Owning your favorite movie star’s autograph is awesome. It’s like you’ve captured a glimpse of their life – even if it’s just a few seconds spent scribbling onto a piece of paper.
You can also impress friends with the autograph on display in your home.
But how do you get one? And how can you be sure it’s the real deal?
For peace of mind it’s always best to get autographs In-person. IE Meet the celebrity face to face and watch as they sign.
BUT this isn’t easy.
Some fans wait for celebrities at airports, hotels and events – but due to busy schedules and large crowds they’re unable to sign for everyone.
And even if you’re lucky enough to get an autograph it’s often a rushed squiggle.
Film conventions provide a more personal way of doing this. A fee is charged in exchange for the signature. Which can be expensive. But you’re often able to chat with the celebrity – who’ll be happy to dedicate the autograph to you personally.
Another option is to write a letter to a celebrity requesting an autograph. Which is rewarding if you get a response. But due to high volumes of requests you won’t always be successful.
And if you do get a reply the autograph won’t always be hand-signed.
Often it’ll be one of the following…
- Stamped Autograph – A moulded stamp of the celebrity’s signature is used.
- Secretarial signature – Their personal secretary has signed on their behalf.
- Autopen – A machine which imitates the celebs signature is used.
- Pre-printed autograph – A printed copy of the celebrities autograph.
However this can still be a rewarding hobby. Made worthwhile when you do actually receive an authentic autograph through the mail.
Purchasing autographs from Auction Houses.
Some auction houses hold specialist autograph auctions, with their own in-house authenticator.
And so unlike EBay there are less fakes that slip through the net.
Most autographs sold at auction come from private collectors - collected over a period of years.
With signatures available from movie stars that have sadly passed away. Who you couldn’t meet In-person - it’s a great way of obtaining rare autographs of movie legends.
And if you’re interested in buying at auction you don’t always have to attend in person.
There’re a number of other ways to place a bid:
- Absentee Bid - Leave an absentee bid with the auctioneer.
- Telephone Bid - Arrange with the auctioneer to bid on the telephone.
- Internet Live Bidding - Some online platforms allow live bidding.
It you’re buying from auction it’s always wise to inspect the autograph before committing to bid.
Here are some techniques professional authenticator's use….
How to authenticate an autograph
When authenticating autographs you should always check that the signature is fluid. The autograph should flow nicely from start to finish.
Copying or tracing a signature requires concentration. It’s done much more slowly than writing a signature in the moment. And so if it’s copied or traced it’ll be less fluent.
When inspecting an autograph pay particular attention to the following:
- Rough or shaky edges – The faster and more natural the writing the smoother the edges should be. Look out for any ink bleeding from the edges of signature. Or signs of an unsteady hand.
- Consistency of Ink – Writing slowly allows more ink to seep onto the page resulting in a darker appearance - and a similar consistency throughout. Fluent writing varies in consistency. It’s darker towards corners as the pen slows down, and then become lighter as it changes direction.
- Thickness of signature – When writing fluently parts of the signature appear thinner as the pen lifts from the page. If it’s signed slowly it’ll be a similar thickness throughout.
- Signs of Hesitation – Are there any areas where the pen looks to have rested or stops abruptly in an unusual area?
Checking fluency is also a good way of spotting any auto-pen or stamped signatures sent to fans in the mail…
Auto-pen signatures – Signed by a machine, can be shaky in parts. With the same consistency of ink, and same thickness throughout. An auto-pen signature also ends abruptly. Whereas an autograph written by hand will fade out as the pen leaves the page.
Stamped signatures – Due to the pressure can result in the ink seeping out onto the page. It generally produces the same consistency of ink throughout – but can sometimes have gaps where the ink hasn’t took to the stamp.
It’s worth mentioning that certain illnesses and old age can also affect the flow of handwriting. So this should be taken into consideration – but nevertheless always assess fluidity when authenticating an autograph.
Check under the Light
Hold the autograph closely under the light and have the light reflect back to you. This helps to detect if the autograph has been pre-printed.
A pre-printed autograph will reflect the whole page as one smooth surface. A genuine autograph reflects the light differently and will stand out. Also look for signs of indents. Has the pens pressure left any indentation on the surface? If it’s signed using a sharpie marker look to see if any ink has seeped through the back of the page.
Compare the autograph.
Compare to other known authentic autographs. This helps spot any irregularities.
If you type into google images the name of the movie star followed by ‘PSA Authentic Autograph’ or ‘JSA Authentic Autograph’ this will bring up other signatures that’ve been authenticated.
For EG: ‘Clint Eastwood PSA Authentic Autograph’
PSA and JSA are trusted authentication services based in the USA. Each signature authenticated will usually have a sticker attached to it with their logo.
The more authenticated signatures you can find the better.
Compare the spacing between letters. Where does the pen start on the page and where does it finish?
Compare letter by letter - what does each letter usually look like? How does each letter connect? Is there a specific style of writing? Look at the ratio of each letter in comparison to the rest of the signature.
Are there usually any dots, full stops or unusual characteristics? If yes where are these usually positioned? Is the signature usually signed on a particular angle?
This is something you get better at with experience. The more time you spend studying handwriting and comparing autographs the more you will know what to look for.
Some of the professional authenticators have decades of experience – but even if you’ve no experience at all it’s still worth doing this.
Is there a story behind how the autograph was obtained? And is there any proof that can back this up?
Some examples of proof might be:
- A return envelope with the date and maybe a note on headed paper from the celebrity.*
- Photographic proof of the encounter with the celebrity or better still a photograph of the celebrity signing the item.
- A menu or programme for a special event that the celebrity attended.
*If there’s a hand-written letter accompanying the autograph it can be easier to authenticate. A person copying a signature will not want to expose themselves by writing a long letter.
Obviously you shouldn’t rely solely on providence. The signature could always be added afterwards – but if the autograph looks to be authentic then any providence can only add value.
I'd always recommend going through the steps detailed above regardless of where you make your purchase.
A good way to remember this is F.L.A.P. (Fluency, Light, Autograph comparison, Providence).
If you’re buying from a company a Certificate of Authenticity will provide details of where the autograph was purchased.
But always ensure the company offers a money back guarantee if the item’s found not to be the real deal.
And always keep the sales invoice to show how much you paid.
One final piece of advice…
Trust your instinct if there’s anything that doesn’t feel right. Don’t buy it. Always trust your gut. You don’t want to end up with an autograph if there’s going to be that doubt in the back of your mind. You want to be 100% happy that the signature is genuine.
If you have any questions at all regarding this subject then please get in touch. I’m always happy to help.
PS You can find our selection of signed movie merchandise... Here.
….All come with a certificate of authenticity and a money back guarantee for peace of mind.