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Autographs offer sign of added value.

'please sign here mister' is the often used phrase of the young autograph collector as he thrusts an autograph book or scrap of paper in front of one of his great heroes.

These heroes grace a variety of artistic abilities from film and television stars to sportsmen and politicians, but not all are generous with their time or signatures. Consequently, the economies of supply and demand mean that rarity can add a considerable premium to the value of a signature when it comes onto the auction market.

In politics, for example, the autograph of Margaret Thatcher is quite sought after as the 'Iron Lady' signed so much in autopen. However, not even Mrs Thatcher can compare with Winston Churchill when it comes to rarity and value at auction. Churchill's signature on a piece of paper can command hundreds of pounds, but a good signed photograph could easily sell for more than four figures. Collectors should always be on their guard as even Churchill's signature is often seen in facsimile.

Autograph hunters in the early days of the last century would have sought out religious leaders, royalty and men of military bearing to put pen to paper but tastes change and today it is the film star or sporting icon who attract the most interest. The great film stars of the past such as Errol Flynn, John Wayne, James Stewart, Laurel and Hardy, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis and the rest, sit proudly alongside their modern counterparts Stallone, Ford, Hoffman, Pacino, Jodie Foster and Nicole Kidman - all of whom would provide excellent additions to any collection.

Hours of waiting outside of theatres and cinemas may well prove worthwhile as that once elusive signature is passed through auction for hundreds of pounds a generation later.

As an alternative to the signed photograph or autographed album page, collectors may prefer the signed best seller, the autographed first edition or handwritten letter.

The addition of a good clear signature, preferably in ink, will add considerably to the value of the item. A first edition of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood would normally sell for between pounds 100-pounds 150 at auction but the addition of the author's signature would treble the value of the book.

It is probably in the field of sporting autographs that the biggest developments have been seen in the last decade, especially in football where good quality signatures of great players of the past can sell for vast sums. The 1966 World Cup-winning team, the Manchester United Busby Babes of the 1950's, the Cardiff City FA Cup winning team of 1927 all carry a premium when they come up in specialist sales of sporting memorabilia.

Even modern signatures have an instant value with autographed photographs of Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney probably worth pounds 30- pounds 40 each at auction and a good David Beckham in his latest Real Madrid kit would be worth twice as much. The list of sporting greats is just about infinite with quality items signed by legends such as WG Grace, Bobby Moore, Don Bradman, Ayrton Senna commanding strong values.

Anthemion Auctions will be selling a fine collection of sporting autographs in their specialist sale on April 21 and offering an outstanding album of signed photographs of film stars in their September Collectors sale.

Sale inquiries to Mike Ashton or Ryan Beach on 029 2071 2608
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 7, 2004
Words:559
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