A little over ten years ago, I, already an avid Potterhead, decided I wanted to collect Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling signed items. I was so excited. I hopped on eBay and immediately purchased two J.K Rowling signed scripts. I was glowing when they arrived. I touched the signed pages repeatedly, loving the idea that I was touching the same paper she had at some point in time. That feeling made this woman, who I looked up to, seem so much closer. I put the two scripts in their clear acrylic cases that I’d purchased to store them, and told my friends all about them. A few days later, however, a collector reached out to me and told me the worst news about my new treasures – they were forgeries. My heart sank and my stomach felt sick. Until that email came through, it had not occurred to me that forgeries were even sold on eBay. I contacted the seller, who did not even fight my claim, and I was refunded a short time later. From that point onward, I was determined to learn Jo’s signature to not only prevent myself from buying another forgery but to also help the Harry Potter Collectorship that I so adore.
Sadly though, J.K. Rowling forgeries are still a growing problem. On most days, there are more Rowling forgeries than authentic signatures on eBay. Sadder still, these forgeries sell and usually for high money. In March 2019 buyers spent over $6,000.00 on J.K. Rowling forgeries on eBay alone. I have also seen forgeries for sale on trusted bookseller sites, Abebooks.com, and at physical bookstores. I have seen many forgeries with letters and certificates of authenticity, some that have been verified by third-party authentication houses like PSA DNA and others, and a few that, unfortunately, bear an authentic J.K. Rowling hologram.
While larger marketplaces like eBay and Abebooks have some procedures in place to try and remove forgeries, the fact is, there are just too many Rowling forgeries in the marketplace now for them to do much of anything about them – the responsibility is on the buyer to know what they are buying and to do the research. For many buyers, they do not know where to look for guidance in this area. For this reason, I have teamed up with Patricio (also a Harry Potter collector and chief editor of The Rowling Library) to put together a database of Rowling forgeries to help buyers to avoid the many forgeries in the marketplace. J.K. Rowling Forgeries can be found at www.jkrowlingforgeries.org.
The idea of a public database is to keep track of all the forgeries that appear for sale through different websites. If you find a signed book on eBay or a similar site, you could visit J.K. Rowling Forgeries and see if it appears there – if it is, you’d better not buy that book. But if it’s not there, you can still check if the seller has some history that could make the book suspicious. For example, we not only track where the forged book appeared for sale, but also the seller’s username (if it was on eBay), the date the book became available for sale, a photo of the forged signature, and if it was sold, for how much. Keeping a database of forgeries serves to educate yourself and train your eyes: when you see enough forgeries, you are able to detect new ones easily. You start to see the patterns in the shapes, strokes, pen pressure, and more.
In the future, with tech improvements, it could be possible also to create a machine learning model that learns from this dataset and starts to detect forgeries by itself – technology that could be used by giants like eBay or AbeBooks. But for now, we, the fans, need each other to fight against forgers.
We are hoping to use this database to help inform more buyers about Rowling forgeries as well as to help call attention to those sellers who regularly sell them. Hopefully, in time, the marketplace will be cleaner and better with fewer forgeries in it. In the meantime, we hope we can help provide meaningful information to better inform the Collectorship we both love.