The hobby of collecting the autographs or signatures of famous people has been a source of enjoyment to countless collectors over the centuries. Each collector has his or her own reasons for collecting, and whether to own a piece history or simply possess a few strokes of ink from a certain celebrity’s pen, the autograph collector is committed to his hobby.
Yet, in the digital age, where we have nearly unlimited access to many fine items to add to our collection, there comes with it an increased opportunity to be duped by a clever forgery. There are many tools a wise collector must employ to safeguard themselves from becoming a forger’s victim, and we could write volumes on the subject, but I felt it necessary to put together a very short guide for the novice collector to help him or her get started collecting authentic famous signatures safely and smartly.
1) Don’t Be Fooled by Certificates of Authenticity (COA’s)
These certificates, offered up on nearly every phony signature online, are really more like Certificates of Worthlessness. Any autograph dealer with a computer and some free software can print a beautiful, glossy certificate proclaiming the authenticity of the item, but in the end they are really worth no more than the paper they are printed on. This brings us to tip #2
2) Find Reputable Dealers
This can be one of the more frustrating things to try to accomplish but there are excellent dealers who know their trade, are honest and only sell authentic material. Reputable dealers almost always offer catalogs with their latest offerings with insightful and knowledgeable information on each piece. They will back up their items 100%, will actually provide excellent customer service and can guarantee authenticity without resorting to gimmicks such as “COA’s”.
One last note on this. Remember that being a member of a reputable autograph association (such as UACC or PADA) is not the same thing as being one of their registered dealers. Anyone can be a member but only certain upper-tier autograph dealers can be a registered dealer and must maintain high standards to keep their status as such.
3) Know Your Target’s Signature and Its Variations
Just knowing the various nuances and particulars of a certain celebrity’s autograph can save you a lot of trouble. So many forgeries are very obvious if you know your celebrity’s signature well. Check reputable example libraries such as Famous Signatures.net for authentic examples of various celebrity signatures. Take some time and study the different variations of that person’s signature over the course of their life and look for consistency between the known examples and any item you are considering. You don’t have to be an expert to begin to spot obvious fakes. This will not protect you from the best forgeries out there but it can protect you from many.
4) Is The Price Right?
Remember if it’s too good to be true it is. Just because something has a high price tag doesn’t necessarily make it authentic but a price tag too low can almost always be considered as suspicious. No honest dealer is going to sell an autograph that would go for $2,000.00 for $300.00.
5) Use Your Common Sense
Just using your common sense can be the best weapon sometimes against forged signatures. If a dealer or an item seem shady or not quite right just move on. There are plenty of good items for sale and plenty of good dealers to sell them to you. Just keep looking. Looking is half the fun anyway! Collecting famous signatures and celebrity autographs is an incredibly enjoyable hobby. It is fraught with dangers but using these tips will help you get started collecting the safe and the smart way. Good luck!