One problem book collectors face in assembling a collection is the possibility that some books sold as signed by the author actually have forged signatures. (This is why I won’t buy a book with a Philip K. Dick or Robert Heinlein signature unless it’s a dealer I trust or has some sort of providence.) Because such fraud is hard to prove, and the average amount lost to any single book signature fraud is probably well south of $2,000, I imagine the crime ranks only slightly higher for police fraud squads than busting counterfeit Pog rings, and such fraud is seldom prosecuted.
But “seldom” doesn’t mean “never.” In England, book dealer Allan Formhals has gone on trial for 15 counts of fraud, “accused of selling books on eBay signed with fake autographs of public figures including Winston Churchill, Robert Louis Stevenson and Pablo Picasso…Police also found the forged signatures of JRR Tolkien, Oliver Cromwell, Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette at Mr Formhal’s home, the court was told.”
This is why you should be suspicious of anyone who promotes “flatsigned” books (i.e., only a signature and no inscription) as being superior, since such signatures are easier to forge. “The longer the author inscription the better” has been the usual tradition in bookselling, and I see no reason to abandon it now.
But at least science fiction collectors should take heart that it could be worse, as fake signatures are a much greater problem in the realm of sports memorabilia, where such fraud is a constant problem.
The Formhals trial is still ongoing.