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As a long time Jimmy Stewart collector, I have dozens of authentic autographs in my collection. From checks to photos to a baseball, I treasure them all.

However, one key piece has eluded me - that is a signed photo from It's a Wonderful Life

Jimmy Stewart was a generous signer and there is a good supply of authentically signed Stewart items readily available. As of now, there are approximately 420 James Stewart signed items on eBay from almost every movie he appeared in, except, perhaps his most popular -- It's a Wonderful Life

So, what is the problem with It's a Wonderful Life?

Perhaps It's a Wonderful Life photos were not readily available from the photo suppliers in the period when Stewart was signing generously through the mail. That is speculation, it is a mystery to me. 

But what is undeniable is that IAWL poses are exceeding uncommon in authentic form. You will find many IAWL poses allegedly signed by Stewart, but in my opinion, the vast majority are suspect and to be avoided. At this time, of the approximately 420 signed James Stewart items on eBay, there is not one IAWL example I believe is authentic. 

Here are some examples of signatures on IAWL poses I consider suspect at best. 

This is a pose commonly found signed in the upper left corner with a messy haphazard blue Sharpie signature. In my opinion, this is likely a mass-produced fake.

Here are some other suspect examples.

If you are in the market to add a IAWL signed photo to your collection this holiday season, I advise great caution. Chances are that IAWL signed photo belongs in a stocking with lumps of black coal!

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Comment by Eric Keith Longo on December 5, 2023 at 10:09am

Well written and illustrated, thanks Steve! 

How scarce are original unsigned IAWL stills?

Comment by Steve Zarelli on December 5, 2023 at 10:43am

Good question. Bear in mind IAWL was not highly regarded on release and for some time after. If I am not mistaken, it found its following in the 1970s. So, it leads me to believe that many original stills and lobby cards did not survive.

Also, if you were a collector in the 80s and 90s --  pre internet -- there was only a handful of sources for photos, and they usually only had one or two for each celebrity. If I recall, the Stewart selections were usually portraits. Or you had to rely on the portrait he provided. 

I suspect these are the reasons why IAWL poses are so uncommon. 

Comment by Eric Keith Longo on December 5, 2023 at 10:55am

I collect original vintage stills, although I have never sought this title. I took a very quik peek and the only one I found was over $300. There was also a production portrait of Barrymore for a few dollars. If that price is close for the still then your explanation is likely the case. I remember Jerry Ohlinger's in NYC but there were very few sources for original stills back then.  Buying stills over the telephone...days gone by.

Comment by Steve Zarelli on December 5, 2023 at 11:58am

Yep. Movie Star News was a photo supplier in NYC. I remember going there several times.  

Comment by JMS1223 on December 5, 2023 at 12:12pm

I noticed as well that there are virtually no authentic signed It’s A Wonderful Life photos. I always wondered why and reading the comments makes sense due to availability of photo choices back before the internet. However, I have seen photos from his other famous movies signed such as Harvey so it is still interesting how some movie photos exist while others not so much. 

Comment by Eric Keith Longo on December 5, 2023 at 12:38pm

Well, a lot of those Harvey's are later reprints. Not everyone is overtly concerned with original stills - I think it makes all the difference in the world. It seems a vintage signed original IAWL still would be a very desirable item!

Comment by JMS1223 on December 10, 2023 at 2:58pm

I just saw this James Stewart It’s A Wonderful Life signed photo in an auction. Not sure it’s authentic but to me it looks like it might be good. 

James Stewart - It’s A Wonderful Life signed photo

Comment by JK on December 10, 2023 at 3:18pm

Signature aside, that photo is really grainy.  Not sure where they got that from.  If it's some sort of screen capture, did that technology even exist in his lifetime?

Comment by JMS1223 on December 10, 2023 at 3:41pm

I was thinking it might be a newspaper photo. 

Comment by Steve Zarelli on December 12, 2023 at 10:51am

Another IAWL fake that surfaced on eBay.

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