Historical Autographs Cover Many Categories

By Anne Gilbert
   The hunt for important autographs is ongoing. After all it is collecting history. Important people, places and events and related signatures cover every category imaginable from presidential documents, space travel to inventions and movie personalities. Surprisingly documents signed by President George Washington still turn up at auctions, far from their origins. A few months ago a document signed by an 18 year old George Washington, when he was a surveyer in Fairfax county, Virginia, was sold at O.A.K. auctions in Coral Gables, Florida. It fetched $6,637.50.
   Only a few decades ago important historical presidential signed documents could be purchased in the low thousands of dollars. And, there were only a few auction galleries selling them.
   An interesting, relatively new category is space related. At Swann Auction Galleries in New York, a NASA photograph of astronaut Neil Armstrong, autographed by him, sold for $2,500.
   These days serious collectors are wary of faked signatures, one of the many perils and pitfalls in this collecting category.
   CLUES: Among the many techniques used to fake authentic signatures are autopens , secretarial signatures, rubber stamps and preprints. As far back as the 1920s and 30s movie star photos with supposedly authentic signatures were mailed by the thousands to fans. Common sense tells you the “stars” wouldn’t have had the time. In fact they hired someone to do it. The same thing happened with political autographs.
   Autopen signatures have been around for years and can do 300 signatures an hour. They are so authentic looking that it takes a specialist to tell the difference. One clue is when parts of the letters appear shaky. This is caused by the vibrations of the Autopen when it writes.
   Rubber stamped signatures can be recognized when too much ink makes smudges.
   Another technique used is imprinted signatures.
   Interest in collecting autographs usually begins in childhood with something as simple as collecting schoolmates signatures at graduation time. This is usually followed by collecting autographs of sports figures, movie stars and popular musicians.
   Adults, depending on their interests collect documents with signatures of historical figures, inventors and authors. The signatures can be on part of a document, photo, baseball, or sheet music. The list is endless.    Signed documents can turn up in unexpected places such as family scrapbooks and bibles.
   PHOTO CAPTION: A c. 1750 document with George Washington signature when he was 18 years old, PHOTO CREDIT: O.A. k. AUCTIONS, Coral Gables , FL. PHOTO CAPTION: Autographed photo of astronaut Neil Armstrong. PHOTO CREDIT: Swann Galleries, N.Y.

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