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Author Topic:   Printed Armstrong signature on stamp block
Scott
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posted 04-05-2007 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Almost by chance I stumbled upon something very interesting (and troubling) a couple of months ago.

This signed Neil Armstrong stamp block was being offered on the auction market and a friend asked me about it. The shape/style of the signature looked okay to me for the most part. I was not completely sure it was authentic but was leaning that way. I reviewed an image database of known authentic Armstrong signatures to see if I could give my friend a good opinion.

Many of the signatures I looked at for comparison were ones on Apollo 11 insurance covers.

One in particular looked a great deal like the signature on the stamp and this initially made me more comfortable with the one on the stamp.

But then I realized that they appeared too much alike. It became apparent that they were the same signature. Even the tiniest of features matched from one to the other.

I then re-sized images of both so that they were exactly the same size on my computer screen and then printed them out "full size." They overlayed/matched perfectly.

As the signature on the insurance cover was authentically hand-signed by Armstrong, there was only one conclusion that could be made: Someone had scanned the authentic signature on the Apollo 11 insurance cover and printed the image of it onto the stamp block.

Subsequently the actual item was sent to me. Under magnification it showed multiple colors in the interior of the pen "strokes" (this is a 2x re-size of the highest resolution scan I could make, so it isn't really sharp, but one can still see the different colors):

Also, unlike what one would expect to see in a hand-signed stamp block, the lines display no evidence of alteration when intersecting the stamp perforations:

It was indeed printed. It was expertly done - the person who created this item went to great lengths to make it deceptive.

A conclusion which can be made of course is that the first owner of this "signed" stamp block is the person who fraudulently created it.

An assumption that can reasonably be made is that the person who printed the signature on this stamp block likely also owned this specific insurance cover at one time, or at the very least had access to it to make a very high resolution scan of its Armstrong signature.

There is of course the slim possibility that an innocent person could have owned both of these items at the same or different times in the past, but that seems highly unlikely.

If anyone has any information on the ownership history of either of these items, I can be anonymously contacted at: scornish at houston dot rr dot com

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-05-2007 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Scott:
I then re-sized images of both so that they were exactly the same size on my computer screen and then printed them out "full size." They overlayed/matched perfectly.
Here's the digital equivalent of what Scott did to compare the two signatures:

JasonIUP
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posted 04-05-2007 08:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JasonIUP     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great work, Scott! I'm impressed. I'm sure your research is further than PSA or JSA would go.

Scott
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posted 04-05-2007 08:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You are brilliant, Robert. I hadn't even finished making my post and you already had an animated GIF created and posted!

Thank you for doing that btw.

stsmithva
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posted 04-05-2007 09:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott's detective work, followed minutes later by Robert's technical savvy, makes this one impressive and informative post. And worrying. What gets done at this point? Does the chain of ownership of that stamp block get traced back? Like, to use a dazzling analogy, the episode of "Happy Days" when Fonzie tracked down who started the rumor about him by asking who each person had heard it from?

davidcwagner
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posted 04-05-2007 10:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for davidcwagner   Click Here to Email davidcwagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the cover the top of the N stroke intersects the post mark. On the stamp block this same portion intersects the left perforation in the closeup.

On the stamp block closeup I see two parallel lines in the same position across the N stroke as the black of the postmark across the N stroke on the cover. Anyone else see this?

Is this an indication of Photoshop style enhancement of this section?

mjanovec
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posted 04-05-2007 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One has to wonder just how many of these fakes are out there. Scary stuff. Perhaps if a few more are uncovered and collectors can recall where they got them, it'll lead to figuring out who is responsible.

I can't imagine the forger did just one. Plus, one should consider that this forger may have a few different "templates" to use for printing...not just one example. It's only a lucky accident (well...and a very sharp eye!) that Scott found this match.

Michael
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posted 04-05-2007 11:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael   Click Here to Email Michael     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, I am still trying to figure out how it was done. Scott, you are a genius!

gliderpilotuk
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posted 04-06-2007 12:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Detective work at its best.

