BY MATT TUCK
The wait is over, and I finally get to see if my Aliens #1 signatures were given the green light by CBCS. Time to see if this roll of the dice has paid off.
THE VERIFIED SIGNATURE PROGRAM
Aliens #1 happened to be my second attempt at CBCS’ Verified Signature Program. Unlike the Signature Series offered by both CBCS and CGC, the VSP uses CBCS’ parent company, Beckett Media, and its resources to verify whether or not a signature meets its standards. The unwitnessed autograph goes through Beckett’s qualitative methods, and they decide if it is authentic or not. Of course, none of this is free, and the costs for the VSP is more than that of the witnessed Signature Series. That makes complete sense, considering the VSP takes more hands and time to authenticate the signature.
THE FIRST FORAY
So far this year, I have been 0-1 in the verified signature department.
Back in March, I took a gamble and bought a low-grade Fantastic Four #48 that the seller claimed was signed by Stan Lee. There was even a Stan Lee Collectibles holographic sticker on the inside cover. Being a comic collector, my first reaction was the dismay at anyone putting a sticker on a comic, much less a holy grail like the Silver Surfer’s first appearance. The seller blamed it all on his father. As the story goes, his dad stood in line to get it autographed. Apparently dear ol’ Dad didn’t know much about the collecting game, and instead of having it witnessed and graded, he opted for the holographic sticker.
Maybe I am just a sucker, but the story sounded legitimate. Here’s my logic: why would anyone intentionally put a Stan Lee Collectibles sticker on their FF #48? You may argue that it would make a forgery appear to be authentic, but it would only lower the value. I would think that leaving off the sticker and simply claiming it as a legit autograph would be better than having a sticker on a forgery.
I ended up getting burned on this one, but I thought the Stan Lee signature appeared to be the real thing, and I still do. When I compare it to my other Stan autographs, I can’t see any difference (except with my FF #49, which is a story for another day).
THE SECOND TRY
Around the time I mailed the FF #48 to CBCS, I also met Aliens actors Michael Biehn and Carrie Henn. The convention I attended was small without any CGC or CBCS witnesses. I took the opportunity with both comics to try out CBCS’ Verified Signature Program.
Unfortunately, my Stan Lee signature didn’t make the cut, though CBCS did tell me that it doesn’t mean it isn’t legit, but just that Beckett couldn’t verify it. On the plus side, it still got the blue universal label, but it is notated as having a “Stan Lee” signature that is not verified by Beckett. It beats a green label, anyway.
After that news, I was a little nervous about my Aliens autographs. I met the actors in person, so I knew it was the real thing, but would it fail Beckett’s tests?
Luckily for me, the Aliens autographs got the stamp of approval from Beckett. The Aliens #1 came back graded at a 9.2, and it has the same yellow label as a witnessed signature would have. The only difference is that it reads “verified signatures” instead of “witnessed signatures” on the label.
In all, it took about twelve weeks to get the comic processed, the signatures verified, and to finish the pressing, grading, and encapsulating with fast pass for $115. Where I raise an eyebrow is the difference in the speed with the verification between Aliens #1 and FF #48. The Stan Lee/FF #48 took just four weeks to go through the same process. It leaves me to wonder if my supposed Stan signature got the attention it deserved, which would account for a seemingly legit autograph not getting the verification.
Why was the Stan Lee signature rejected so quickly while the Biehn and Henn signatures took much longer? If I get an explanation from CBCS, I will pass it along to you.
THE FINAL TALLY
All in all, it was a good experience. If the Aliens signatures had not come back verified, I would have sworn off the Verified Signature Program forever, and I would have recommended collectors everywhere do the same. Since that one made the cut, it makes me want to try it at least once more to truly decide once and for all if Beckett Media’s VSP is as accurate as they claim. I’ll be attending Megacon Orlando in August, and that will be a great time to try it out. True, the VSP is more costly than either CGC or CBCS’ witness program, but I look at it as paying for less hassle. For the added cost of the VSP, I skip the long lines at the grading companies’ booths, but I understand the risk involved with going around the witnessed signature program.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.