Abdul Kalam once said “Success is when your signature becomes an autograph”. At James Spence Authentication, in Fort Lauderdale, tucked in the warehouse area by Lowe’s Home Improvement off of Oakland Park Blvd and Powerline Road, autographs are the sole focus of this unique business.
Authenticating Over 4 Generations
For four generations, the Spence family has collected an impressive autograph library of famous sports legends, presidents, actors, musicians, and mob bosses in their 6,000 square foot facility. There are only 3 autograph authenticators worldwide, JSA and 2 others in the United States. But Spence Authentication is the only authenticator that backs autographs by name.
James Dugan Spence Sr. (1908-1978) was the great grandfather of current owner James J. Spence III and the founding father of the autograph collecting family. Spence Sr. worked for Con Edison in Long Island, New York, and had a penchant for mailing letters/autograph requests to the likes of Lucille Ball and Walt Disney. At the time, autograph collecting was an exciting hobby, but not necessarily lucrative.
We’ve provided a key to the 4 generations of Spence’s to help guide you through the evolution of this authentic business.
- James Dugan Spence Senior (1908 – 1978) – original founder
- James J. Spence Senior
- James J. Spence Junior, runs the business in Parsippany, NJ
- James J. Spence III, owner of the Fort Lauderdale location
An Expansive Autographs Library
James Dugan Spence Sr’s son, James J. Spence Sr., was a UPS employee and also an avid autograph collector.
In 2005, Spence Sr’s son, James J Spence Jr., founded JSA Authentication Services in 2005 and truly catapulted the business by growing an ever expansive library of autographs. He is regarded as one of the top autograph dealers in the world. James J Spence Jr. runs JSA Authentication at the original location in Parsippany, NJ. Spence Jr’s son James J. Spence III opened the JSA FL location in Fort Lauderdale in 2012.
How Authenticating Works
Spence III explains that the #1 authentication tool is the exemplar file. This file is a proprietary file in chronological order, of all autographs, and the autograph’s net worth. Additionally, loops, LED lighting, magnifiers used to determine ink age, and video spectral comparator (VSC), a tool that utilizes color and infrared imaging, magnification, coaxial lighting and side lighting to detect erasures and forgeries are used for authentication by JSA.
Forged or mass produced signatures can be distinguished from actual autographs by a sense of conviction in the signature, subtle nuances in the letter formation (cookie cutter or perfectly reproduced signatures are a red flag of forgery), and visual changes in penmanship that invariably happen with chronological age. Spence III references Muhammed Ali’s penmanship decline over the years due to his Parkinson’s Disease.
Acquisition of Memorabilia
JSA boasts an impressive database of nearly 700,000 files. JSA experts visit auction houses nationwide, attend trade shows/conventions/card shows/Comicon to name a few. Interested customers routinely mail JSA autographs on photographs, baseballs, sneakers, surfboards, snowboards, video game cartridges, Pennzoil oil cans (Arnold Palmer) for authentication requests.
Many customers cherish family heirloom autographs of famous people passed down from generations, only to find that actual authentication renders the autographs as not authentic. JSA gently and honestly educates customers of such disappointing news.
In today’s technological age, prospective clients websearch autograph authenticators, and JSA is a leading force. Moreover, if fan memorabilia aficionados want to sell their signed collectibles on Ebay or Amazon, quality authentication is a must.
The Levels of Authentication
Premium authentication consists 3 options:
- Letter of authenticity is the highest level of highest value of authentication.
- Basic certification is level of authentication graded less then letter of authenticity.
- Witness certification is a live, in person event where JSA would provide an actual authenticator onsite at a trade show/card show to authenticate the autograph real time.
COVID-19 Effects in the Business
Since the pandemic commenced one year ago, JSA has experienced explosive growth. Housebound/quarantined people finally open those dusty collectible boxes adorning shelves, and desire quotes on authenticity of signed photos and artifacts accrued over years. Pandemic and health worries naturally create fears over mortality, and signed items may provide financial security/ease of leaving one’s heirs something valuable.
Spence III seeks more employees due to the increased demand for authentication.
The Future of JSA Authentication Services
Currently, JSA is limited to solely autograph authentication.
The future may bring handbag authentication for Louis Vuitton and other designers replete with knockoff imposters.
JSA Authentication truly trailblazes in a field with few competitors and massive potential growth.
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About the Author
Beth Cooper is a Philadelphia Pennsylvania native. She has lived and practiced in Oakland Park for 21 years. Her practice, called Sunshine Chiropractic Center, focuses on family, pediatric, pregnant women, back pain, and auto accidents.
Fitness, running and yoga are her passions. Beth loves spending time with her 11 year old daughter and husband Rob of 20 years when not working.
She loves to support and utilize local mom and pop, entrepreneurial businesses whenever possible. She volunteers for Poverello Live Well Center weekly as the agency’s chiropractor and has done so for over 10 years.