Over the past few years, autograph sales on eBay have gone through the roof. Sellers from across the globe have set a precedent for eBay to be a cheap and easy way to view and buy a vast variety of autographs. Although there is an incredible array of the most elegant and tantalizing collectibles available to anyone with the internet, a large portion of the autographs on offer are not what they seem.
There are many unscrupulous autograph sellers on eBay who offer some of the most horrendous forgeries for which people seem to be willing to pay large sums of money. For example, there was an auction for sale last year for a John Lennon record "hand signed", even though the copyright date for the record was several years after his death. This guide contains a few small tips to keep in mind when you are planning to purchase an autograph.
Many sellers offer a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) with their autographs. This is a document that apparently guaranteesthe authenticity of the autograph. This document is barely worth the paper on which it is printed. Anyone with a printer can produce a CoA. For some reason, buyers tend to be less inclined to purchase autographs unless they have this piece of paper. Keep in mind that a CoA does not increase the value or credibility of the autograph. It is much more important to trust the seller.
Many buyers tend to focus on a seller's feedback. This is definately something that is important, but not paramount. The vast majority of people who purchase autographs from eBay are starting a collection and do not have experience in determining forgeries. Therefore, many people will buy autographs and leave positive feedback for sellers, simply because their item arrived in the mail. Accordingly, the seller builds up a large positive reputation. Many of these sellers with large reputations are deserving of this praise, whereas there are other sellers who sell thousands of forgeries every month, racking up ratings of over 100,000.
The best way to discover whether or not an autograph is authentic is to compare it to a known authentic example. Most celebrity's website will have a scan of their autograph somewhere on it. It is highly unlikely that the autograph you are looking to buy will look identical to the autograph on the website. Think about how different your signature looks every time you sign a credit card slip. The important factor to consider is the style of handwriting. For example, look at the angle on which the name is written; Are there any unique calling cards, such as double loops or overlapping letters; does the autograph end with a long stroke or a well defined letter; Does the autograph look like it has been written slowly (many forgers will trace an autograph slowly, however jaggered writing is a dead giveaway of a forged autograph); etc. After a while, you will become somewhat of an expert on handwriting, and you will be able to identify a forged autograph a mile away.
Another important issue is pre-printed autographs. This is when an item has been hand signed by a celebrity, then the signed photo is reproduced (photocopied) and printed as another photo. This means that the autograph is now a part of the photo. The is a cheap alternative to an expensive hand signed autograph. Many sellers only sell pre-printed autographs, and this is completely legitimate. However, a seller MUST identify the item as pre-printed. When looing at an eBay listing, read through the description thoroughly before bidding. Many sellers use very obscure wording in their description to lead you to believe that the autograph has been hand signed, even though they never actually say so. If you have any doubts, write an email to the seller and clearly ask them to verify if the autograph is hand signed or pre-printed. If you still have your doubts, then don't bid. There is nothing worse than spending good money on something you don't want.
Autograph collecting can be one of the most exhilarating hobbies. The thrill received from possessing an item that a celebrity has touched and written on is something many people crave. But you must remember one thing: People who obtain the autographs in person spend countless hours acquiring these autographs, and as such they would not be willing to sell them for nothing, A simple rule is this: If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Educate yourself before spending any money and discover your friends from your foes in the eBay autograph world.
Autographs on eBay: How to Judge your Friends from Foes
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7 June 2006
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