately. These all appear to be the work of the same forger whose fakes started appearing last year.

The signatures are similar enough that it may be some kind of technology in use, such as an autopen. But when the forger attempts other "Houdini" handwriting, they fall down entirely. Also, the context in which they appear--on sheets of blank stationary for example (also fake)--is suspect as this is not something Houdini was known to have signed.

But the signatures are good enough to pass, which I think now makes any standalone Houdini signature suspect. Likewise, any clipped Houdini signature in or outside a frame should be avoided. A legitimate Houdini signature should be part of something that can help authenticate it, such as a contract, letter, or part of an inscription in a book.

All these fakes come with a "Certificate of Authenticity", which, ironically, has become a red flag in itself. There appears to be no shortage of bogus or just careless authentication services out there. But there is a discernible style to these fakes, so they are not fooling experienced Houdini collectors and auctioneers. These are being made to snare novice collectors and they have been selling, sometimes for many hundreds of dollars.  So buyer beware!

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7 comments:

  1. Thank you, John, for posting this. I'd noticed the recent influx of incredible (impossible) autographs on eBay complete with classic phrases "my brain is the key..." and "Harry 'Handcuff' Houdini" at price points of about 200-250.

    Other more knowledgable readers should correct me, but to those who are looking to buy a signed Houdini piece, I don't believe I've seen a single legitimate Houdini autograph sell for less than $500 in the last 5 years or so – and they were a far cry from a wonderful inscription on his own stationary...

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  2. Talk about perfect timing for sharing this out. There was item that was signed "Harry Handcuff Houdini" on a 1 cent postcard that sold for $300.oo just yesterday on eBay. It sent all sorts of red flags to me, but I am far from an experienced collector. Thank you John!

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  3. Besides the obvious low price which is a red flag, many of these are "authenticated" by East Coast Authenticators, which from a google search reflects less than stellar comments. Many of the "letterheads" or stationary are modern prints. Originals will have raised embossed letterheads and/or watermarks. If you do get "caught" up in buying one of these, use a jewelers loop to see a "dot" print pattern. Go through paypal to secure a return and refund. I reported some to ebay but they do not seem to care.

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  4. Thanks for researching this.
    I have been watching these and was skeptical about bidding.
    Now that I see too many of them being listed, I am no longer mad at my self for "missing out on a great opportunity"

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  5. A typical scam is to take a flyleaf or blank page from a book that predates the autograph. The forgeries were out of control years ago. Well, a certain party or parties flooded with fake Houdini handcuffs years ago, so anyone with any savvy won't touch most that come up for auction. I think somebody ought to warn the seller and buyer if it's possible. It is a crime!

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  6. I am really glad you posted an article about this. It makes me really irate every time I see one of these fakes for sell on ebay. There is one seller who has no shortage of items for sell, including Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and other historical figures who command high dollars. When someone starts an auction with a low starting bid with no reserve, that should be a huge warning flag. People need to do their homework and then they will have the tools to not get fooled by these crooks.

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  7. Certainly it's a "buyer beware" situation, but it seems like Ebay and others are indifferent to their complicity/accountability regarding these blatant frauds, while they have been known to fall all over themselves in removing items deemed as "inappropriate" for other reasons.

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