Ian McKellen Responds to Fans Defrauded by Fake Autograph Signing Scam

Ian McKellen Responds to Fans Defrauded by Fake Autograph Signing Scam

Hundreds of Fans Fall Victim

Hundreds of fans have fallen victim to a con-man posing as Ian McKellen. Through Smuggler’s Entertainments LTD, fans paid to send in their treasured items to be signed by a man who they thought was the legendary actor. Posters, figures, and photos were all sent in for McKellen to sign. Some were blank, while others were already filled with signatures from other actors making them valuable collectables that were defaced with the addition of a fake signature.

Many of the items sent in by fans were very cherished and are highly sought after pieces. To say that the revelation that the signing was fake came as a disappointment to many fans would be an understatement. An individual piece with multiple signatures takes many hours to complete and can be worth thousands of dollars.

As items started coming back from the signing, red flags started to be raised. It became clear from very early on that the signatures on people’s items were not genuine. That was confirmed time and time again as new information came out by leading authenticators and eventually even Ian McKellen himself.

Fraud Exposed

Fake Ian McKellen autographs from the Smuggler's Entertainments LTD signing
Fake Ian McKellen autographs from the Smuggler’s Entertainments LTD signing

Justin Steffman, the lead authenticator and CEO of autographcoa.com addressed fans’ early concerns over the legitimacy of the autographs that they were receiving from the alleged signing. He released the following statement on the matter via Facebook:

In regards to the many UK collectors who have messaged me personally or submitted to AutographCOA.com asking whether the Ian McKellen signatures (from the recent “private signing”) look off… I agree that they do not look to be authentic.

I have written some notes for public reference:

The baseline of “Ian” tends to sit lower than the baseline of “McKellen” in almost all of the signing examples. Whereas in authentic examples the first and last name tend to have an equivalent baseline to one another or most often the Ian is slightly higher than the McKellen.

The baseline has a huge rising angle on all Funko pops from the signing, whereas Ian tends to have a varying baseline on Funkos and rarely ever has such an extremely dramatically-rising baseline.

The “I” is huge relative to the size of “an” whereas in real examples the “I” tends to be less tall and shorter, relative to the “an” that follows it.

The “a” in Ian begins with a left or down stroke in almost every example from the signing. In authentic examples, Ian tends to start his a with an up stroke and also it is more rounded when it begins. Additionally, almost every “a” from the signing has an opening/space at the top of the a however it is extremely common for Ian’s authentic autograph to have a sealed a-top – no opening at the top of the a.

The middle of the “M” in McKellen is very high up on every example from the signing. The M in authentic Ian signatures comes down much lower.

The “c” in McKellen is too round and perfectly formed. Authentic examples have a less rounded and much less formed c, even in the most legible of real examples.
The “ll” in McKellen are very rounded/loopy, whereas authentic Ian signatures have “ll” that is more pointed and together (no loops), written similarly to an M.

No examples of his autograph are written with first and last name above/below, although any pool of authentic Ian’s typically have some written which are not side by side, but are above/below.

In real examples, you can see an attempt at actually writing the letters “McKellen” but in the signing examples, there are very often extra bumps in the McKellen in places where it doesn’t make sense, extra letter formations, and also places where attempts at specific letters are entirely missing.
The “I” and “M” tilt toward one another more than usual in nearly every example from the signing.

Authentic Ian’s tend to have the M tilting forward or standing straight up. The I and M from signing have a strong tendency to stand like this “/ \” relative to one another.

I went into this study with an open mind, but after a careful review and speaking with many others who contributed their time for comparison, I am convinced they are not real.
Nonetheless, if Ian McKellen suddenly decided to change his signature throughout, basically letter for letter as well as the baseline and flow for this signing – then that is the only possibility that these are real, in my opinion.

If anyone has obtained signatures directly from Ian McKellen that share the atypical formations described above, please feel free to comment below. Or if you have items from the signing that you aren’t sure about, feel free to share them.
I genuinely hope, on behalf of every collector involved, that my opinion on these is wrong, because otherwise this means that many cherished, multi-signed items have been affected.

– Justin Steffman

Ian McKellen Addresses Scam

Ian Mckellen responds to fake autograph signing

On February 10th, Sir Ian McKellen addressed his fans regarding the signing and made it clear that he was in no way affiliated with the venture. In doing so, he confirmed the deepest fears of many collectors who had been duped by the con-men running the signing, but who were still holding on to a sliver of hope that they were not actually deceived.

I have been made aware that a man impersonating me, and two women posing as my representatives have recently approached a promoter in Kent, with the offer of a “private signing” by Ian McKellen.

I am very sorry for anyone who has sent in photos and items to be signed by this fraudulent impersonator. I understand that the promoter has offered to make refunds as soon as possible.

To be clear, I have never attended paid signings. I do sign for charity and for individuals who submit items directly to me.

– Ian McKellen via Twitter
Ian McKellen Autograph
Authentic autograph signed by Ian McKellen through the mail

Interestingly, aside from confirming that the signing was a fraud, Ian McKellen did also confirm that he does in fact respond to fan mail and sign autographs through the mail! This recent response that I received from Ian McKellen serves as a great example of an authentic signature that can be obtained for free through the mail.

Fallout From The Fraud

According to Smuggler’s Entertainments LTD, the signing was conducted by a masked man posing as McKellen. As items were signed, Smuggler’s Entertainments apparently had the signatures remotely authenticated by Beckett Authentication Services. At that time they allegedly were initially validated by Beckett’s lead authenticator Steve Grad, who only later called the signatures into question.

To Smuggler’s Entertainments’ credit, they have so far acted quickly in providing refunds to defrauded customers. They are further trying to compensate customers by trying to make them whole regarding their now damaged items. They have offered to assist with signature removal and even buying damaged items off of customers in some cases.

How to Remove an Autograph

If you are in a position where you have a fake autograph on one of your items and you would like to get it removed, my first piece of advice would be to seek help from a professional. The type of ink (paint, sharpie, ballpoint pen, etc.) as well as the type of material that the signature is placed on all inform the manner in which they are removed. Restoration services like Studio C help not only remove ink from your items, but can also do repair work on folded, torn, or otherwise damaged ephemera.

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