Avoid Things That Are Too Good to Be True

Beginners in the autograph field naturally want exciting things and may quickly gravitate toward the most spectacular pieces. They don’t realize that what they want either doesn’t exist in the real world or is so rare that its appearance would create quite a buzz of conversation. This spells opportunity for the crooks that pollute the waters. Some of today’s best forgers specialize in group shots, such as those featuring an entire cast of a television program, or show five American presidents together. We rarely see one of these group pictures authentically signed. Forgers also love to choose “best case” photographs to sign, ones that would be extremely rare if authentic; these often show film stars in their greatest roles, as Judy Garland playing Dorothy in the classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Although Garland did sign photographs, I have never seen an authentic still of her from any of her films, no less as Dorothy. 8 by 10 inch signed photographs of Vivien Leigh from “Gone With the Wind” are another example of best case pictures impossible to find. Here’s another. We have seen numerous purported signed duet photographs of John and Jacqueline Kennedy at auction, but never one that we felt was real. An enormous percentage of best case autographs are forgeries; if low priced avoid them altogether, as well as the auctions and dealers always having lots of them.

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