Bet there'll be a lot of people checking their Armstrongs this weekend. Anyone with the same pattern on an item should mention it here in order to close the net on the forger.

Bob M
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posted 04-06-2007 07:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great work, Scott!!! And Robert's expert assistance with the animated GIF makes it totally clear that the two are identical. What's scary about this discovery is that this one lone example is probably just the tip of the iceberg. We should expect more such examples to be discovered, which should lead to the source of this deception and crime.

This new forgery technique should shake up not just the space autograph hobby, but all autograph collecting.

poolman18
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posted 04-06-2007 09:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for poolman18   Click Here to Email poolman18     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is definitely interesting. I have been thinking about this for sometime. With the use of computers and computer programs it was just a matter of time before somebody tried this.

Next we can probably see autographed letters being written -- given the value of some of them. This makes signed in person articles worth so much more.

Ken Havekotte
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posted 04-06-2007 04:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott -- Most interesting and great work! May I ask how you came across the Armstrong-signed plate block of stamps? Secondly, is the Armstrong signature impression more of a "printed" impression, or perhaps "machine-generated" rubber stamp, or even from a computer high-tech template? I'll certainly keep a watchful eye out for this and perhaps--now considering--similar patterns. Hopefully only this one pattern has done, but...

zee_aladdin
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posted 04-06-2007 04:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for zee_aladdin   Click Here to Email zee_aladdin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If someone can do THAT with photoshop they can probably do it with MONEY!!! ...scary stuff indeed!!

SRB
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posted 04-06-2007 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, terrific work, not only to find it but also to be able to show us so clearly how this fake was made. In looking for similar fakes, would the "easiest" way to look for them is to check the signature under a high resolution magnifying glass, say 10x or 15x magnification? Would this enable someone to see the color differences in the signature showing that it was not made by a pen but a printer? Even if this approach works for a signature in a color (e.g., blue) would it work if the signature is in black?

fabfivefreddy
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posted 04-06-2007 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A masterful piece of detective work.

This type of forgery is is a result of the new age of technology which allows printing and digital image manipulation.

Examining atographs carefully and under magnification is the best way to detect these.

Scott
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posted 04-06-2007 06:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The multi-coloring and its visibility I suppose would depend on the type of printer used. Perhaps someone who has a good knowledge of printers can weigh in here.

A printed signature in black would probably be tougher to detect with certainty than a color printed signature, using magnification. There is spectral equipment which can detect with certainty machine-printed items, but it is not widely used, yet. Interestingly, just such a machine was later used to examine this item and not surprisingly further proved quantitatively that the sig is printed. Perhaps of interest, it also showed that the stamp block itself is genuine. Using a lower-tech method... a black sig would probably display no darkening within an intersection of two lines (this would likely be detectable by applying a gamma treatment to a high resolution, uncompressed scan made with a good scanner). That, and an unusual sheen and general appearance, would likely betray it.

It is my impression (no pun intended) that this was probably done with an inkjet printer, or at the very least a printing method that did not involve pressure being applied to the surface. When I examined it in-person I could not see any evidence at all of an impression having been made on the surface.

Regarding where I first saw this stamp block, unfortunately I cannot reveal that. It may sound odd that I cannot really comment on that aspect of it - but I hope you understand.

I did not have access to the insurance cover, so could not easily compare the relative sizes, but I would not be surprised if the stamp sig is smaller than the insurance cover sig. If this is the case, the perpetrator may have believed that resizing the sig would provide some measure of stealth. If so, it didn't work too well.

I and others had long worried that as printing technology rapidly became both cheaper and more advanced that someone would try something like this. The silver lining is that what was done here is a provable criminal act. There is no subjectivity involved at all. The "signed" stamp block has a chain of ownership and the beginning of it will be found.

mjanovec
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posted 04-06-2007 06:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SRB:
Even if this approach works for a signature in a color (e.g., blue) would it work if the signature is in black?

Shhh...stop giving them ideas!!

