John Belushi shone bright and burned out in only 33 short years on this Earth. He is rightly considered an American comedy icon and so his autographs are highly sought after items. The trouble is that the man who lived a wild and fast life also had a wildly signing style. Now I’m only an amateur collector, and I’ve tried doing my research, and although there are characteristics to his signature, he can be very tricky to give a definitive on. Obviously taking into consideration the changes in signing over his years of fame, quick signings, documents and checks, he’s still a tricky one.
The following is my tale to discover if I have a genuine Belushi or not.
First of all, let’s have a look at some (what I would consider to be) 99.9% genuine Belushi signings.
Firstly some signed documents:
Here is a very confident and quite complex signature; an all in one movement for ‘John’ continuing into an ‘A’ for his middle name ‘Adam’ (which appears in earlier examples of his signings and official documents) Then his surname is another all in one movement, this time rounded with lots of swirls. The ‘B’ starts with the straight line downwards, then twists back up to the top veering left and then he continues into the two front loops of the ‘B’ and then back again and into the ‘e’ and a nice loop for the ‘L’ a tight swirl for the ‘u’ and ‘s’, another loop for the ‘h and then finishes with the dot of the ‘I’ that floats out to the right hand side of the signature.
Another contract signed faster, The ‘J’ a bit more pointed in this example, still with the ‘A’ for Adam, and the Belushi is stretched and less flourished, probably to fit into this document. Still that dot over the ‘I’ out to the right. And both names written in single, deliberate movements.
Next up is a nice example of a check from 1972. A little looser, back to the more rounded style, still with the middle ‘A’ but the ‘Belushi’ is leaning to the right a little. There is a break after the ‘s’, which seldom occurs and the dot once more.
This group signing from SNL cast in 1977 features a much simpler signing style, he’s dropped the ‘A’ and this time there’s less of a lean to the left on the ‘J’ of John and the trademark ‘I’ dot still floating off the very end.(in the middle of the document)
This check from the same year and the lean to the left is back and that dot over the ‘I’ as a little dash to the right.
This dot/ dash I believe is an important trait in spotting a genuine Belushi (isn’t it the same with Stan Laurel, where a genuine one always has a dot after the signature? Something that forgers often missed.)
Now a couple of more informal versions of his signing styles. A signed receipt with a much simpler ‘John’ but it still has a twist in the ‘o’:
And this in-person from a respected document specialist, this time with the John above the Belushi and with a flamboyant swirl underneath.
A lean to the left
Both ‘John’ and ‘Belushi’ written in one movement.
The bottom of the ‘B’ twisting back and sweeping into the rounded ‘e’
The twisting ‘s’
And that tell tale ‘dot’ over the ‘I’ at the end.
Now onto the obvious fakes to compare to:
This site ‘Memorabilia Autographs’ are hawking a large number of these forgeries, from 200 to 400 dollars. This is the most common forgery of his signature out there.
This one on Ebay is currently passing this one off. Not a bad attempt to copy his movement, but not right
This pick guard is pretty shameless:
Now onto my own purchase, I bought this on Ebay back in 2005. And I am under no allusions that it could be a fake, but it has always bugged me, as just when I write it off, I see something that makes me think it could be genuine.
Firstly it seems like a very elaborate fake, now, I’m not stupid enough to think that forgers won’t go to great lengths to cheat us collectors, but still. Why fake these three names in particular; Bill Murray, John Belushi and Gilda Radner (whom the autograph hunter wasn't sure who it was, hence the question mark after her name). Surely Dan Aykroyd would serve you better to forge alongside Belushi? More bucks for sure.
And the confidence in which the Belushi signature is executed has always made me wonder, a forger could certainly have gone for a simpler version of his signature and there is no hesitation at all in the line, it has that lean to the left and has that all important dot over the ‘I’.
I sent the item to John Hickey at Heritage Auctions, who was very helpful and ran it by Steve Grad at PSA/DNA at no extra cost and I was simply told ‘all no good.’ Now I have the utmost respect for their work, but it continued to bug me and nine years later it still does! Particularly as PSA Autograph facts have this one posted as a genuine example.
Here are two studies I’ve done on my own autograph. One shows all three SNL cast comparisons.
And finally another look alongside two genuine and similar in style Belushi’s.
So, there you have it, what do you guys think? Am I chasing a dream and need to save up and buy another, or could I have a genuine Belushi in my collection? I’d love to know what you think? And no need to spare my feelings, I’m still getting over that Jackie Gleason secretarial I have hanging on my wall!!
And at the very least, anyone looking to buy a Belushi have a little resource here on site.
Yes it is and its currently for sale.
Great to hear and see you autograph DKLI. I started this thread as a real fan of Belushi, but having been stung a couple of times. It's all a learning process and the more genuine ones we see, the better informed we all are. Much appreciated!
Good one! I think we're lucky anyone has his signature. After he made Animal House, he'd pretty much avoid signing/talking to anyone. I have pics of him smiling and signing for fans (1978) but that changed.
Thank you for posting and maintaining this discussion. I just sent someone to it this evening. Very valuable.