To change the subject, in the recent Vincent Price SP discussion there was some question of authenticity. I showed first images below, under the SP, of several "tools" and it was suggested I make a dedicated discussion of this subject. I used one method that has proven very useful over the years. Viewing signatures alongside known exemplars (I miss TheCead!) flipped backwards and/or upside down in Photoshop to view form and negative spaces without the eye seeing the normal letter shapes and relations clinically from a different POV. Examples below. The Gleasons shown in negative allow a better view of ink dispersal and weight. I have not encountered many if any forgeries that can withstand this sort of scrutiny. The bad material sticks out immediately. The Gleasons can be enlarged by clicking.
What are some of the methods you use to aid in authentication?
I have to say that is amazingly impressive and I would not know where to start to do a similar comparison. I tend to look very closely at the signature, condition, ask provenance etc and check against other items I have or others I know of and trust my gut which more often has not has been right
Thank you Dan. I'd love for others to add to this thread as you just did. I showed this technique to an authenticator at one of the more well known auction houses who had stated the item I was intending to sell was a secretarial (not a Gleason btw). I went through their own previous auctions, found another of the same sig and sent an email with no words - just the inverted images of mine and the one they sold. He changed his opinion straight away but said he did not quite get what I was doing!
Quite honestly, Eric, I have never utilized this strategy. It is brilliant. I typically look at the usual baseline, flow, letter formations and slant. A forger may be able to accomplish one or two, but not all four.
Thank you Mike. Imagine trying to get those four points upside and backward! I don't know anyone who uses this technique. And with it you can view the sig in question in six ways.
Besides the obvious (comparison with known exemplars), I try to judge my purchase of a signature on three factors: provenance (if any), price and condition. I'm more willing to risk a gamble on an item that isn't "verified" if it's at $10 or less, or if there's an element of provenance or inscription with it.
Condition and price are of course vital. I don't waver too much on condition unless there is some large mitigating factor. I'll "overpay" for true quality - especially vintage stamped stills with vintage signatures. I too prefer dedications and inscriptions as there is much more to work with. I only buy (and sell) "raw" uncerted autographs from top notch folks like Brucato or from friends here etc. or from the other end of the pool - eBay etc. Uncerted autographs - much cheaper as the value isn't maxed out just because of an ill-placed advertisement sticker or some plastic - as long as you know your subject well. And why pay someone else to have the all the fun of doing the research? Buying because of a cert is scary to me. Buying on the opinions of others is just collecting a list of names IMO. I pay attention to provenance with an eye on source. When Dr. Brucato told me my mint 1936 Lugosi SP was known by him to have hung in a restaurant for decades in a NYC restaurant my ears perked up quickly, but I bought it with my own eye some time before.
You have such a scientific approach, Eric. Which has always impressed me. I wish I could share some amazing tip of my approach but it's pure old fashion foot work.
I just try to find as many know exemplars as I can to compare a signature with. After awhile I get a "feel" for a particular signer and their signing traits. That helps me eliminate the obvious problems.
If it's a borderline signature I will then seek out someone whom I know is experienced in that genre. Networking can be a collector's best tool to separate the wheat from the chaff.
If the above two methods still leaves a doubt in my mind, I use the Kenny Rogers strategy.
"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run".
Thank you Joe. I agree - networking is very valuable. I have some collecting buddies in the other areas I collect. Hiroshima, the R.M.S. Mauretania and the 1939 New York World's Fair, and many friends here - like you :) Unlike those areas, autographs can be rather nebulous so another set of eyes is often useful. We both like quality and slam dunk autographs. I like your Kenny Rogers analogy! :) I hope others add to this discussion as you have. Everybody brings something different to the table. A great strength.
Eric, You asked me what tools I use to authenticate autographs. I am old school and those tools are rusted….I am old enough to have gone to the UACC shows in Northern Virginia. I purchased items from Herman D., and E. Bomsey when they sold behind 8x10 tables the better part of 40 years ago, then to have an item I purchased from Herman TPA'd by himself for JSA 2 years ago…priceless. ... I purchased 5-7 autographed Charles Hamilton books for reference because I started out wanting to buy historic autographs….Then changed course to collect Hollywood. For 20 years I flew to the west coast 4-5 times a year and became friends with 5-10 in person sellers. One who was old enough to ask Jean Harlow for her autograph... Remember…. before 9-11 publicists would let everyone know where their actors would show up for events…when you can buy the same autograph from 5 to
10 "runners" the street autographs are real. San Diego Comic Con…Real, ABC up fronts held at "Disneyland" real…..My friends collecting on camera on TMZ …Real….Eric, you know I hate to rock the boat the few months I have been on this site……Do you think the death bed signing of Deforest Kelly would match his prime time signature ? His autograph is in a lock box at the bank……..Just to let you know Penny Marshall showed up at a signing in LA with a very large, open 24 hours a day cup of paint remover, "hint ,hint" after staying awake after a Lakers game the night before…..It is always about the ink…..The good ,the bad , and the ugly. If I can buy a ugly ""real autograph" for a few dollars I am on that…..If you want to spend hundreds if not thousands for that "perfect" autograph it may be in my collection.……..Just a hint….If you happen to fly into LAX, you might want to wait and look for the celebrities, the cameras, and the many collectors waiting in collect celebrities who are waiting for them in LA from the east coast talk shows…back in the day it was Delta and American……Having had a stroke 10 years ago maybe "Bob's " airlines, or was that the restaurant in Burbank that served the "Beatles" back in the day……….
Thank you for adding to this discussion. I hope others do as there must be a ton of valuable information here. I've seen De Kelleys last sigs and although the flavor, form and construction is still there as in the 80's - earlier 90's they are more of a "scrawl", especially his "D", slow and more angular. Not unlike very late Doohans - smaller and with the "scrawl" look. My Trek collection is all 1967-68. There are much more late date Doohans out there than Kelleys. As you know I prefer slam dunk autographs, very typical examples from whatever the period the film is I am after. I too love the vintage Hollywood material. I do have a few more recent items - my most recent is Kodi-Smit-Mcphee from 2010. I finally did find an official still from the film The Road from France with Kodi in it. But very few others from recent years - mostly my collection is film/stage 1930's-1970's. I have an Ian McKellan from Richard the Third which is about 1995, a full name Chris Walken from the 1989 film Communion, a Lillian Gish SP and corresponding letter from her last film The Whales of August, which is on YouTube and certainly worth the watch. Gish, Vincent Price, Ann Sothern and Harry Carey. Excellent film. I have a Charles Bickford from the 20's but should get rid of it as I broke up my Star is Born collection long ago to fund a higher quality Garland SP. My Rock and Roll collection starts at 1976 (Bowie) to 2017 (Roger Waters IP) and I don't see my adding anything else as I have all my "heroes". You must possess a wealth of information, especially the street graphs. When I have been lucky enough to get IP's it's always been in a relaxed setting. A memorable example would be Audrey Hepburn - I was lucky enough to enjoy wine with her at a table for two in 1990 I believe. I wish I still had it. Oh well. :)
Eric, The last time I collected Doohan, he was there in body and not in mind….The number of times "Hollywood Legends" were brought to signing events for family cash or by the "grand kids" or to help pay the bills is overpowering and sad. Just throwing out some of the names you mentioned. I never collected Hepburn…..