Autograph Dealers – 6 Tips On Finding Good Ones

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    If you are a collector of autographs, you have certainly, at some point, had to face up to the sad reality that the market is super-saturated with unscupulous autograph dealers, and finding authentic autographs takes time, expertise and experience. And that is why it is worth understanding this and reading on and other resources, how exactly to distinguish a real signature from a fake, how many autographs there are in the world (where are stored), etc.

    For a new collector (and even a fairly experienced one) it can be quite frustrating to dig through the insanity that is the online autograph marketplace and find good, honest autograph dealers that believe in what they are doing, and only wish to sell authentic items.

    Few things are less fun for an autograph collector than to have a signed piece that you own stare at you from your wall every day, plaguing you with doubt of the items’ authenticity.

    I have experienced this first hand many years ago as a novice collector.  I ended up intentionally destroying several autographed items, and throwing them away because I had purchased them on ebay without doing my research. After learning more about this field, I discovered there was no way that the items I had purchased were genuine. Luckily they were not high dollar items, and my education didn’t cost me as much as some stories that you hear.

    Whether it’s ebay, or other online marketplaces, there are just too many items and too many autograph dealers wanting to sell to you.  Unfortunately the loud and flashy noise that is the online autograph market tends to cover the excellent, simple and quiet work that the genuine autograph dealers are doing.

    So, here are a few tips that I hope will help you find some excellent dealers.

    1) Certificate’s of Authenticity Are Meaningless -   “COA’s” as they are called are offered on every signed item, fake or otherwise, online, but they are not proof of an item’s authenticity.   Genuine dealers almost always offer guarantees without certificates and they are usually without expiration.  They are backed up by the dealer’s integrity and expertise.

    2) Registered Dealers of Reputable Associations – Look to purchase from registered dealers of reputable autograph associations.  Among the best are The Universal Autograph Collector’s Club (UACC), The Professional Autograph Dealers Association (PADA), and The Manuscript Society – Remember, however that just because a dealer is a member doesn’t mean they are a registered dealer who is subject to review and vetting of their inventories, and can and will lose their licenses for selling fake autographs.

    I have purchased this way for years and have never been unhappy.

    3)  “Proof” pictures Prove Nothing –  You see these a lot on ebay.  The ad will say something like “Signed, With Proof!”, and will typically show the celebrity at some autograph signing or signing autographs on the street.  Anyone could copy a photo like that and add it to their listing.  Even if the item is authentic, a picture of them signing autographs does little to authenticate the item you are buying.

    4) Beware of eBay – eBay can be the land of confusion to be certain.  They do their best to keep fakes out of the marketplace, but there’s only so much they can do in the end.  I recommend only buying from registered dealers of reputable autograph association’s eBay stores or items.

    NEVER buy from a seller who uses the “PRIVATE” option in any of his listings.

    5) Contemporary Entertainment and Sports -  In my opinion these two fields are where a lot of the unscrupulous autograph dealers hang out these days.   If you collect in these fields you have to collect with added caution.   Do you really think a certain dealer has 50 identical authentic Al Pacino signed 8×10’s?  Not likely, but you see it all the time.   There are a lot of phonies to weed through and sometimes it can be downright frustrating to even try.

    6) Become an expert and know your field of collection – If you just take some time to study the history and signatures of the people whom you collect, you can become expert enough to spot phonies a mile away.  This expertise can help you identify and avoid the bad autograph dealers out there.

    Good luck!


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