The most current incident surrounding Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston involves possibly accepting payment for signing memorabilia. To date, no evidence at all has been provided which shows this to be true. The reasons this is a poor attempt by the media to find something to attack Winston with in what we can only see is their ongoing witch hunt are numerous and why we added the Artificial term to the title. We will try to address each of those reasons.
Where did this all start?
This all began after University of Georgia runningback Todd Gurley was investigated for taking payments for signing his name to merchandise which is an NCAA violation. These autographs were authenticated by one of the leaders in the industry, James Spence Authentication.
The dealer who had Gurley sign for pay reportedly turned him in after being spiteful with the Heisman frontrunner for whatever reason. This is a major difference in the cases between Gurley and Winston. They both have a lot of autographs out there, but Gurley is the only one to have a dealer come forward to blow the whistle on him accepting money for signing. Having proof is certainly the biggest difference and there has yet to be any in Winston’s case. The dealer has since “lawyered up” and has essentially ended any chance at all he ever had at getting any future athletes to sign anything for him. Too bad for him.
Didn’t they use the same dealer?
If you hear anyone say Gurley and Winston used the same dealer for their signed items, it is 100% false. Their autographs were authenticated by the same company. That is the only known relation. That company is not a dealer and many dealers and fans use them as a resource for authentication of their signed items only and they are not a dealer themselves. That in no way means the same dealer who paid Gurley to sign, and just happened to authenticate those signatures with the same company Winston’s autographs were authenticated by, had anything to do with anything involving Jameis Winston.
That is the first misconception which should be avoided. The authentication company should not be referred to as a dealer at all.
If he is innocent, why is FSU investigating him for this?
This is where the media creates their own story. After they saw Winston had items authenticated by the same company Gurley did, all they had to do was throw some hypothetical questions or stories out in the air with no basis and it would be enough to require Florida State to do their own investigation just to make sure there was no wrongdoing by Winston. This is the usual CYA move by programs done by their Compliance Office regularly.
Networks like ESPN know this protocol and know all they have to do is make some hypothetical reference and underhanded accusation and they can create the story and direct the narrative without any provocation. As sad as that is, it is reality and it worked in this case. Even still, they have yet to uncover any evidence at all to date of Winston doing anything wrong.
What about the numbers in a sequence?
Essentially, this does not matter at all. Even the owner of the company recently said that basically means nothing. He has been quoted as saying:
“I know clients of mine who have their entire family, 10 to 15 people, and they equip them with jerseys, helmets, photos… Dealers go to fan fests, games. There are people all over the country who go after the No. 1 athletes. Jameis Winston has been playing for two years now. From the moment of his first game until now, the guy has been signing autographs. Have we authenticated over 900 pieces? That’s quite possible. Go down the list of the top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates; we’re linked to all of them.”
Of course he has more items than anyone else, possibly ever in the history of college football. It would make less sense if he didn’t, in fact it would make no sense at all given the circumstances.
How many other Heisman Trophy winners ever return to school? Very few, it rarely happens because they are usually seniors or draft eligible and forgo their remaining eligibility. How many have won it their freshman year and became the youngest ever to win it up to that time making it a historic moment? Just one, Johnny Manziel the previous year. How many also won the national championship their freshman year? None. How many played a second sport, even after winning the Heisman and national championship allowing countless more opportunities for fans and dealers to collect items? Absolutely none. Jameis Winston is a very unique athlete and fans and dealers have a rare opportunity at having much greater access to him to have items signed. It is basic math and common sense.
Just from playing baseball in two seasons, he would have been available to fans at least 250 more times in his career. In addition to all the games and tournaments, he has had more scrimmages, more media days, twice the fan days and more. His availability is second to none.
He has had more signing opportunities than any Heisman winner in the modern era, possibly even the previous era as well and possibly even ever since the business of selling autographed items has taken off. Why it would shock anyone he would have so many signed items is beyond me in all actuality.
Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel called this incident a farce. He also quoted James Spence as saying, “It’s highly possible it’s from different people. They might have been together, like five people at a Jose Fernandez signing get five autographs each and then come to us (at the event) to get them authenticated.”
That is coming straight from the head of the company on the issue. The sequences and volume really mean nothing. Family and friends collect items and send them in to be authenticated together and dealers collect for a long time on their own as well as for other clients and often even go in with other dealers and send them in or go to events at once as well. Often, the sequential numbering is not done in the order they receive the items, but in the order they authenticate them and they try to authenticate the same players at once whenever possible.
