A sports-memorabilia authenticator is claiming that someone used an autopen machine to sign Dak Prescott’s autograph for the Panini sports-card company, which then advertised the cards as containing the Cowboys quarterback’s actual handwritten signature.
According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the authentication company, Beckett Grading Services, is refusing to verify the cards featuring Prescott’s signature on cards from Panini’s 2016 Prizm set.
“They had a very machine-like feel,” Steve Grad, Beckett’s principal authenticator, told Rovell. “You could see the starts and stops.
“I immediately knew they were autopen,” he continued. “I’ve never heard of a modern athlete doing this.”
According to a story on Beckett’s website, some of the cards that already had been shipped to collectors have been recalled by Panini.
“We were excited as the first wave of Dak Prescott autographed redemption cards started to come into the office but quickly noticed the autographs didn’t match up to what we had seen in the past,” Beckett Vice President Jeromy Murray said. “We know that autographs are not always going to look the same but these just didn’t look right to us so we had our autograph authentication guys (BAS) take a look at the signatures.
“They quickly agreed that these did not look like authentic Dak Prescott signatures. The signatures looked to be from an autopen machine, simply based on the uniformed, nonflowing look we have seen from authentic Dak signatures in the past. We alerted the team at Panini America immediately so they could address it with Dak’s representatives and the NFL Players Association.”
We’ve reached out to Panini for comment, and will update this post if the company responds. We’ve also reached out to the NFL Players Association. Prescott’s representatives did not return Rovell’s requests for comment.
Autopen machines have been around since the early 19th century (Thomas Jefferson was an early adopter) as a way to quickly churn out multiple signatures. The machines are mainly used by celebrities responding to voluminous autograph requests via mail. It’s unknown whether Prescott himself was aware of the alleged machine-produced autographs, as Rovell points out that the blank labels Panini used for the autographs may have been sent to his marketing agents first.
It’s hardly the first time Panini has been accused of either shoddy work or shady practices. In 2010, the company put 905 Magic Johnson autographs on a card belonging to Jordan Swagerty, a pitcher who never advanced past Class AA after he was selected in the second round of the 2010 MLB draft. In 2012, a sports memorabilia dealer who pleaded guilty to mail fraud told FBI agents that he sold bogus game-used jerseys to buyers from major sports-card companies, including Panini, alleging that the companies were aware of the fraud.
Then, in 2014, Panini said it made a simple mistake when it labeled a group of NFL collectibles as “game worn” instead of merely “event worn,” a standard that significantly lowers a collectible’s value.
And, as Rovell points out, the company announced in May that some cards allegedly signed by Atlanta Falcons first-round pick Takkarist McKinley were not actually signed by him. They sent out properly autograph cards to anyone who returned theirs.