Concerned about buying autographs?

Buying autographs today can be a difficult business as its so easy to fall prey to the online scammers and forgers, but with a little bit of knowledge and a healthy dose of common sense it is possible to find your way through the jungle that has been created by the forgers, and buy genuine signed items.

Simply start by doing a little homework and look into the background of the dealer you might be considering buying from first, rather than simply accept all the stories they tell you about where an item was signed etc, because many of them are simply stories!

Many web sellers are simply that, they sell only on the web, and are unknown outside of it. They often make claims about having 'inside contacts' at film studios, the music industry, football clubs or their membership of any associations. They may say they have a team of people collecting at film premiers and after show parties, or in some cases even claim to hold 'private' signing sessions with top A list stars. It is not uncommon to see them state that they are very well known in the autograph business, and have been trading for 10 years or more, but how much of that is the truth and how much fiction?

The truth is that the number of items signed at premiers etc is often very limited, and certainly not large enough to go around the many 100's of dealers now making these claims, and as for those private signings, well if they were telling the truth, don't you think they would have some good photo proof showing the stars at a desk with piles of signed photos etc?

This kind of ‘provenance’ can be simply made up, and in many cases it is. We were asked to do a piece for TV (Inside Out, BBC East) with antiques and fakes expert Curtis Dowling, who created a fake Churchill related item and a whole load of provenance to go with it. This was then shown not just to the general public, but also a number of university experts as well and all believed it to be authentic! The point being that they did not know or study the signatures, but relied almost entirely on their acceptance of the provenance that Curtis had created, and thereby believed the whole thing to be authentic. The item was later succesfully listed and sold via ebay for a very good price, although i must make clear that the buyer was told of the scam and no money changed hands!

And what about those 'photo proof' images? These are often just stolen images from another genuine dealer, website, or in the worst cases simply created in Photoshop. Any photo proof at best, only ever proves that the seller may have met the signer in question once, so please don't assume that just because a seller has a photo of themselves with Charles Dickens, that the signed item they are selling is authentic!

Another often used ploy is to say that they buy only from UACC or AFTAL registered dealers. But ask yourself this, why then are they not members of these asociations themselves?

The first thing we check now when buying anything online are the contact details of the seller. By law anyone offering a service or products online must now clearly state their full geographical contact details. If you check this, you will find that many sellers have simply failed to add any contact details at all, and at best have only given you a mobile phone number! This is not only illegal, but we think should tell you all you need to know about the seller and the way they run their business!

Far better to spend a little time finding out about the background of the dealer you may be buying your autographs from.

  • How long have they really been dealing in autographs? (don't just take their word for it)
  • How much do they really know? (call them and ask them some autograph related questions)
  • Who else in the trade knows them? (any good dealer will be known to others within the trade)
  • Are they full time? (call them on their landline number during the day and see who answers)
  • And very importantly, are they actually members of any recognised association? (and always check to confirm this).

If you want to check anything about any dealer, then do what you probably did to find us, and use Google! If you have purchased anything that has come with a COA from such names as Sporting Icons or Andrew Sullivan over the last few years, and done a Google search you would have found out all you needed to know to avoid these 2 sellers and their court appearances! I would like to point out here that neither of these two names are related to any other autograph business with a similar name.

We can tell you that Garry King and Autografica has been buying, selling and authenticating autographs for over 20 years full time (but don't just take our word for it, simply ask other dealers). We attend shows where you can meet us in person, and we are available on the phone 7 days a week. We have been UACC Registered Dealers for well over 14 years, and are also AFTAL Approved Dealers as well, which again can be easily checked.

Autografica were voted UACC dealer of the year in 2000, and were presented with the UACC Presidents Award for Quality in 2006, and in 2011 were voted by the membership of AFTAL as the dealer of the year. These facts can easily be checked or confirmed by the many UK and US based dealers that we work with within AFTAL or the UACC. Can you say the same about 'Superduper Autograph Celebrity International' on eBay or elswhere?  

Autografica were also the founders and and original partner in the ‘Autographica’ (note the different spelling) autograph event for 8 years, and have been featured in many local and national newspapers and magazines, as well as the TV shows 'The One Show' ‘The Real Hustle’ ‘Inside Out’ 'Fake Britain' 'Pawn Stars UK' 'Posh Pawn' and most recently 'Posh Pawnbrokers'

We have given expert witness testimony for both trading standards and the Police, which is used in court against the many dealers who ‘pretend’ to be experts but are really just confidence tricksters out to take your money. And all of this can be checked with a few searches, the latest such case being this one!

You should also always check any dealers memberships. If they say they are a member of the UACC or AFTAL this can easily be checked at the relevent websites. You may be surprised to find that some dealers actually lie about this! So the next time you want to buy something signed, check out the dealer first, and not the fancy talk or COA’s they offer, it could save you a small fortune! If anyone states that they are a UACC Dealer, then check that they are, as most are only members and not registered dealers, and you can find more about this on the UACC website.

The good news though is that there are plenty of very good and trustworth dealers around, in fact, the UK has probably more autograph dealers per square mile than any other country i can think of, and some of these are the best in the business, so its very likely that whatever you want, you can find it right here in the UK. 

We have written a number of articles over the years, and some of these can be found elsewhere on this site, so do please take the time to check these out, as information such as this should be an essential part of any collectors armoury. Knowledge is power as they say, and the more you know about this wonderfull hobby, the better your collection will be for it. 

We also offer a 'Quick Opinion' service for items you would like to buy on eBay or elsewhere. Let us have the item number or location and ?6.95 via paypal, and we will then give a valuation for the item. If the valuation comes back as ?1.00 then you know its not worth buying! 

Garry King. UACC RD 179. AFTAL 002