A new collector sent this in for us to publish:

I've written some observations about being a new collector. If you think it's of any merit, I'll forward it to whoever you feel could post or print it to try to help others."

 

I recently decided to begin collecting autographs from my Rock and Roll guitar heroes. While on vacation, I found a shop in New Orleans (I'm purposely omitting the name) that had some of the coolest and most well-displayed autographs I had ever seen. The people were friendly and seemed intent letting me find my dream pieces with no pressure.

I found a beautiful copy of Are You Experienced signed by Jimi Hendrix. It was too expensive but one of the girls said that it was 40% off because they had a good month prior. I looked up some exemplars of Jimi's signature on my iPhone and it matched fairly well. They had a COA from a "forensic document examiner" and a 60-day return policy. Everything about this place seemed professional. I bought it and could hardly contain my excitement.

My compulsive nature (and a gut feeling) prompted me to do more research when I got home. That's when I learned the business of autographs can be a very dirty one. Forgeries are very prevalent and good, honest, reliable authenticators are few and far between.

I learned that the "forensic document examiner" (name purposely omitted) had a very checkered past and was out of favor with just about everyone in the industry. I felt like the proverbial P. T. Barnum client.

I investigated further and found that blogs and websites contain both positive and negative information about virtually every authenticator. Then it became a matter of discerning the source of the opinions. The consensus of a positive opinion gleaned from sources (that appeared to have no financial or competitive bias) pointed to only a very few authenticators.

Fortunately, one of them, Roger Epperson, was within a reasonable drive. I took my album to him for inspection. He took time to show me nuances of the signatures on both my album and known exemplars. It was clear that it was a "very good" forgery. I talked with him for about an hour and learned some important tips for collecting. 

The following are my personal observations from this experience:

  1. Be very careful about shops in high traffic tourist areas.
  2. Try not to get emotional about what you see. We love our heroes but the heart can't overtake reason when looking at autographs.
  3. Research and know about what a quality autograph by your hero should cost and look like generally. Be suspicious of a "discount" price. You will pay more for authenticity, but that will ensure increased value over time.
  4. Know the authenticator and know what their COA looks like (they can be forged too). For example, a Frank Ciazzo COA for anything Beatles or a Roger Epperson COA for any modern music artist are very well respected and considered excellent by most sources in the industry.
  5. Cross reference authenticators. I did that with the two guys mentioned above and got very favorable opinions for each from the other.
  6. Make sure your dealer has a GOOD return policy, read it carefully and ask questions. Don't buy from anyone with "no returns" anywhere in the store or website.

Fortunately, I did get a full refund on my forged Jimi Hendrix. I have read many accounts of people not faring nearly as well.

My hope is that this information will be helpful to other novice collectors.

I have found that the search and acquisition of authentic autographs is really fun and gratifying. Ending up with a piece of history is very cool. Just be careful!

Views: 414

Tags: Frank Caiazzo, Jimi Hendrix, New Orleans, Roger Epperson, forensic document examiners, forgeries, gallery

Comment by Sidney Fields on July 23, 2012 at 7:19pm

This is a very nice summary of the basics any new collector should know.

But it also contains a shock.  How did you get a refund?  After all, they had a COA from a faux-rensic document examiner.

Comment by adam phillips on August 9, 2012 at 7:34pm

As a new collector, and brand new member of Autograph Magazine Live, the information you provided is exactly what I need.  

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