I'd have to imagine black would be pretty difficult to detect using this method, since a printer would simply be laying down black ink, just varying shades of colored ink.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 04-06-2007 07:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The person that did this is likely an experienced forger. My guess is that they have handled plenty of space items in the past. This is not the work of a newcomer or amateur to the field. I bet there are others out there.

Novaspace
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posted 04-06-2007 08:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Novaspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm impressed... and troubled. If this was done lithographically, there would be tiny dots, and printing presses would be difficult to use on such a small item.

Therefore this is an inkjet, or maybe a laser printer, because the multicolored dots are "smeared" and indistinct. If it is an inkjet, it is water-soluble, unless sprayed with some sort of fixative.

Secondly, the crook was very good at Photoshop, in order to subtract the intersection of the original strokes with other colors. Such a master would also easily be able to alter the strokes themselves slightly to further avoid detection.

I think the ultimate detection will be through seeing the multicolored strokes under magnification.

I don't see this kind of thing stopping with Armstrongs, but sports and presidents, also. We should spread the word.

munjum1
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posted 04-06-2007 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for munjum1   Click Here to Email munjum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, you should star in your own television series... cSI: Houston (collectSPACE Investigators)

Scott
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posted 04-06-2007 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ha! Thanks - but there's two problems with that: I can't act and Robert might frown on the copyright infringement.

MScherzi
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posted 04-07-2007 12:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MScherzi   Click Here to Email MScherzi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This was not done by a laser printer because a laser printer uses high temperatures to fuse the toner to the paper. Try and run a cover through a laser to see what happens.

The person never had to have the original in his possession. There are many images out there of autographs. Could even have been from a photograph (perhaps in an auction catalog) or a web page. I've requested high res scans at times from other collectors myself.

Thanks to Scott and to Robert for this info.

spaceflori
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posted 04-07-2007 01:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceflori   Click Here to Email spaceflori     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great work, Scott!

That's indeed frightening though not new - we had this case before discovered with a George Harrison signature received inperson on a card that suddenly showed up on a "Beatles white album":

This discovery has been made by renowned autograph dealer Markus Brandes who originally sold the card just to see "his signature" appear on a Beatles album.

It definitely should become more public!

spaced out
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posted 04-07-2007 02:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scary stuff but it's all the more frightening because it's not the work of a 'master forger'. Anyone who know how to use Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro could scan an image and do the minor manipulation needed to make a printable version. Beyond this, the only equipment needed by the forger is an ink jet printer.

Steve Zarelli
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posted 04-07-2007 08:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Steve Zarelli   Click Here to Email Steve Zarelli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Novaspace:
I don't see this kind of thing stopping with Armstrongs, but sports and presidents, also. We should spread the word.
It's already being done. A few years ago a forger was masterfully imprinting Babe Ruth signatures and inscriptions on vintage wire photos. A number were sold at very high cost through major auction houses before someone caught the "match." Like the example above, they were very difficult to detect with the naked eye. If not for the forger getting greedy and making several copies (so someone eventually noticed a pattern), they may have never been detected.

Michael
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posted 04-07-2007 09:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael   Click Here to Email Michael     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Zarelli:
Like the example above, they were very difficult to detect with the naked eye.
Okay, so it is difficult to detect with the naked eye, with that said, how is the average collector be able to detect this type of forgery? What do you look for with a magnifying glass? I have a magnifying glass but I don't know what to look for.

Also the people who are doing this and getting caught don't even go to jail. They just seem to get away with it. This is a criminal act.

albatron
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posted 04-07-2007 09:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sadly this isn't "new" news. Some time back we found a guy who was doing this with X-15 flight covers and Neil's signature. He lived in Florida as I recall but we couldn't prove he was the one actually doing it.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 04-07-2007 10:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mike, you can observe areas where the lines cross each other under magnification- there should be separate ink track marks going each way. Printed or rubber stamped items will have ink that is even in all directions.

You can try this yourself- look at autographs that are printed in catalogs and books and compare them with real handwriting under about 10-25x. Look at the cross overs and the starts and stops.

