In an article from March 13, Bill Wagner of Scripps Howard News Service reported that not all available Johnny Manziel autographed items could be authenticated. Some interesting quotes from the story:
“Just scrolling through the items, it’s pretty easy to see that they weren’t all signed by the same person,” said Mike Breeden, an autograph expert and former longtime columnist for Sports Collectors Digest. “(There are) a lot of fake ones out there. But with the money his items are bringing, it stands to reason that he would be a target of forgers.”
Theo Chen, owner of http://AutographsForSale.com, is a dealer familiar with how major colleges protect star athletes who are being hounded by autograph-seekers — many of whom are working for dealers.
He says he believes it’s “unlikely” that Manziel would have been able to sign in quantity for a dealer.
The story also reveals the lengths that some autograph hounds will go in order to obtain signatures. From Johnny's father Paul Manziel:
Manziel related an incident in an airport where a man in a military uniform, who said he was heading to the Mideast, asked his son to sign items.
Later, the Manziels were surprised to see some of the items online with stickers. (Stickers or holograms are added to items when they are authenticated.) Paul Manziel said they were unhappy to see the items for sale...
The story also goes into some detail about how Leaf, a sports card company, used a "cut" signature--basically copying an autograph from another item and pasting it onto their sports cards. The Leaf cards were neither graded nor authenticated. From Texas A&M Compliance on the matter:
Responding to an email about autograph sales and the Leaf cards, David Batson, director of compliance at Texas A&M University, said: “Other than to charitable and nonprofit fundraisers, Johnny has indicated that he has never knowingly provided an autograph to someone who had indicated a plan to sell his autograph. As for the Leaf Mystery Redemption Cards, Johnny has informed the Athletic Compliance Office that he has not authorized these cards’ production or sale; he has not knowingly provided his autograph for use in these cards; and he will not receive any compensation from the sale of these cards. ...”
Batson wrote that when the school learns of items “containing the name, image or likeness of a student-athlete” being sold commercially to promote a product or service, its compliance-office staff reviews and handles it according to Southeastern Conference and NCAA rules.
“Texas A&M University takes the unauthorized use of a student-athlete’s name, image or likeness as well as unauthorized use of the institution’s protected trademarks very seriously,” Batson wrote.
Obviously, Manziel has signed quite a few autographs over the past several months. But as the article points out, the likelihood that he would have time to sign them in such quantities and the fact that discrepancies do exist tends to suggest that there are many non-authentic autographed Manziel items floating around. And all of this was known back in March.