James Spence brings up an interesting point though about Jose Fernandez since I noticed his name pop up often when I was looking over the JSA listings for Winston’s name. The JSA list has at least 160 items signed by Jose Fernandez spread throughout listings. After going back and cross examining Fernandez’s listings with those of Winston, I found within close proximity of items signed by Fernandez (within about 20-25 listings), were over 1025 items by Winston. These were found between about 30 different sequential sets. I even broke them down with how many were photos, footballs, baseballs, helmets, pylons, magazines and more, but I will spare you those details for now. I found that fact very intriguing that so many, over half of all found, were done at events surrounding Jose Fernandez after Mr. Spence came out and said that.
There were some which were obviously at a BCS event, some obviously from an ACC media event, some obviously from a Heisman event, some from FSU Fan Days, some from just random individual encounters, some during certain games like after Miami, Clemson, the Orange Bowl, etc and others you could tell just based on who else had items authenticated near his name. It told a story just by some of the names within close proximity of his on the list.
According to the JSA website, they currently have 72 events planned over the next year all over the country. That is plenty of opportunities for fans, dealers and even fraudsters to try getting their items authenticated without having to mail anything in, which they can still do if they choose.
Why so many at once?
The main reason for sending them in all or having them all authenticated at once is the price. If you navigate the JSA website, you will see there is a price schedule for authenticating signatures and the more you send at once, the cheaper your bill will be.
Let’s do some simple math. If you are a dealer, is it better to submit one item at a time at $35 each or collect as many items as possible over a period of time and send them all at once for possibly $5 or less per item? Seems like an easy decision to me as it could severely cut into their overhead.
If you submit, let’s just use a nice round number of 30 items, all at once, it could cost a minimum of $150 or $5 per item plus postage & insurance or the gas you used to get to an event. That is a very significant difference compared to the cost of $1050 plus postage/insurance it would cost to send them all individually which would cut into the dealers overhead dramatically, their profit, margins and what the end customer has to pay which the dealer or group of dealers would obviously try to avoid. So if a dealer(s) or group of family and friends really wanted to save a ton of money, authenticating items in bulk in such a way is the best way to do so.
If you look at some of the groups in the Y range on the JSA website, it is very convenient he had nearly 200 items signed and at each break surrounding his sequenced group, Derek Jeter was on either end and this came just a couple of weeks before the Seminoles baseball team faced off against the Yankees in an exhibition game.
In about 190 items, that is eight different sequences and that trend continues throughout the rest of the list, which are all in the J category from all we could find. The company will not release who all the dealers are who have sent items in which could go a long way in clearing things up, so we have to go by the only information we currently have.
Just being in February is not surprising at all. All of those in the Y area were photographed between February 5-7th, 2014, right at about a month exactly after winning the national championship. That seems to be just the right amount of time to get all the things you may have collected during the season while Winston was leading the Heisman race so you could prepare accordingly, then could now finally have it all sent at once after the value of each skyrocketed after he won so many awards and the big ring. Much of that merchandise was likely very recent since they had NC logos on them so they had been done less than a month earlier.
The nearly 2000 items in the J category, had no photographs or date. That is very concerning and we will get into that more below.
How could he have signed so many?
It is not hard at all really. ESPN’s Danny Kanell, a former FSU QB himself, claimed you could sign hundreds of items in about ten minutes. One of the best traits Jameis Winston has is his accommodation of fans and signing as much as he can. It may seem like a lot to you and I and by the way they make it sound on national television, but it is really pretty typical by all accounts.
Just look at one room at the Heisman event and all the footballs in a single room.
Obviously this is one of many events he is attending for just one sport and is not getting paid to sign any of these balls. When critics claim they can not imagine anyone sitting down to sign that much in one sitting unless they are paid, this picture shows it happens frequently in the modern era to the contrary.
Jimbo Fisher was recently quoted as saying, “He’s signed thousands of things. An hour and a half before a baseball game he signs, an hour and a half after the game. There’s thousands of things out there with his name. He’s very accommodating.”
Jack Nicklaus even gave his input with how much Winston may have signed. The legendary golfer and grandfather of FSU tightend Nick O’Leary was quoted as saying:
“I wonder how many autographs I have out there. Every game I go to I sign, probably 20 or 25 (people) and four or five each. Start adding that up. And he’s a lot more available than I am. He’s not the only kid with a couple thousand out there. A bunch of those kids have to have a couple thousand.”
Just how often is Winston available?