The best book you can get is "Forging History" by Kenneth Rendell. It will teach you the techniques.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-07-2007 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by albatron:
Some time back we found a guy who was doing this with X-15 flight covers and Neil's signature.
Can you share examples of these or point to where the report about them was published?

Michael
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posted 04-07-2007 01:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael   Click Here to Email Michael     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Al, are any images of the X-15 covers you refer to posted online so that we in the collecting community can be aware of them?

munjum1
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posted 04-07-2007 01:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for munjum1   Click Here to Email munjum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the age of the Sharpie, indentations may not be as reliable of a indicator but still may be useful in vintage signatures. I am not an authenticator, but it seems that indentations would be visible to the naked eye in some cases.

Lunar rock nut
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posted 04-07-2007 03:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunar rock nut   Click Here to Email Lunar rock nut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael:
Ok....so it is difficult to detect with the naked eye....with that said...how is the average collector be able to detect this type of forgery??
An inexpensive easily pocket portable magnifier like the one in this link for only $9.99 + S & H Would come in very handy.

As Scott pointed out the color dappling in one of his examples. I printed the real signature pic off of my canon inkjet then looked at it with this mini microscope and saw a great likeness to Scott's image, magenta and cyan spotting. Then I looked at my Buzz Aldrin signed photo and the lines and color is almost solid. The difference was night and day under magnification.

albatron
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posted 04-07-2007 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael:
Are any images of the X-15 covers you refer to posted online so that we in the collecting community can be aware of them?
It was discussed here and on the astronauts yahoogroups quite in depth, quite some time ago. About the time we did the Armstrong signature study (myself, Ken Havekotte, Gerry Montague, Steve Zarelli and some others). Ironically, the signature printed was a forgery. And not one of the better ones but would fool most folks.

I am not sure if I have the cover we discussed anymore, but I'll look for it. I had one and while researching the validity of the signature, and comparing it to an index card someone had, thats when we noticed it.

Don Brady recalls it also.

mikelarson
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posted 04-08-2007 12:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikelarson   Click Here to Email mikelarson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, this is a great (and scary) topic. I work for a major manufacturer of printing and digital imaging devices (it's not HP, but believe it or not there is another Mike Larson who does work for HP) so this topic is particularly interesting to me.

From what I know about inkjet printing everyone's comments about spotting these forgeries are pretty much right on the mark. This item has to have been created on an inkjet as color laser toner looks a little "shiny" and would be pretty easy to spot. Dye sublimation technology wouldn't work either and Kim covered the "dots" that offset printing creates. Inkjet printers work well for these types of forgeries since the ink in the printer is similar to the ink used in pens and the printers can handle just about any type of paper finish, thickness and size.

When identifying these forgeries, magnification of the signature is key, and then look for other colors in the ink or clearly defined pen strokes. Lower quality inkjet printers should also show banding when magnified, but with today's print quality it's possible the banding won't show up when magnified.

Another thing to consider is paper. This type of forgery would work very well with index cards, postal covers, and other types of non-glossy paper. However, it would not work very well for items with glossy surfaces like lithos, photos, etc. Today's pigment inks don't adhere very well to glossy paper unless the paper is specifically designed for pigment inks. That's why most companies produce their own glossy photo paper, which is chemically matched to work best with their inks.

I'll do some research on black ink to see if there are any identifying characteristics since multiple colors aren't used to produce the output. I also may be able to provide assistance to anyone who wants to research this further.

mensax
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posted 04-08-2007 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensax   Click Here to Email mensax     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suppose it is just a matter of time before forgeries reach a level that they cannot be distinguished from authentic ones... even under a microscope, and by an expert.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 04-08-2007 09:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mike-, thanks for the info on printer ink. That was well stated. It also gives us some indication of what items to scrutinize carefully.

Thank goodness for cS. We would never learn all this without such a great forum.

Scott
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posted 04-08-2007 09:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks so much for that very useful info on printers and inks, Mike. Thanks also Kim, Matt and Tahir for your excellent printing/printer information.

