How to Tell if Autographs are Authentic

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Baseballs, collectible cards, celebrity photographs, books, posters, art prints, band T-shirts: if you find an autographed one in a storage unit, your heart might just flutter. Is it treasure? There are ways to find out.

Keep in mind that just because an item isn’t signed doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Rare posters, first-edition books, original art, and limited run collectibles can potentially fetch a high price on the resale market, even if no one scribbled a jaunty John Hancock on it. If you do find a signed item, here’s how you decipher its authenticity:

Determine if it’s Authentic

Compare the signature you found with other examples of the person’s signature. You can find authentic examples at reputable collectible shops and auction houses, which often post photographs of their merchandise online. The more examples you can find, the better you’ll get a feel for the person’s signature style at different times during their life.

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People sign things quickly, so shaky writing could be a sign of a forgery. A spot in the middle of the signature could indicate that somebody stopped and started – something an authentic signer would not do. Pay attention to the line thickness, since the way a person holds a pen is unique.

If you’re at a loss, you can call in an expert appraiser.

Determine if it’s Machine Printed

This process is pretty simple: lay your document over a verified machine-printed example of the autograph. You can use a lightbox, window, or even the screen of your computer or tablet. If the signatures align perfectly, the item was not signed by hand. However, it could still be authentic in the sense that it really came from the person whose signature was printed.

Determine if it’s Reprinted

Making copies or prints of autographed memorabilia saves time and avoids cramps. A hand-signed autograph will reflect differently than the photo paper when held to the light. It will also produce texture – either a bump on top of the paper or an impression in the paper, depending on the type of pen and paper used. A printed autograph, on the other hand, will feel completely flat.

These tips should help you value any autographed items you encounter in your storage treasure hunting. The nature of the autograph, the rarity of the item and the fame of the person who signed it all go into setting a resale price. Compare your item to similar items or check with an appraiser.


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