Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori

Assessing Walt Disney Autographs

By Lori Verderame
Posted October 2012

I am often asked to evaluate autographs of famous people. Some autographs are found on a personal letter or note, on a glossy photograph, or even on a piece of scrap paper. There are some rules of thumb when it comes to assessing autographs. For instance, content is always king. With all autographs, value is increased if the autograph is accompanied by some content relating to the famous person who signed their name. To have content that relates to the signer with an authentic autograph is more valuable to collectors than just a simple autograph. For example, a letter signed by Marilyn Monroe complaining about her failing marriage to husband and baseball great Joe DiMaggio is much more valuable than just a cocktail napkin with Marilyn Monroe’s signature on it.

A Mickey Mouse comic strip with Walt Disney’s signature. (Photo credit: www.DrLoriV.com)

Master of the Mouse. One of best-known autographs is that of the American entertainment icon, Walt Disney. Disney’s signature actually became the logo for the Walt Disney Company and for the Walt Disney Classics Collection. The logo is based on Disney’s signature from the early 1940s and used on company artwork.

Walt Disney’s autographs were signed by both Walt Disney and by his authorized employees. Over the years, at least a dozen Disney Studio staff members signed Walt Disney's name to comics, fan items, promotional material, etc. The most common authorized signatures of Walt Disney were signed by Hank Porter during the 1930s and 1940s and later, by Bob Moore in the 1950s.

Disney autographs featuring expressive loops and cursive lettering, like the example pictured here from 1947, are of interest to collectors. They range in value from $250 to $10,000 depending on various factors. For instance, if an authentic Disney autograph is accompanied by a sketch of Mickey Mouse, then the value of the autograph skyrockets. Recently at auction, a Disney autograph and Mickey Mouse cartoon sketch from the 1940s sold for $8,500.

A 1942 Walt Disney autograph.

Artist Bob Moore joined the Walt Disney Studios as an apprentice animator in 1940. He contributed to animated classics such as Dumbo, The Three Caballeros, and Make Mine Music. Moore was named head of the publicity and marketing department and designed Disney movie posters, Christmas cards, logos and letterheads. He was one of Disney’s official “autographers”, and he signed numerous items (photographs and letters) with Walt Disney’s famous signature. He designed Sam the Eagle for the 1984 Olympic Games and murals housed in Walt Disney Elementary Schools located in Tullytown, Penn., and Anaheim, Calif.

Walt Disney never drew the popular Sunday newspaper Mickey Mouse comic strip or comic book nor did he sign all of his autographs. Every piece of artwork was "signed" with a Walt Disney signature, but Walt Disney did not provide every signature. Some signatures came from a production artist, not from Walt Disney himself.

Sign here! Authentic Walt Disney autographs, those that Disney signed by his own hand, differ depending on the stage of his life. The signatures dating to the 1920s differ from those of the early 1960s. He signed his name in both cursive and block print (known as Roman lettering), and he used every type of writing instrument to sign his name including pencils, markers, fountain pens, ballpoint pens and crayons.

Walt re-designed his own signature over the years, in very much the same way he changed the appearance of Mickey Mouse. The most common Walt Disney signatures date from the period after 1954 when Disney was seen regularly on television and up to the time of his death in 1967, at age 65. These autographs are among the most popular and collectible.

It is interesting to note that an authentic Walt Disney autograph can actually command more money from collectors than that of most autographs of our U.S. Presidents. About 40 of our Presidents’ autographs are worth less on the collectibles market than an authentic Walt Disney autograph. What’s more, it has been said that Disney’s autograph is the most recognizable in the world. 


Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel’s Auction Kings. To learn about your antiques, visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, @DrLori on Twitter or Lori Verderame on Google+.

 

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