Collecting Star Wars autographs is possibly the best hobby in this world or any other. But the hobby, just like the films, has a dark side. Forgeries, secretarial signatures, dealers without the proper knowledge and mistakes by authentication companies can give even the best collectors heartaches and nightmares.
With all the hype surrounding the release Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and the promise of the remainder of the new trilogy and stand-alone films in the coming decade, more and more people will join the ranks of Star Wars autograph collectors.
The first step for someone jumping into this hobby tends to be an internet search. That usually leads to eBay, where you will find nearly 10,000 listings related to Star Wars autographs on any given day. The vast majority of those autographs are worthless forgeries.
While there are nuggets of gold on eBay that pop up here and there, I strongly recommend that new collectors avoid the pitfalls of eBay, at least until you have a good handle on the fact that they do not even attempt to police their autograph categories for fakes.
Nothing compares to adding the signature of your favorite character to your collection. That feeling of having something that very few people will ever have the chance to own.
Maybe you spent a large chunk of your paycheck with an autograph dealer, or maybe you sent a fan letter and received a signed photo as a response. Then you bring your treasured item to the framer and have it custom framed to hang on your wall. Weeks or months pass and you decide that you want to grow your collection. You find yourself here on Autograph Live and hear the most horrible news: your prized possession is an outright forgery or a secretarially-signed through the mail response.
Autograph dealers, by the nature of their business, have to be jacks of all categories. They likely deal with Hollywood of all eras, sports, political, music, historical, astronauts and other types of autographs. There really is no way for a dealer to know everything about every possible autograph that they may carry in their stock. They must trust the people that they buy from and like every aspect of life, there are people who will take advantage of them if given the opportunity.
Celebrities today, especially those involved with the Star Wars universe, likely receive more fan mail than most any famous people in history. Many of these actors and actresses cannot live normal lives or keep normal work schedules if they answer all the mail that shows up at their door. Instead of disappointing their fans, they will have family, assistants or secretaries sign photos to be sent back in response. It's not meant to be mean-spirited, but it certainly can ruin a fan’s day when they realize their collection is mixed with autographs signed by someone's wife or mother instead of their hero's signature.
There are ways to guarantee that the autographs in your collection are real, but they are not for the faint of heart. You can drop a small fortune in travel expenses and convention tickets to stand in line for days to meet some of the cast and crew, or take time away from work hoping to catch your favorite celebrity while they are in New York or L.A. doing press for a film. These options are your safest bet. You witnessed the celebrity signing your item and you will never have any doubts about what’s hanging on your wall.
You can hire a reputable in-person autograph hunter to go out there and get the signatures for you, or find a dealer that specializes in Star Wars autographs. Until recently there was a company that held the license for Star Wars photos and signed memorabilia. They no longer hold this license, but plenty of their material remains in the marketplace.
Other steps you can take require even more time and effort. Study the signing habits and history of the celebrity you want in your collection. Take your time, collect image samples of autographs that are known to be authentic, and once you have a good sized exemplar file, you will start to recognize signing patterns that do not change. Before you know it you will be able to tell the real autographs from the forgeries and pick out the secretary signatures too.
You have taken your first step into a larger world, just by being here on this forum. Now it's time to use the resources available to you. It is a well-known fact that you don't have to know everything. You just need to know where to find the answer. You are in the right place.
About the Author:
Pete Chuka has been collecting autographs since 1979, specializing in Star Wars, science fiction and comic book related autographs. He was an autograph panel member and presenter, at both Alphacon in 2001 and The Star Wars Celebration III in 2005. He is not a dealer or autograph authenticator, yet he has made it his goal to educate fans about Star Wars autographs. He has never charged anyone for his opinion.