Well let’s think about it. In two years of playing baseball, he’s had about 120 games which are about 240 opportunities to sign things if you believe what Jimbo Fisher had to say about signing before and after games. Just from that, let’s just use the math given to us by Mr. Nicklaus with signing only 5 things for 25 people at each opportunity (which is highly conservative if he signs anywhere near an hour and a half before and after games, you can likely times that by at least 10). That equals exactly 30,000 signed items. Based just on that, would it be surprising if hundreds or even a couple thousand were authenticated by one of the leading authenticators in this country? I don’t think so.
Looking at the situation more realistically, you have all those baseball games and then you can add other signing opportunities with fan days, booster events, scrimmages, random times you bump into him in town anywhere or on campus, players getting them to sign things for their family and friends, media days, tournaments, trophy events, typical championship events, typical bowl events, school ceremonies and more and that’s in not one, but two different sports. You can also add all the special events after winning the Heisman and National Championship.
That is an opportunity for tens of thousands of things to be signed righteously. Assuming only dealers have been the ones authenticating autographs through the company, which is a huge assumption, if 2,000 of just the 30,000+ he likely signed just in baseball season, that is less than 1% of items signed going to dealers. I would say that is pretty good.
He won the very last BCS National Championship and did so being the youngest QB ever to win a title and the youngest QB ever to win the Heisman. Not only that, but he plays multiple sports allowing more access to him. Again, iIt would be much more shocking if he did not have much more signed items than anyone ever before.
Not only is he available and accommodating, he has more demand then possibly any other player in the history of college football. You can see all the kids in this video here who want to see him and in this video at just one fan day, how many people are lined up all the way out to the parking lot after wrapping around who want to see him.
Winston’s accommodation for signing even dates back to his high school days:
What about the nameplates?
Who knows how many jerseys are out there with nameplates on them? Reporter Darren Rovell seems to think that is a big issue if a player sits down to sign any large number of items at once such as jerseys with nameplates or just nameplates alone which can be sewn on to jerseys later.
Well, while at any number of events, players and coaches sign a large number of items in a stack from cards, posters and more so if something is signed in bulk such as numbers, it is less than surprising.
You can clearly see here a fan getting a football jersey with a nameplate signed at a baseball game. He is wearing no school colors and could very well be a dealer and Winston would never know or pay him:
You can see where he even signed nameplated jerseys for others:
What about the pylons?
Darren Rovell of ESPN also seemed to think the 20 pylon items found signed in the listings should raise a red flag because regular fans just don’t have access to game pylons.
First, it is not completely out of the ordinary for some fans to have pylons as you can see from this image of one trying to sell one on Ebay.
Is that even a game pylon? Impossible to tell from this photo and without being there. It could have just as easily been a regular pylon brought to the game to be signed. Remember, JSA does not authenticate if a pylon may have been an actual one used during a game, they can’t do that unless they observed it themselves. All they are authenticating is the actual signature on the item, which leaves a grey area for what goes on in online auctions such as what is found on Ebay.
We will get back to this picture later, for now let’s take a look at all the ones currently listed on Ebay.
As of the time I am writing this post, there are a total of five Ebay auctions for pylons signed by Jameis Winston I was able to easily find. They range in price between $150-$270. Why so much? From the only things we can tell, it is only because they give the illusion of being game pylons, when they are nothing more than an item brought for Winston to sign that is no different than a regular football, mini helmet or anything. This illusion seems to be the only thing driving up the price.
These are the primary images of all five pylons listed on Ebay. All of these are being sold by dealers if you go back and look at their selling history and the large amounts of signed items they have had at auction.
The first one by mcardinal1 who claims to have a Winston signed pylon and selling it at a discount for $269.99 instead of the regular $299.99 price. Lucky us:
Notice he says “Official Touch Down Pylon!!” What does that mean? It would lead many to believe it was a pylon near where Winston scored a touchdown in a game and with the BCS logo sticker on it, gives it even more credibility that maybe it was even the championship game right?
Wrong. After careful examination of photos which included the pylons during the BCS Championship Game, none of them have any sticker or logo on them at all. The first red flag should be he claims in the auction, he has sold two of them and still has two available. There are only eight pylons in a football game (sometimes 12), four for each corner of each endzone (sometimes 2 additional in the back of the endzone). It is pretty hard to believe this one online dealer somehow secured half of all the pylons in the big game, basically all of them for one entire endzone. Usually if it is a real touchdown item of any kind, there is a detailed description of which game it was and possibly which touchdown was scored.
By attaching a logo sticker and it being JSA authenticated, that is what many will believe and why they can charge so much.
