As collectors, we require a valid certificate of authenticity to prove that art, signed posters or autographs are authentic. A COA is similar to maker’s marks, branded furniture and stamped or molded designs or symbols that not only identify the item but add a possible “guarantee” to the validity of the object, enhancing its value.

A reputable COA is the most essential document for any collectible today. Over the last century, these certificates have allowed collectibles to be positioned as branded products, serving as deeds, legal statements and fiscal invoices. They provide credibility and are considered a promise that the piece in question is authentic. If a celebrity or artist has signed it, the COA promises that the signature is real.

Not all COA are legitimate. Some shops, online auctions and cruise ships create their own COA and use it to produce fakes and forgeries. This has caused controversy for sellers who have been provided a fake COA to market their collectibles and art.

The COA has become misleading, as people will see it and automatically believe that the document is valid. However, for current collectibles, fake certificates usually are followed by a trail of forgeries. Because these documents are not legally binding, it is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the COA contains all the proper information from its inception.

A genuine COA must accompany every purchase of a professional artwork or valuable pop culture collectible sold. The certificate must contain complete descriptive information about the item to guarantee its value. Without this information, many forgers can create fake COA, particularly if they are selling items on online auctions and markets.

Many fakes have little to no contact information of the person selling the item. The buyer should never accept an incomplete or photocopied certificate with illegible signatures (unless physically witnessed) or generalized information. The only valid type of COA is one stating conclusively that the art or collectible is by the author whose signature it bears.

If possible, try to be on-site when a COA is first being created, as this is the only way to know whether the collectible item or art piece is legitimate. Be careful of online auctions and other websites that state they have signed collectibles. Make sure that if they are selling online, they have a reputable COA company affiliated with them, and they don’t have their own branded COA.

The reputable COA companies are James Spence Authentication (JSA), Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS), Beckett and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA/DNA). 

We’ve created a website called Days Gone ( that reviews on-site COA and celebrity signature witnessing, as well as assistance with insurance replacement cost appraisals for their collectibles.

— Contact Jeff with questions: or send your letter to 5525 N. 12th St., Phoenix, AZ 85014.