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A Guide To Authenticating Michael Jordan Autographs

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Michael Jordan was one of the best basketball players ever, and demand for Jordan collectibles remains robust today.

Jordan’s 86 Fleer rookie card is one of the most forged cards of all time, and his autograph is also one of the most faked signatures in the hobby.

This guide will help collectors distinguish actual Jordan signatures from fake versions, providing specific red flags to look out for. If any questions remain, I invite you to post a discussion on our forum.

Michael Jordan’s Relationship With Upper Deck Authentics (UDA)

Jordan signed an exclusive contract with Upper Deck in 1991 to be the sole distributor of Michael Jordan’s autographed memorabilia and trading cards. This signed memorabilia came with authentication from Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA). Many collectors collecting signed Jordan memorabilia will only seek signed UDA pieces due to their known legitimacy. However, note that UDA certs have been known to be forged.

A fake Jordan UDA signed jersey that was sold on eBay.

Here’s a recent fake from eBay that looked real to many and had a fake UDA hologram. The biggest tell on this fake is that the slant of the M is at a much sharper angle than a traditional Jordan autograph. Key in on the M and look at the level of slant versus the original. This is one of the biggest red flags with a Jordan signature.

Collectors should know that anything signed prior to Jordan’s deal with Upper Deck would need to be authenticated by one of the big graders like PSA, Beckett or JSA. I would not trust any authenticated Jordan pieces from anyone other than these grading companies.

Common Characteristics of Authentic Michael Jordan Autographs

Let’s start by looking at the unique features of Michael Jordan’s signature.

Like most big celebrities, Jordan’s signature has evolved over the years.

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Early in his career, Jordan’s signature was more legible and detailed. You could distinctly read “Michael Jordan.”

jordan-signed-basketball
A signed UNC basketball from Jordan’s college days.

Post college, Jordan’s signature transformed into the standard autograph most collectors are familiar with- the prominent looping figure 8 M with a similar looping figure 8 J.

Here’s a great example of a Jordan signature authenticated by Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) in 2017.

Jordan’s simplified his signature in later years – here’s an autographed Upper Deck card signed in 2009. On this one, Jordan’s characteristic M and J are still in place but with little focus on the bottom figure 8 on both letters.

What To Look For In Authenticating Jordan Signatures?

I’ve found RareAir23.com to be an invaluable resource for assisting with Jordan’s signatures. Their website provides the significant areas to focus on when evaluating Jordan’s signature. Note that all photos below are from actual Jordan signatures.

1. Consistency Of The “M” Stroke and Angle Of The ‘M’

M should be at the correct angle with correct execution of the ‘figure 8’ at the end of the M

An authentic Jordan auto

Here’s a clearly fake Jordan auto on a basketball. The first problem is that the M is too upright and at an improper slant…also the tops of the M are too high, and the last down stroke on the M does not come down far enough.

2. “Figure 8” loop at the end of the “M”

Not all autographs are equal, but many fakes have a flat bottom on the 8. Here is an authentic figure 8 M on a Jordan signature.

The RairAir23 site did a great job comparing fake and authentic signatures based on this crucial fact alone. Here is a photo on their site–full credit to them. See how the fake Jordan signature has a flat bottom on the J.

Credit RareAir23.com

3. The “peaks that make up the “I” “C” “H” and “L” in “Michael”

It is one of the harder tells, but a fake auto often has incorrect placement of the H and the L too close to the M.

Here’s a real auto and in many of Jordan’s signature during his playing days, these letters in Michael are barely legible from the signature.

But in clear fakes there are some big errors in the Michael signature, notably with the H and the L too close to the M in Michael or with big ‘twin peaks’ in terms of the H and the L with way too high tops.

Here’s a fake Jordan signature with these issues among other problems – the I, H and L are all too close and way abnormal compared to Jordan’s real signature. The M and J are also way off.

4. The “J” Stroke

The J in Jordan has a figure 8 similar to the M on many autos, but not always; look for consistency in stroke with no stops and starts.

An authentic signed Jordan auto from UDA

Here’s a clearly fake Jordan auto with many issues but the biggest problems being the stops and starts which are very noticeable on the J in Jordan–see the uneven lines? This tells me that someone was trying to draw this autograph and was not really signed by Jordan.

5. “Figure” 8 loop at the end of the “J”

Too wide of a loop is a red flag, as are pointed edges on the J.

An authentic signed 85 Star Lite All-Stars Michael Jordan

Here’s a fake autographed Jordan ball. Look at the J specifically in ‘Jordan’ and notice how the down stroke stops at the bottom with a pointed edge and has no proper consistency in stroke — looks like a stop and start to me.

A fake Jordan autographed basketball

6. The ‘D’ Loop Stroke in ‘Jordan’

While most collectors wouldn’t even be able to tell that there’s a D in Jordan’s signature if we key into the loop that often intersects with the J in Jordan.

Here’s an authentic Jordan signature on a baseball. See how the

Here’s a fake that has the wrong D loop stroke with an overextended stroke pointing in the wrong direction.

Here’s another fake that came to me from an avid reader of our site. This was authenticated by GAI, which had a very very sketchy past of grading fake Jordan signatures in the 90s.

Based on the list above, we can see that the figure 8 on the M is not distinct, has starts and stops and the figure 8 on the J is not typical of a real Jordan autograph.

And our point on the wrong extension of the D is evident here in that the stroke is flat and looks like a new stroke off the other writing in the pen.

Autograph Authenticators To Avoid

Over the years, several authenticators and sellers have been called out for authenticating fake Jordan signatures. Here we list some of the authenticators to look out for. Please let me know if you know of any other fake autos circulating for Jordan autos so we can add to the list. (email me at chris@allvintagecards.com)

Global Authentics (GAI) – Early on, GA was legit, as they had some big-time graders in-house, including Mark Murphy, one of the biggest wax pack collectors/authenticators in the business. However, over time, Global Authentics developed a really bad reputation for authenticating forged signatures – especially many Michael Jordan-signed jerseys and cards. I also have found many fake GA certs. I’m unsure how accurate the lookup function is on their website.

Sports Authority/Steve Klimek – Seen a few fake Jordan autos from Sports Authority, not sure how many are in circulation but these are definitely fakes.

Field Of Dreams – I’ve seen plenty of fake Jordan autos from Field Of Dreams, AVOID!

Authentication Direct – Tons of crap signatures on eBay of Jordan and other big stars. All I have seen from Authentication Direct are junk autos. Most are sold from Memorabilia Auction out of Ohio, I don’t know if the two are related but I would avoid.

In Person Authentics – Garbage autos, avoid.

How To Not Get Scammed If Buying A Jordan Auto

First, if possible, stick to the key authenticators—find Jordan items authenticated by PSA, Beckett, JSA, or UDA.

Second, compare the signature in question to other Jordan autographs. Jordan signatures are not cheap, in many cases you’ll be spending multiple thousands of dollars, so spend your time evaluating.

An authentic UDA authenticated Jordan signed warm-up jersey is on sale now on eBay for $13K!

Pull up as many REAL autos that resemble the signed item you are buying. Look at the PSA website for legit Jordan autos, or search eBay for PSA or UDA-authenticated Jordan autographs.

Even for signed items authenticated by the big grading companies, it can be worth spending the $10 on a quick signature review from Beckett or PSA.

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