Notice those pictures above cover each side of the pylons and notice there is no logo or sticker on any of them of any kind. Then notice how shiny and glossy they look in the pictures. That is because they are. Notice above, only one of the pylons for sale on Ebay (m2collectibles) has the same glossy look. They are made differently and since this pylon being sold is not made the same, among other reasons, it was not used during the BCS Championship game. He is not telling a lie since he never comes out and claims it was, but it is a clear misdirection hoping someone assumes it is without looking into further in order to drive up the price of the item.
The next two are being sold by cavaliersfan08. These two pretty much have the same story and for the same price.
He or she claims to have two available and has two listed as shown. Would be pretty amazing if two online dealers had as many as six pylons from the championship game. Both are JSA approved, but he or she has different stickers on them. In his item description on the page, he or she says that item and all of his can be “customized with the logos of your choice!”
If it were a real game pylon, why would you want to change or add a logo to it? Generally, you wouldn’t, but this just goes to show you can add whatever kind of logo to any of these items and portray it easily as something they are not.
The next pylon comes from m2collectibles and is the only one above which is glossy. He also has in the title “TD Touchdown Pylon” which to most would again indicate a touchdown was scored in a game with this pylon. The description is nearly empty and has no mention of any games or touchdowns, but is sure to once again mention it is JSA authenticated. This one only selling for $149.
Let’s take a closer look at the signature on it compared to the others:
Notice the signature for this one particular item, has the J in Winston’s signature much different than in any of the others. All of the others supposedly signed by Winston has a clear rounded off top to the J and it hangs straight down. This is the only one where the top of the J has a sharp point and has a deep hook on the bottom. I’ll leave readers to make their own judgement over that and whether any may be forged, but JSA approved them all.
The next one is by pirates2005 and is the only one that comes with a picture of a child holding a pylon with Winston as we showed above. He has his listed at an even greater discount than those before, selling for $239.99 instead of $299.99. In the description, he claims he personally had the pylon signed after Winston’s first game against the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and expects the picture to be proof. Who knows if that is even really the same pylon you are bidding on and he just didn’t snap a picture or find that photo and claimed it to be his own? You can’t know for sure. This dealer has nearly 5000 items sold in his Ebay account of a wide range of signed memorabilia, but let’s assume he was really was at the game.
Like the other, his comes with a FSU head logo attached. This one and the one by m2collectibles looks ironed on or similarly attached. The first problem with that and being authentic is the fact the game against Pittsburgh was played on the road in Pittsburgh so they obviously would not have the FSU logo on their pylons.
The second issue, and this holds true with all of them mentioned already, is the only FSU head logos attached to pylons whether stickers or otherwise during FSU home games, comes on white square stickers. None of those listed above do. I have not been able to find a single pylon picture dating back during Winston’s career, and even before, not being on a white square sticker. If you actually had a pylon from a game, why would you remove the actual stickers and replace them with replicas? You wouldn’t.
Even after the 2013 season when FSU made the change to the new head logo, it is still on a white sticker as it is clearly shown here with the touchdown by Karlos Williams against Clemson:
I would not go as far as saying the signed pylons are fake, but none really seem to be actual game pylons. None of them look weathered or match what has been seen on the field. They are most likely pylons someone went out and purchased or ordered and just had Winston sign them like any other item.
Nothing out of the ordinary about that and does not mean Winston did anything wrong. He can not help how dealers describe the items on their Ebay listings or attach stickers to them to make customers assume they are something they are not.
Dealers don’t announce themselves?
Sometimes they may, but they can blend in with the crowd just like anyone else. It is a shady business to begin with and they have shown to not be above sending children and others to try collecting signatures.
In these pictures you can see the same guy getting multiple mini helmets signed while attending the same game against the Yankees. The mini helmets were a source of concern among the sequenced items and this guy looks to have gotten multiple items signed on the same day.
Also notice once again all the constant football memorabilia from full sized helmets, mini helmets, footballs and more at a baseball game. Anyway, That is just one guy and might be a dealer and might not be, but blends right in as a fan and is at multiple locations getting items signed. These dealers are as shady as they come and they get multiple items signed themselves while also manipulating others, including children, to also get items signed for them as well and even if a player gets in trouble for so much signing, the dealers never do, so they have no risk and does not mean the player was ever paid.
Who is the JSA exactly?
Good question. All of this discussion is under the assumption that JSA is completely legitimate without any forgeries whether by accident or by design.
