At Steve Cyrkin's invitation, I'd like to call your attention to a signature study I've posted on my blog, Charlton Heston signature study by Steve Zarelli.

I believe I have identified the "tell" in Charlton Heston secretarial signatures, and if I am correct, the news is not good for most collectors. It appears that most  Heston signed photos are secretarially signed.


Here is a synopsis:

The Theory
Photographs and other memorabilia sent to Mr. Heston's office were signed by a secretary. However, Mr. Heston did authentically sign books through-the-mail.  

Real vs. Secretary
In authentic signatures, the R in "Charlton" is distinctly a lowercase "r" and less than half the height of the L. The first four letters are clearly "Char."

In secretarial signatures, the R looks much more like a lowercase "l" and is about the same height as the L. So, the first four letters appear to be "Chall."

I have attached two images to give you a small sampling.  

For more details and images, please visit my blog at the link below.

I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts on this. I fully anticipate some resistance to the theory, because denial is always the first step. In fact, I would love to be proved wrong, because that would mean I wasn't sitting on a bunch of secretary signed photos!

By way of introduction, I have been collecting since the early 90s and I am the UACC Ethics Director.

I look forward to the discussion.

The Collecting Obsession


Steve Zarelli


Tags: Charlton, Forgery, Heston, Secretary, authenticating, autograph, secretarial

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I have a lot of respect for the UACC, but people often have a hard time changing their views. Your studies are welcome here—we would be thrilled to be able to share them with collectors.

We'll label them "Subject to Peer Review" at first to allow members to comment and present evidence that either reinforces your conclusions or counters them. If we feel comfortable with the findings after review we'll give them our stamp of approval, so to speak. This way we an make sure all voices are heard and all sides get a fair chance to make their case.


Here's a statement from RRAuction.com's lead authenticator Bill White:

"This has been discussed and debated for years. While I now personally feel that the in-the-mail Hestons were secretarial, I can also see a lot of positive traits to them and another part of me finds it really hard to believe that anyone could get his signature down as well as they supposedly did. Still, I read the signature study last year and I took it seriously so now we reject them when submitted and issue refunds when they reappear without question."

I have never dealt with Bill White personally but he has a good reputation. Has Autograph World issued a statement about the Hestons they have sold?


Steve- Is it the dealer's obligation to seek out the discovered mistakes (not saying Heston but in general) or to wait until they resurface with complaints?

That's a pretty fair question and often times the answer is it "depends".  We have heard that R&R issues "recalls" which leaves the impression they are proactive but since they also have lifetime regardless of owners I can understand the "reactive" stance as well.  If I still had one though I'd prefer the proactive if it can be done without alarming people as some may have the real McCoy.
Good point Greg.  If this information was out there and you have a business that collects $$$ for "knowing better" then there is no excuse.


Is it the dealer's obligation to seek out their customers they sold discovered mistakes to? Legally, that would depend on the laws of their state, province and country. Most dealers wait until the customer comes back. I don't think that's the way they should handle it, but I've rarely heard of dealers doing differently.

Keep in mind, though, that many dealers don't keep images of the items they sell (especially the lesser expensive ones), and they'd have to go through every invoice by hand even to find out who to notify that there may be a problem. The work could easily cost them more than the total value of the items in question. In our case, we have scans of everything, so it's just a matter of searching the COA archives for Charlton Heston, which should be easy. But we only have to go back to 2006.


I think most of this information is done with databases and computers, especially big guys like RRAuction and Autograph World.  It should be as easy as pie to find out who these were sold to and to send them an email.

Regarding Autograph World:

I didn't contact them, or any dealer or auction. R&R emailed me a statement. Give dealers and auction houses time to talk to their sources and do their own investigations and research unless you bought one that's likely secretarial from them. If you did, NICELY let them know and point them to this discussion. Give them a month to figure things out unless you've got a guarantee or return privilege deadline.

Many dealers depend on the expertise of trusted sources and well respected dealers, and are not great at authentication themselves. Most autograph dealers are little mom and pops.


I was very happy to see the statement from RRAuction's Bill White.

After my experience with Tricia Eaton last year, It's good to know that

Bill and Company have decided to take the Heston Signature Study seriously.

Just curious, do you know if  Bill is referring to Rolfs study Pre or Post English translation.



Bob Shinn


I don't know which study, but I imagine it's the translated one you provided Tricia last year.

I wonder when R&R quit selling these because they were selling the questionable ones late last year after the studies were out? Looks like they could be out thousands of dollars if everyone who bought one wants to return it, most of what I checked on their past auctions were the secretaries!

I have two TLS from Heston's office. Both were unsolicited followups to another request I had sent. Until recently, I would have bet almost anything they MUST be authentic. Who would have a secretary sign a personal note like this?


Yet, now they both appear to be secretarial signatures.


Very odd. Yet the reality appears to be that he was signing almost NOTHING except books through the mail. Even personal letters are secretarial.


My biggest disappointment in this was learning my Heston signed baseball was not authentic.  It was a special piece to me. Now, I guess my kids can use it to throw around the yard.


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