Navigating the World of Autograph Collection
If you are a collector of autographs, you have certainly, at some point, had to face up to the sad reality that the market is super-saturated with unscrupulous autograph dealers, and finding authentic autographs takes time, expertise and experience.
For a new collector (and even a fairly experienced one), it can be quite frustrating to dig through the insanity that is the online autograph marketplace and find good, honest autograph dealers that believe in what they are doing and only wish to sell authentic items.
Few things are less fun for an autograph collector than having a signed piece that you own stare at you from your wall daily, plaguing you with doubt of the item’s authenticity.
Whether it’s eBay or other online marketplaces, there are just too many items and autograph dealers wanting to sell to you. Unfortunately, the loud and flashy noise in the online autograph market tends to cover the excellent, simple and quiet work that genuine autograph dealers do.
Tips to Help You Find Excellent Autograph Dealers
- Certificates of Authenticity Are Meaningless
- Registered Dealers of Reputable Associations
- “Proof” Pictures Prove Nothing
- Beware of eBay
- Contemporary Entertainment and Sports
- Become an Expert and Know Your Collection Field
“COA”, as they are called, are offered on every signed item, fake or otherwise, online, but they are not proof of an item’s authenticity. Genuine dealers almost always offer guarantees without certificates, usually without expiration. The dealer’s integrity and expertise back them up.
Look to purchase from registered dealers of reputable autograph associations. Among the best are The Universal Autograph Collector’s Club (UACC), The Professional Autograph Dealers Association (PADA), and The Manuscript Society – Remember, however, that just because a dealer is a member doesn’t mean they are a registered dealer is subject to review and vetting of their inventories, and can and will lose their licenses for selling fake autographs.
You see these on eBay. The ad will say something like “Signed, With Proof!” and will typically show the celebrity at some autograph signing or signing autographs on the street. Anyone could copy a photo like that and add it to their listing. Even if the item is authentic, a picture of them signing autographs does little to authenticate the item you buy.
eBay can be the land of confusion, to be certain. They do their best to keep fakes out of the marketplace, but there’s only so much they can do. I recommend only buying from registered dealers of reputable autograph association’s eBay stores or items.
NEVER buy from a seller who uses the “PRIVATE” option in any of his listings.
Many unscrupulous autograph dealers hang out in these two fields. If you collect in these fields, you must collect cautiously. Do you think a certain dealer has 50 identical authentic Al Pacino signed 8×10’s? Not likely, but you see it all the time. There are a lot of phonies to weed through, and sometimes it can be downright frustrating to even try.
If you take some time to study the history and signatures of the people you collect, you can become expert enough to spot phonies a mile away. This expertise can help you identify and avoid bad autograph dealers.