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It's All In A Name

Aug 18, 2007
There's nothing more exciting that having a poster or picture of a movie star with their name scrawled across it in black sharpie. Knowing your favorite actor or person has signed something that belongs to you is a neat personal experience.

It's even better when a friend comes over to your home, looks at the framed picture on the wall and says, "She signed that? Wow." However the joy can turn to controversy when the friend asks, "How much is it worth?" Seeking autographs for value or business is different than seeking them for pleasure. If you're trying to ensure your investment there are some things to know.

Trust But Verify

How do you know if an autograph is authentic? If you watch the people sign it with their own hand in your presence. Otherwise, you can never truly be sure. Sports and media stars are notorious for allowing assistants; secretaries and club managers sign pictures to send to adoring fans.

These items end up in shops, auctions and homes with hefty price tags attached. It's all fine when it's an item to sit on top of a shelf in your house. But when you go to sell the item or your inheritors want to sell it after your death, there may be a lot of trouble if it turns out to be false.

There are agencies that can authenticate with certainty if an autograph is real. PSA/DNA is a sport autograph authenticator who uses specialized techniques to discern whether your item has the real thing on it. Investing in their use is one way to guarantee the signature. Be aware of false authenticity claims as well. An article on EBay may come with a computer printed certificate from someone verifying the signature. But it could be Joe next door. Check out the proof before you purchase.

Get Them While They're Hot

The older the star or athlete, to more likely the signature is to be a fake or require expensive verification. A black and white still signed by an actress who has been dead for fifty years is hard to verify but most likely a fraud. In the MGM studio system stars had fake names, life stories and signatures often made staffers in the publicity department. The chances that Ava Gardner or Errol Flynn signed that napkin from the Coconut Grove are slim. Autographs for investment are best procured by young or active stars so they can be verified more quickly and easily. Yes, it means you'll have to hang to it for a while in order to get your money, but that's what investment is all about.

Watch The Signs

When collecting autographs for fun, anything that can be written on is fair game. But when doing so for investment purposes, there are some things to remember. Porous items like T-shirts, Napkins, or Skin are not good investment autograph sites because the ink absorbs and smears over time into an unrecognizable blur. Some items should not be autographed at all. Comic books are one example.

A comic book actually decreases in value if it is signed by an artist or writer, because the ink affects and damages the page. Have a comic artist sign a white back board or cover that can be put in the bag with the comic (facing away from the comic). Books are okay to sign, particularly on the inside fly-leaf because with publishing numbers so high the book is never going to be the valuable part, the signature is.

Autographs are all a matter of why. If they are for pleasure, take that sharpie to the stars and let them sign away. But if at the end of the day its money you have in mind, act wisely to preserve your piece of history.
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