Properly Authenticating Autographs

in Autograph

So I am a huge JAWS fan, I think it's the greatest movie ever made.  As a result I'm regularly scoping out eBay for additions to my collection of JAWS memorabilia.  One thing I've always shied clear of, though, is autographs.

The reason is simple, about five years ago, I stumbled across a JAWS THE REVENGE poster autographed by JAWS star Robert Shaw.  Problem:  JAWS THE REVENGE was release in 1987, nine years after the death of Robert Shaw, who allegedly signed it.  Obviously there is no way the autograph could be genuine.  As a result, I just ignored autograph ads from that point forward.

Until recently, anyway, when I stumbled across a gold mine of autographed photos in a local antique shop, including one from John Williams, who composed the score for JAWS.  Suddenly, I was interested.  So how was I to know that what I was buying was the genuine article?

Traced signatures are common, but they usually give themselves away because the writing is shaky (an inherent trait that goes with tracing).

Date the item within its lifetime.  Much like the JAWS poster I mentioned above, make sure the item could have existed within the lifespan of the author.  A John Lennon autograph on a 1981 photo?  Be afraid.

Of course the best way to make sure the autograph is real is to actually watch the person sign it.  This removes all doubt, for you anyway.

You first need to determine if the person whose autograph you are seeking is contemporary or classic.  Most classic signatures can be authenticated, but more modern autographs cannot be so readily identified.

There are also a number of companies that specialize in the authentication of the autographs, as well as those who trade in autographs, who are much more likely to take extra care to authenticate the product as oppose to a stranger you met off of eBay.

You can also visit PSA/DNA Authentication services online, download their submission form, complete and submit it online.  The PSA/DNA will determine if your item is authentica and tag it with an invisible ink, only visible to laser.  The item may be tagged in an unobtrusive area or on a certificate of authenticity.

You may also want to build up a collection of verification material, such as checks, documents, contracts, etc, anything that has a reputable signature on it.  This can prove invaluable when determining if a signature is the genuine article.

You can also familiarize yourself with the way a given celebrity signs their name, which can give you a good clue as to whether or not autographs are genuine.  When I was a teenager, I corresponded a time or two with noted suspense director John Carpenter.  His signed letters featured a larger than average "J", and the overall signature appeared to read "Joel Carter".  Simply familiarizing myself with his writing style helped me to identify authentic autographs years down the road.

Basically, be suspicious.  In this case, the subject is guilty until proven innocent.  Take whatever steps you feel are necessary to make sure the product is what it claims to be.

Done right, autograph collecting can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby.  Don't be taken by the ripoff artists, know what you are looking for and how to ensure its validity, and go chase down as many stars as you can find.


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BillyDRitchie has 1 articles online

Billy D Ritchie is the Director Of Content for LeadsByFone, LLC, a lead generation company servicing the water removal and damage restoration industry.

When not writing and educating folks about the perils of water damage, he is also a freelance writer, sometime actor, and formerly professional musician.  He also enjoys spending his weekends building and flying model rockets

Visit him online at

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Properly Authenticating Autographs

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This article was published on 2011/04/12