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George Gershwin signature on Rhapsody In Blue sheet music. Courtesy:  Swan Auction Galleries, 101 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010




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News Article

Collecting Autographs Can Be Dicey and Pricey

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, October 2007

For serious autograph collectors the Swann Auction Galleries autograph auctions are an important event. Even for collectors who can't afford $20,000.00 or more for an historical document signed by George Washington or the offering of a small American flag carried by Charles Lindbergh, on the Spirit of St. Louis during his 1927 trans-Atlantic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 faked.

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.

Autopen signatures have been around for years and can do about 300 signatures an hour. They are 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 lithographs. 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 and increases the value.

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 a family Bibles and old scrapbooks.

TO LEARN MORE: Join the Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC). Either write to the UACC , P.O. Box 6181, Washington, DC, 20044-6181 or contact their web site, Universal Autograph Collectors Club.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at

The Antique Shoppe
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PO Box 2175, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-2175
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