Paul McCartney always gives fans a thrill and some even get a chance to make a pile of money if the ex-Beatle himself signs his name to a piece of memorabilia like a guitar. Autographs from rock & roll legends sell for thousands – but if you don't see it signed, how do you know the signatures are real?
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John Reznikoff is an expert in historic signatures. He says the rock & roll autograph market is littered with fake or dubious signatures. That's why he stepped in last spring when a Connecticut church tried to raise money by auctioning off a guitar that was supposedly signed by Paul McCartney. Reznikoff says the church didn't know it but the autograph wasn't McCartney’s.
He told INSIDE EDITION, “It's like printing money. If it looks like it's too good to be true it probably is.”
The guitar came from a company called CharityGROW which supplies charities with what it says are authentic autographed memorabilia for fundraising auctions
A CharityGROW 'Rock Legends' guitar was being auctioned off by a non-profit organization in New York last month. Organizations like this trust CharityGROW that the autographs are authentic.
At the auction, a representative of the non-profit even announced, “Every signature is authenticated on this guitar.” It sold for $6,500.
An INSIDE EDITION producer reached out to CharityGROW posing as someone interested in planning a charity auction and spoke to Ben Malkin, their fundraising specialist. He sent us six guitars signed by music legends like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd.
One guitar, called a “Legends of Country Music” guitar certainly looks impressive. Some of the autographs featured Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain. But then one signature really caught our attention. It says Tammy Wynette.
Just one problem. Tammy Wynette died in 1998. The guitar with her signature was made in 2013, according to the manufacturer.
Wynette would have had to come back from the dead to sign that guitar. And she wasn't the only dead-musician-walking. One guitar was supposedly signed by the original members of legendary British rock band, Pink Floyd. It includes a signature of keyboardist Richard Wright who died in 2008. The year before the manufacturer says the guitar was even made. When we sent the band photos of the guitar, their management said "…these signatures are definitely fake."
How could it be? All the guitars from CharityGROW come with a certificate of authenticity from an independent company.
John Reznikoff said, “A certificate is only as good as the person who signs it.”
John Reznikoff compared the Tammy Wynette signature on the “Country Music Legends” guitar with a personal check with Wynette's endorsement on the back. The verdict?
“If somebody offered this to me, to purchase, I wouldn't walk away, I’d run away,” said Reznikoff.
And we went one step further. We called Wynette’s daughter, country singer Georgette Jones, who said, “That signature on the guitar is definitely not my mother's signature. I think it's just despicable."
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero spoke to CharityGROW's Ben Malkin as he left that New York auction, “So, you claim that your guitars are all personally signed by music superstars?”
“Yeah. Of course,” he replied.
Guerrero then said, “But we had several autograph authenticators take a look at them. I'll just show you an example. This is one of the guitars you sent us. This right here is Tammy Wynette's autograph. Sir, Tammy Wynette died in 1998. And this guitar was manufactured in 2013. How do you explain that?”
“This is not my company,” said Malkin.
Guerrero then asked, “Did she come back from the dead?”
Malkin denied any wrongdoing. CharityGROW sent us a statement saying there is no accurate way to 100% guarantee the authenticity of signatures, which is why they rely on an independent authenticator to certify the autographs. CharityGROW also said they have no outstanding customer complaints and they offer an unconditional lifetime refund.
And CharityGROW did agree to take back that Paul McCartney guitar from the church in Connecticut.