Wishing doesn’t necessarily make it so.
You inherited a land grant from your great grandparents, signed by Martin Van Buren. Browsing an old junk store, you came across a Harry Truman White House letter welcoming troops back from the war. Your mother adored actress Vivien Leigh and wrote her a letter. She cherished the signed photo that she received.
Some early US presidents signed land grants. Those most desirable are of Benjamin Franklin who wrote with a large flowing hand. From Andrew Jackson forward, all US presidents had secretaries or relatives who signed land grants and other such routine documents. The Harry Truman letter you cherish was printed and distributed by the tens of thousands to returning GI’s. Sorry to burst your bubble, but nearly all “signed” photographs of Vivien Leigh were clever litho-prints as part of the photo printing process. Studios even hired people to sign on behalf of the stars. The signed photos look “real” but seldom are.
Back in the day, well before TV, determined autograph collectors would often wait at stage doors for their favorite idol to appear. Such die-hard collectors were known as “stage door Johnnies”. Autograph album in hand, they would approach the star for a signature that usually complied. Here’s the point. Unless you acquired your autograph treasure in-person, there is every likelihood that the autograph is secretarial, forged, produced by mechanical means (such as the autopen) or, a clever litho-print photo (as was often the case with vintage Hollywood material of the 1930-50’s). When it comes to authentication, we have to assume the item being studied is not authentic until proven otherwise. We examine handwriting, paper and known published examples. Many of us specialize in the areas we authenticate and are familiar with examples that are secretarial, forged or mechanically-produced. Authentication takes time and a trained eye.
Reasonable is whatever someone is willing to pay.
The above may be the attitude of some dealers, but not us. There are specific factors that influence the value of an autograph, letter, document, signed photograph, etc. We are pleased to offer appraisal services. We charge an hourly rate (two hours minimum) for this service with payment in advance. Our appraisal is based upon 40 years of experience in the acquisition and sale of historical documents and autographs. We have, at our disposal, a master file of thousands of autograph images – many of which we have bought and sold — as well as an international sourcing network of colleagues who specialize in all areas of autographs and memorabilia. Our appraisal includes review of extant records of auction and private sales, prevailing fair market value and trends forecasting, and such other factors as content, condition, and relative demand for the material.
There are three basic forms of appraisal: (1) Insurance replacement value: this appraisal determines what it would cost to replace an existing item in your collection; (2) Retail, fair market value: a determination as to what the item(s) might sell for in a well-publicized auction (as the on-air hosts of Antiques Roadshow provide); and (3) Liquidation value: A method of valuation most commonly used in bankruptcy proceedings, enabling the seller to, hopefully, close a sale quickly.
Please note: appraisal of autograph material is not authentication. We take the position that material presented for appraisal is not authentic unless you have a statement from a bona fide professional who has examined the item. If you desire authentication as well as appraisal, please read further.
As with appraisal, there is a minimum two-hour charge for this service and final cost depends entirely upon the complexity of the project. Most projects can be completed in three to four hours followed by a written, detailed report. Over the past 40 years we have learned a thing or two about autographs, especially in the following areas: Black Americana, 20th Century Authors and Poets; Popes and Saints. Ron Weekes has written numerous articles on various aspects of autograph collecting and has been called upon by private collectors and institutions to provide authentication and appraisal service. We also have taken courses in Graphoanalysis – the science or study of handwriting. In instances where there are serious reservations as to authenticity, we may refer an item to a third-party for forensic analysis. There is an additional charge for this service. We always first consult with the client before pursuing additional research or forensic testing of autograph material.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Few reputable autograph dealers will both appraise/authenticate material and purchase it. This is considered to be a professional conflict of interest. If you wish to sell your material we will be pleased to provide you with a confidential analysis. We cannot, however, appraise and/or authenticate your material and make you an offer to purchase your unwanted material. Thank you for your understanding.