Part 3: Is It Real or Is It Fake?
At this point, we would have no trouble identifying a fromis_9 signature. Sadly, due to ill-intentioned people, this is not enough to guarantee any item we see with their autographs on it was in fact signed by our nine girls.
Although there are not many fake fromis_9 autographs out there, it is always better to be safe than sorry. This last section of our guide will give you tips on what to look out for to avoid getting scammed.
Observe where each member signs
It is not uncommon for members to have a favorite place to sign. While this varies from era to era, different versions of the same album are likely to have copies with signatures in the exact same spots. This happens more frequently when albums are signed in bulk, such as the Mwave signed Fun Factory ones. While this does not guarantee authenticity, finding out the album you are looking to buy has other copies with genuine signatures in identical places is always reassuring.
Inspect the signatures closely and compare them
On an album signed by many members, it is possible to compare autographs side by side. People hold pens differently, apply different pressures when writing, and sign at different speeds. So why would their signatures have the same amount of ink and line thickness?
Looking at the image below, notice how Seoyeon’s signature presents more density, showing thicker and darker lines that indicate more pen pressure and slower signing. Jisun’s autograph, on the other hand, seemed to be written by carefully using only the tip of the pen. Analyzing Nagyung’s and Jiheon’s signatures, we can see both of them signed a little faster, judging by certain strokes that lack some color.
When all signatures are extremely consistent and full of ink, it can mean a single person signed all of them, so being able to spot these slight differences can save you a headache.
Make sure there are no interruptions where there should not be any
The repetitive nature of a signature makes it so the same movements are followed every time. Some signatures, like Chaeyoung’s and Nagyung’s, are inked without ever taking the pen out of contact with the surface. Consequently, a break in the middle of any of them, signaling that the process of signing was stopped and then restarted, can be a red flag. This concept also applies to smaller sections of a signature, needing case-by-case evaluation. Note that smudges caused by handling could erase part of a signature, but that does not mean the autograph was forged.
The ink color can tell you a lot about a signature
When talking about K-pop merchandise in general, black ink is preferred for most signatures, whereas silver is not an uncommon choice on darker backgrounds. Some smaller items may even be signed with different colors, such as blue. As of the writing of this guide, almost all legitimate fromis_9 signatures we have seen online were written with a black pen, and on rare occasions, with a blue one.
It is worth noting that some falsifiers are known for using gold ink. While the color may catch your attention, gold ink almost always equals fake signatures.
Odd-looking signatures are not always a bad sign
When an album is put up for sale on Mwave, hundreds (if not thousands) of copies get sold over a period of up to a month. After all the sales are in, the artists finally sign the albums. Naturally, trying to go through a huge pile of albums, the autographs tend to look a bit rushed, especially if all members need to sign every copy sold. On the other hand, if only a couple of albums are signed to be given away to staff members of a music show, the signatures will likely look neater.
Understanding the context behind the autograph can let you analyze it much clearly. A not-so-pretty signature is not necessarily a bad sign, and in some cases, it can be what reassures you the autographs are, in fact, legitimate.
Check more than just the signature
Check the seller – On websites like eBay, sellers get evaluated by buyers based on previous transactions. Simply reading these reviews and looking for the seller ratings can save you a lot of trouble. Here is a list that separates trustworthy from unreliable eBay sellers.
Check the origin of the items you are buying – Although most of our guide used albums as examples, there is a wide variety of genuine signed items out there. Mwave signed albums, promotional signed albums, fansign pages, promise event cards, postcards, Polaroids, photocards that resemble Polaroids, acrylic tumblers… The harder you look for it, the bigger are the chances you will find something new.
While the purpose of this guide is not to educate readers on the existing articles, we highly advise you to look for the source of the item you are interested in acquiring. During the making of this guide, we found fake autographs on products that fromis_9 never touched, such as the goodies that come inside the albums. Reading the item description, checking all the photos, and communicating with the seller asking for more information is never too much.
Check the back of the album – While the signatures are on the front, the back of an album can also give you crucial information.
More precisely, what you are looking for is the KOMCA (Korea Music Copyright Association) sticker. On a normal album copy, this sticker will have a serial number and the letter “C,” indicating there is a CD in there. A promotional (or promo) copy, also known as a “not for sale” album, has a different sticker, written “비매” (not for sale), in Hangul.
Promo copies are some of the most wanted by collectors. Since this type of album is only handed by the artists themselves to other people from the music industry, and usually signed, seeing a 비매 sticker on the back of an album basically guarantees legitimacy. Considering that a good portion of signed albums you will find online are promo copies, it is important to state that those sold on Mwave are not promotional albums, and should always come with a normal sticker on the back.
Sometimes, a sticker written “NOT FOR SALE,” in English, will also be seen on the back of an album. Note that the sticker in English is just additional information, the 비매 sticker should be there as well!
KOMCA has recently updated their stickers, meaning regular copies of albums released from My Little Society onwards will come with a white sticker on the back, but this change is merely visual. If you are looking for an older album, holographic stickers are the standard.
Check the handwriting – Some promotional albums come with handwritten messages by the girls dedicated to directors and producers. Somehow, these copies find their way to resellers, who put them up for sale online. Whenever handwriting is involved, be it a message or simply the members writing their own names next to their signatures, we recommend you compare the handwriting with official images of fromis_9’s writing.
You wouldn’t want to end up with a message a falsifier dedicated especially to you, would you?
So… what does a fake signature look like?
A quick Google search shows us the following image:
Using our newly acquired knowledge, let’s try to analyze it. First, all the signatures look extremely consistent and evenly spread out, heavily indicating a single person wrote them all. Second, some features that were present in every single era are simply not there!
Saerom – Our captain decided to stop signing mid-way through the autograph and also forgot “ㅐ” is actually a letter of her name.
Hayoung – She added a heart where there was never one.
Gyuri – Apparently she had a stroke.
Jiwon – Aside from the giant lips, this is actually not that bad; props to the falsifier! It would be a shame if they had added Jiwon’s name below the signature in a completely different handwriting to make our life easier.
Jisun – The elegance was thrown out the window when Jisun decided to draw a rollercoaster.
Seoyeon – She felt like changing her handwriting starting from the second syllable.
Chaeyoung – Poor girl forgot the origins of her name and completely skipped the “y.” Or maybe an earthquake started, we can’t judge.
Nagyung – She also added a heart where there was never one.
Jiheon – The heart is connected to the rest of the signature and everything about that face is wrong. Why is the mouth on top of the eyes, anyway?
I would be willing to bet that if you asked this seller for a picture of the back of the album, they would either refuse to, or the image would confirm this copy only has a normal sticker at the back. Since From.9 was never sold on Mwave or on any other official platform, only signed promo copies should exist.
As you can see, after you have done your homework, spotting fake signatures shouldn’t be such a hard task.
Note that by verifying just one of the steps mentioned above, you can not say for sure a signature is real or fake, it is only through a combination of factors that you will be able to state that.
There is not a set rule to say a signature is always real or always fake. We need to evaluate it case by case. If we are looking at an autographed Fun Factory album, for example, does it mean the signatures should look rushed? No! Promotional copies were still handed out during that era, so it is perfectly possible that you will find a copy online where the members took their time to sign.
Remember: no signature is perfect. From.9, for example, had plenty of signatures that looked different from how the girls usually sign. Sometimes you will have less space to write, sometimes the pen will slip, the ink will be running out… Imperfections are part of an autograph, and that is exactly what makes signed items so special.