By David Yarger
Co-Host “The Chase”
Now, if you watch the show enough, you’ve probably heard how we met so many great people and connected with more at the 2022 National in Atlantic City.
Well, one of those great people included Beckett principal autograph authenticator Steve Grad. In addition to picking out the real from the fakes, Grad has also shown his talents on the show “Pawn Stars.” Long story short, if someone came into the pawn shop with some signed memorabilia (rain drop, drop top, I’m) Rick Harrison (and this is my pawn shop) would call Grad in to check it out.
Over his time, Grad has seen more memorabilia and autos than we can even think or dream about. He joined “The Chase” crew to discuss some of the things he’s seen over his time as an authenticator.
Grad said he was asked to join Pawn Stars in 2009 but passed on it, due to obligations at his current job at the time. Fast forward to 2013, the same opportunity came around for Grad and he ran with it. He later joined Beckett in 2016.
Prior to his first episode, he had never met Pawn Stars celeb Rick Harrison.
“The first day I filmed was January 2013 and Rick goes ‘Dude, what’s up? We’ve been trying to get you on forever.’ And we were like best friends,” Grad said.
As for show appearances, he said it comes at random based on the season. Some seasons he’d have 17 to 18 appearances.
As an authenticator, he admitted, life can get crazy traveling the world and being a call away for many who need their autographs be deemed real. Additionally, the demand for more authenticators is calling, but he said it’s not the easiest thing to train people on.
“This is something I’d really like to do more with. I’ve talked to Beckett about it more recently, and they say ‘How do we train more people?’ … It’s always a thing. You find card graders, guys that do comics, guys that do autographs. The autograph thing is, I feel there’s a ton of people like right in this room right now that are wonderful niche people. ‘Hey, he knows music real well, but doesn’t know anything else.’ Or he knows five players. … To find someone who’s really well rounded and diverse is almost impossible. And there isn’t like a course manual, where I can say, ‘Oh, yeah, here just go through this and do this and you’re fine.’ It’s more of training and being with us,” he said.
At the time being, Grad said there’s a few people he’s taken under his wings that aren’t currently authenticators, but are in the process of learning the field.
“The more you do this, the better you’re going to be at it,” Grad added. “I mean you’re doing this all the time, you’re going to become better and better at it and more successful. The autograph authentication is the same thing.”
Grad’s road to becoming an authenticator started as a kid. He said he would chase down autographs from athletes, working at an auction house and then meeting Jim Spence of PSA.
Authentication is not easy, as some players evolve their signature, and you have to deal with some sloppiness here and there, in addition to some looming fraudulent signatures.
“They all change and you gotta stay up with that,” Grad said of evolving autos. “I’ve seen some of these cards signed that are just horrible. I think the more the modern guys don’t care, they could just care less. … They have these nice long names and their autographs are literally like a curl or a check mark, and guys don’t care.”
He added that some signatures are different based on the setting, but he proclaimed his disappointment in modern athletes that some don’t care to take the time to create a nice autograph with thought and effort.
“They’re getting paid a lot of money to do it. Just have some pride in it,” Grad said.
As far as being a collector himself, Grad admitted, he has hoards of signed memorabilia, and that his collection started young. He added, an autograph experience led him to being a Chicago White Sox fan.
“We went to a Cubs game one day, the game was rained out. My dad said, ‘Let’s wait by the player parking lot.’ … Me and my brother, Dave Kingman (is) the first guy that comes out, gets in his car, he stops to look at us, then he flipped us off and drove away,” Grad said. “I became a White Sox fan over autographs and here we are today.”
And if you were curious at home, Grad will go to any limit to get the auto he wants. He told “The Chase” crew, he’s been detained by Secret Service, almost arrested and even in car chases to get what he needed.
He added, he’s in the process of getting rid of some of his collection, because “it’s time for somebody else to enjoy it.”
And some may wonder, in Grad’s personal opinion, what is the hardest auto to authenticate? He was quick with MJ, Michael Jordan and then Tom Brady, because of the amount of fraudulent signatures that are created.
As of today, an autograph that had Grad most in awe to authenticate was Jack Ruby, with his fingerprints from the night he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, who is famously known for the murder of US President John F. Kennedy.
To check out more on Grad, follow him on Twitter.
Also on “The Chase” …
We pulled some 2022 Legacy Football today and Troy’s hot streak continued. For a chance to win all the cards, including an Eli Manning auto out of three, comment on the YouTube video with who you think will lead the NFL in passing yards this year, and how many yards they will throw for.
Now, the 2022 National may have just ended, but plans for the future are already in full swing. Obviously next year will be 2023 in Chicago, but, coming in 2024, the National could have a much different look and feel. In 2024, the contract for the National will be in new hands for the first time since 2004. JBJ Corporation, headed by partners Joe Drelich, Brian Coppolo, and Jim Ryan has secured the contract for 2024’s big show.
According to an article on Sports Collectors Digest, Coppola and Ryan, who run JP’s Sports & Rock Solid Promotions, are also partners for the popular White Plains Baseball Card Show and Long Island Sports Card Shows. Drelich is the owner of East Coast Sports Marketing LLC. He runs the massive Philadelphia Sports Collectors Show and Collectors Showcase of America (CSA) in Chantilly, VA. The location for the 2024 show has yet to be determined but according to Brady in the article, he’s hearing a return to Cleveland is likely. According to Coppola and Ryan, though, this year’s show dealers will vote to decide whether the 2024 show will be in Atlantic City again, Cleveland or Rosemont.