The FBI reports as much as 70% of online autographed items sold are not authentic, particularly online. Where are the bulk of those items sold? Ebay. Who is the primary authenticator for Ebay? JSA just by coincidence and they speak of that proudly both on their own site as well as on Ebay:
On their website, looking at their staff and doing some simple math, one could logically draw the conclusion that they can not operate as well as they claim. On ESPN, they said the company has authenticated 900-950,000 items in the last year.
Doing simple math, let’s just say all 13 guys work all 365 days a year without taking a day off (which we know did not happen, but for the sake of argument). That means 13 men would have to average about 190 items per day without taking a day off. Working 8 hours a day, that is about 24 items per hour or about 2.5 items per minute on average. Now realistically, there is no way you can accurately authenticate that type of volume. It’s just not possible given the resources and timing.
Even if they could, it is still a best guess since you can never be sure unless you were there when the item was signed.
This leaves one to believe they may have some issues in the quality of their work. A few years ago, the FBI was forced to look into them for some of the issues they were having. They even approved a baseball from one the most famous batters of all time in Ed Delahanty when the signature was even spelled wrong. That is pretty embarrassing. So there is no sure thing that all of the items they have authenticated are even real, especially since a large percentage of them do not even have a photo taken of the item which raises even more questions.
About a year go, about two years after the FBI looked into them, a museum in Florida opened up and the FBI was involved once again with a forensic team who said at least 10 of the 16 samples they took were fake items, but all the thousands of items in the collection had all be authenticated by JSA.
There has even been a Facebook group created just dedicated to the JSA James Spence Authentication Scam which you can join.
An undercover video by a news team embarrassed JSA by showing just how easy it is to forge an autograph, by having one of their own reporters forge one themselves and have it authenticated just minutes later by not one, but two of their so called experts, one of which seems to no longer be employed by JSA. The video shows the experts authenticating a forged item in about less than five seconds.
According to the reporter narrating the video, their sister stations reported similar issues in other cities at other events while performing reconnaissance of the authentication tables at the events.
I won’t even post all the Winston autographs I’ve found which look completely different and the company just claims his signature changed multiple times in a very short period of time. That would be shaky at best in court.
These types of issues are very concerning when it comes to authentication companies, particularly when the eligibility, statistics, image, draft status, teammates, coaches and more of a player are all potentially effected a great deal.
Here are some images of helmets Winston has allegedly signed:
Every one of these signatures is different, yet every one of these have been approved by JSA.
If you search through all the Y category items on the JSA list, you may notice something different about verifying them on the JSA site. All of the Y items come with a photo and the date that photo was taken. When searching the J category, you may notice none of those items have a photo or date at all. That is very concerning.
When checking on the authenticity of an item you may purchase or already have, if you can not find a picture of them them on the website, who is to know if they are real or not? You can not really verify by photo. They can give you the hologram card showing authenticity, but those can be forged and who is to say a scam artist didn’t just give you the real card with a fake autographed item and kept the real one for themselves? You can’t because you can’t compare it to a photo of the authenticated item like you can with others. It just leaves the door open for so many issues in the market.
A simple search on any internet search engine will show thousands of results showing images of Jameis Winston signing items for fans at any number of events and games. Even footballs, helmets, mini helmets, BCS logo items and more just at baseball games. It is obvious he enjoys the fan support and is sure to make time for his many fans and sign as much as possible for them, leaving no doubt there are tens of thousands of items in the world he has signed without receiving a penny.
Giving the JSA any credibility at all in itself is a bit of a stretch and they certainly do not have enough credibility to say someone like Winston did anything wrong (although they never have and have defended him).
At the end of the day, a company like this just charges money to give a best guess and as shown, often does not put much effort into it or accurate at all times. Their business runs on huge volumes of items and charging for them, so the more the better for them. You are paying them to say yes, not to say no. If they are not there to witness the signing, they can not be sure 100% it is in fact authentic. They can not even be sure an autopen type of device has not been used to replicate his signature on items.
They can do certain comparisons and forensics, but they only do that for very limited items of high profile signatures and even then have gotten it wrong. There is really not enough time or resources to do the in depth analysis needed to verify every single autograph appropriately and even if they could, it would still not be for certain.
Some of the comments made by James Spence defending the Winston situation could have just been him trying to get attention off his business, in what is a shady world as it is.
It can also just be plain accurate since nothing adds up to being abnormal regarding how his autographs have been authenticated or the number of them.
I simply do not believe Winston did anything wrong here based on how the sequential numbering means nothing and he has the chance to sign so many items. Proof may rise up eventually, but I would be shocked if it did. If there was proof of any wrongdoing, it would have already surfaced by now.