Collecting Autographs Can Be Dicey and Pricey
By Anne Gilbert
For serious autograph collectors, the Swann Auction Galleries autograph
auctions are an important event. Even for collectors who can't afford $20,000 or
more for an historical document signed by George Washington or a small American
flag carried by Charles Lindbergh on the Spirit of St. Louis during his 1927
trans-Atlantic flight along with a typed note signed by him that could sell for
up to $60,000, the Swann autograph auctions are eagerly awaited.
Only a few
decades ago, important historical presidential documents could be purchased for
$2,000 or more. Autographed baseballs, caps and other sports memorabilia cost
only the time it took for the player to sign. These days, signatures of sports
greats are among the most expensive autographs, and the most often
CLUES: The down side that can even plague experienced collectors are
faked and forged signatures. Among the many techniques used to fake authentic
signatures are the autopen, secretarial signatures, rubber stamps and preprints.
As far back as the 1920s and '30s, movie star photos with supposedly authentic
signatures were mailed by the hundreds to fans. Common sense tells you they
wouldn't have had the time. In fact, they hired someone to do all of the
signing. This happened with political autographs as well.
have been around for years and can do about 300 signatures an hour.
so authentic looking that often only a specialist can tell the difference. One
clue is when parts of letters appear shaky. This is caused by the vibrations of
the Autopen as it writes. Rubber stamped signatures can be recognized when too
much ink makes smudges. Another technique used is imprinted signatures and
Interest in collecting autographs usually begins in childhood
with something as simple as collecting schoolmates autographs at graduation
time. This is usually followed by sports stars and movie stars. From the teens
on, rock musicians are added to the list. Depending on their interests,
important historical figures, presidents, performing artists, authors,
inventors, artists and explorers are collected by adults.
When they come to
auction, prices depend on rarity, popularity and historical importance. The
signatures can be on part of a document, a photo, baseball, cartoon, other art
works or sheet music. The list is endless.
A single autograph can be matted
and added to a photo of the person who signed it, which increases the
Should you find an autograph or an autographed item inscribed to
another person, this doesn't lower the value. A single clipped autographed can
turn up in unexpected places, such as a family Bibles and old scrapbooks.
learn more about autograph collecting, contact the Universal Autograph
Collectors Club (UACC) at P.O. Box 6181, Washington, DC, 20044-6181 or visit
"Rhapsody In Blue"
sheet music. (Photos:
Swan Auction Galleries,