Florian or Markus, do you know what kind of printer may have been used for the fraudulently printed signature discovered by Markus on the White Album? Needless to say it was probably not a common inkjet printer - I have a hard time seeing an album being fed through one.

Probably some more advanced printing technique was used?

reznikoff
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posted 04-08-2007 10:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for reznikoff   Click Here to Email reznikoff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, let me congratulate you agin for the job well done here. I also want to thank you for allowing me to examine it with the VSC. For those who don't know about this machine and those who have knocked it in a laughable way here is a link.

This machine is not available to the general public for fear that it will get in the wrong hands. I currently have the stamp block at my office and was able to positivly establish that the signature was not applied by hand but mechanically. I want to stress that my job was easy and it was Scott that was Sherlock Holmes here. There are two ways that I was able to establish the facts here. One is by using known Armstrong original signatures (one item I used an insurance cover that I believe came from the same batch as the model for the forgery) and comparing differences in the near infrared light reflected or transmitted by the two inks. The second method is a little more complicated and I will quote directly from my manual "...look for differences in the photoluminescence or fluorescence emitted by inks and, again, this is normally observed in the red to near infrared region of the spectrum. This fluorescence may be generated by illumination with intense visible light that has been filtered free of near infrared. As before, an examination of the document is conducted through a range of long wave pass filters with increasing thresholds between 650nm and 1000nm. Any difference in the spectrum of the fluorescence will become evident under at least one of the filters"

I have established a card catalog of known reactions to both normal ink and "mechanical" ink and can make ascertations based on these exemplers. There has been a lot of misinformation and assumptions on this string. First let me say that whoever said that a such an item as a stamp block cannot pass through a laser printer is dead wrong.Also statements about intersecting lines and dots under magnification were not 100% accurate.I will leave it at that. What is accurate is that this has been a problem for over 3 years now (babe Ruth, George Harrison and others). I am a bit ashamed to say that I have not discussed it before in public because I am terrified at what can be done. I apoligize for this and hope you all understand. While the cat is out of the bag, there is a lot more to my examination that I will not discuss at present for fear of the forgers detecting methods of discovery and altering their productions to avoid being caught.

The fact is that if someone wants to get away with this sort of thing, they probably will... once. Alas here is the ray of light here. Every forgery scam I have ever worked on shows that forgers all share certain attributes: one being greed. I'll bet the farm that there are more of these out there and would request any info that you get to go to Scott who will forward to me.

I think I should ask you guys to avoid going to deep into this on this public website because a couple of you have gotten very close to some very dangerous aspects of this case. If I am wrong, let me know, your opinions are welcome. I have given this file to an important Government law enforcement agency (you can guess) and feel that it will not be pursued for several reasons. This one case does not represent a large enough, in terms of dollars, fraud. Also at present there are no injured parties. Finally, the case is not newsworthy enough to help the career of someone who would take it. Thus it is very important to find out more, in a very stealth way. Hope this has been helpful.

fabfivefreddy
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posted 04-08-2007 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fabfivefreddy   Click Here to Email fabfivefreddy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, John. Seems the good old days are gone now with respect to just examining autographs under some magnification.

The instruments you use are an interesting science.

mikelarson
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posted 04-08-2007 12:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikelarson   Click Here to Email mikelarson     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks John for adding to the scientific nature of this discussion. I share your concern with talking about this issue in a publich forum, but also worry about saying nothing and thus risking indirectly helping this type of thing proliferate within the industry.

Your machine and your knowledge are undoubtedly very reliable methods of identifying these types of forgeries, and we collectors sincerely appreciate your efforts at combating forgeries of all types. But many more potential crooks have access to Photoshop and inkjet printers compared to the number of autograph collectors who have access to you and your detection technology. I may be naive, but wouldn' it be better to educate collectors on this new risk and protections they can take instead of limiting public discussion?

Your comment of forgers and greed was also on the money. If we've already confirmed that one of these forgeries exist, you can bet that others we don't know about are already in circulation. I wonder if this type of problem isn't like a weed in your yard. If you don't address it immediately, before you know it your entire yard is covered with weeds.


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Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47a





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