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Autographs not always what they might seem.


COLLECTING autographs - or philography as it's known - is an amazingly popular pursuit with some autographs being worth thousands of pounds.

Many people write off to celebrities for their autographs, sometimes enclosing photographs to be signed.

Some autograph dealers apparently pose as fans to obtain autographs which they then sell on, leading celebrities such as George Foreman to record the names and addresses of all the requests they receive.

Autographs of living celebrities tend to be worth less than those of historical figures for the obvious reason that they're a lot more common. The most valuable signature in the world, it's reckoned, is that of William Shakespeare, of which only six authenticated examples are known, all held by institutions.

Most collectors of autographs specialise in one particular field: famous authors, composers, political figures, actors and artists are all popular, as are sporting autographs like the ones shown here.

The pencil signatures come from an autograph album I purchased from a fleamarket in Carmarthen. It contains autographs of county cricketers from the late 1930s, including Essex, Somerset, Surrey and Glamorgan CCs.

The centre section of the album is occupied by photographs of boxers like this one of the famous Welsh boxer Jack Petersen, which illustrates a particular problem all autograph collectors have to face: how do you know if an autograph is genuine? This picture hasn't been signed by Jack Petersen himself, it's what's known as a pre-print, where the signature is actually printed as part of the photograph. Alternatively, some celebrities may use a rubber stamp with their signature on it or get their secretaries to sign for them.

The autopen, which can reproduce signatures at a rate of several hundred an hour, has also been a boon for hard-pressed celebrities since the late1940s, President Kennedy being the first US president and celebrity to use one on a daily basis.

For these reasons it's often recommended that you only buy autographs from a recognised dealer who can offer a Certificate of Authenticity.

The cricket signatures in this book are all genuine and from the doodles on blank pages were clearly collected by a young boy at the time, one mainly interested in cricket and boxing, although he headed one page, rather incongruously, Russian Dictators, on which he pasted a picture of Stalin.

They would appeal, obviously, to collectors of cricketing memorabilia as well as to autograph hounds.

These autographs aren't worth a fortune, maybe pounds 30-pounds 50, but as they only cost me pounds 8 I'm not complaining.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 22, 2011
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