Collect Autographs: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Investing in Autographs by Fraser's Autographs
|Collect Autographs: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Investing in Autographs by Fraser's Autographs|
|Category: Business and Finance|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: A selective illustrated catalogue, prefaced by chapters on the dos and don'ts of collecting autographs, cautionary tales for the unwary, and an overview of recent market trends.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: November 2009|
|Publisher: Stanley Gibbons Ltd|
There must be many of us who have at one time had an autograph book or something of the kind as children and asked friends, relations or even celebrities to 'do something', written to celebrities in the hope of obtaining a personally signed picture, or even waited patiently at a stage door after a play or concert eagerly clutching a theatre programme, record or CD sleeve and pen in hand.
Stanley Gibbons have long been synonymous with stamp collecting, a hobby which has lost some of its appeal with the excessive proliferation of new issues in recent years. Acquiring autographs for fun, investment or both has long been a popular pastime, whether one chooses to go about it the most cost-effective way or seek out blue-chip saleroom material. You could write to your favourite footballer or soap star and maybe receive a signed and dedicated photo for the price of a stamp (always hoping it is signed by the person in question and not a secretary, of course), or if you have around £80,000 to spare, original manuscripts by Beethoven - who in turn used to collect those of Mozart - occasionally come on the market.
Fraser's Autographs is the division of Gibbons which deals in this field. The vast majority of this book consists of an illustrated catalogue divided into sections, such as Art; Aviation and Space; Film, TV and Theatre; Literature; Classical Music; Pop and Rock; Politics; Royalty; Sport; and Military. It can obviously not hope to be a fully comprehensive or exhaustive catalogue, unlike a similar reference work on stamps or coins with a finite number of known issues. Instead, the listings and values comprise items which they have recently sold or were offering at the time of publication. Throughout, there are three categories of material, namely SP (signed photograph), DS (document, signed), and AP (album page).
It makes interesting studying, particularly when we come to comparing prices (in pounds, dollars and euros) in all fields. Among movie stars, signed pictures by the shortlived Jean Harlow are priced in five-figure sums, with those of Stan Laurel and Rudolph Valentino not far behind. Among royalty, documents bearing the signature of Elizabeth I are easily the most expensive. Interestingly, those for Queen Victoria are more sought-after and therefore more valuable than those of her uncle William IV, although there must be far fewer of the latter extant. Signed pictures of Princess Diana still have a hefty price tag, around £8,000. In the rock and pop music section, the long-dead Hendrix, Presley and Lennon are not surprisingly the most expensive. And in the art section, a Turner DS will only cost a fraction of one by Van Gogh.
The short chapters at the front of the book, by various dealers and collectors, form a good introduction to what they call a 'passionate investment'. One looks at the pitfalls of forgeries and fakes, traps for the unwary, with a discussion on the validity or otherwise of Certificates of Authenticity and use of autopen signatures. Others look at recent price increases, with Michael Jackson's signature having inevitably shot up in value after his sudden death, and on collecting music and sports autographs. The Beatles pose a problem for the collector in that they often used to get secretaries and roadies to sign their names for fans – or sometimes one of the group would do so for all four. President Kennedy sometimes relied on an autopen, and when he did not, his almost illegible handwriting often changed considerably, to say nothing of his alternately signing himself Jack or John.
I spotted one error in the Royalty section – a signed photograph of 1960 from Alexandra, Princess of Wales. The only person with that title was the future Queen Alexandra, who died in 1925. Princess Alexandra of Kent, perhaps? Also in the article on music and the roll call of rock stars who died young, Johnny Rotten is still very much with us, and I suspect the writer meant Sid Vicious. Those gremlins apart, this book made fascinating browsing. It will certainly appeal to anybody with an interest in the subject, whether one can afford to be a compulsive collector or merely wants to read and learn more about the hobby.
Our thanks to Stanley Gibbons for sending Bookbag a review copy.
If you enjoy this, you might also like How to Deal in Antiques by Fiona Shoop.
You can read more book reviews or buy Collect Autographs: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Investing in Autographs by Fraser's Autographs at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Collect Autographs: An Illustrated Guide to Collecting and Investing in Autographs by Fraser's Autographs at Amazon.com.
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