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Where to Buy Authentic Autographs February 19 2021

The first question every burgeoning collector asks themselves is “where can I buy authentic autographs?

It is such a fundamental consideration as this will be the foundation upon which your collection is built, and the beginning of your journey into the fascinating and highly rewarding world of autograph collecting. 

There are many paths one can choose to go down, so in this article we’ll take you through the 5 most important sources used to secure the best, high-quality, and authentic autographs.

1. AUTOGRAPH DEALERS

Going to a trusted, professional autograph dealer is a fantastic place to find

Orson Welles signed photo in Macbeth

autographs for your collection or as a gift, especially if you have a name or a particular piece in mind. To begin with, the best autograph dealers will have an incredibly in-depth network to reach out to, allowing the beginner collector to acquire particular autographs in the most optimized way. 

Whilst auction houses will stock their sales with valuable and authentic items, they won’t follow up on your requests and wants and pursue a specific item for the individual collector, or usually let them know it’s coming up for sale for that matter. Unfortunately, the emphasis for the auction house will always be on the sale rather than the individual collector. In contrast, getting in touch with autograph dealers will ensure that not only do you have a professional on the look-out for an item, but you will also be notified should they find it.

There are still some crucial things to know when utilizing an autograph dealer’s services: check their reviews and make an initial assessment of the business’s credibility, especially if you aren’t able to deal with them in person. Post-transaction and once an item is in your hands, it’s important to check what you have purchased, comparing it with known authentic autographs, and confirming it’s of the quality expected. 

Whilst it’s rare for issues to arise with trusted, established autograph dealers, developing your own eye for authenticity and building this individual judgement is an invaluable skill for every autograph collector, and one of the best investments you can make in this hobby.

With each item you purchase, obtain a professional invoice and a Certificate of Authenticity if possible. Some professional dealers can be vague about an item’s provenance - this is not necessarily due to any shady reason, but because it can conflict with their own commercial interests to reveal their source of purchase. Customers may well try to reach their resources directly, and this, in fact has happened to us several times in the past. In addition, it might also violate the privacy of the original seller, which many times just wants to sell and does not want to be contacted for questions or else in the future.

Instead, check their return and refund policy before you buy. You can expect at the very least a document that allows some form of refund if problems arise, such as a lifetime guarantee on authenticity, and a 14-day money back guarantee, with no questions asked should you change your mind about the sale.

2. ONLINE MARKETPLACES

The internet sells anything and everything, including collectible autographs - however, the nascent autograph collector should be especially wary of online marketplaces including Amazon, eBay, Etsy and others. More often than not, these web domains are non-curated with fakes a dime a dozen. 

Sellers can move seamlessly between platforms, shaking off bad reviews with the change of a username, thus with no fear of reprisal or bad review from a bad transaction. Not only is the sellers' real name hidden under a username, but some markets like eBay allows to change your username every 30 days. 

Equally significant is that (for the most part) many amateur online sellers lack knowledge of the items being sold, so even if their intention is not misplaced, they might not be able to strongly guarantee an item’s authenticity. 

As such, we would not recommend the online marketplace as somewhere for a new collector wanting to know where to buy authentic autographs and to begin building out their collection. Nowadays, you need to know exceedingly well what you are doing if you buy autographs from these online platforms.

3. AUCTIONS

Auction hammerThe best auctions come with solid, experienced curators where the autograph collector might find a greater cohesion and oversight of the items on offer. In these curated sales, the priority is on providing carefully selected pieces, whose authenticity has been individually verified.

However this is not characteristic of every auction house sale. Many auction houses come to sell whatever lands in their hands and what is merely just a good opportunity to generate that sweet, sweet commission. They do not provide any guarantee on authenticity and they state this in their terms of service.

Seeing in auctions high priced items with poor research, low quality or few photos, very short or not description and no mention of condition is a good reflection of how much attention was paid to an autograph’s authenticity and provenance (clue: not much). Moreover, it can be tempting to try your luck at auction to secure a piece at a “bargain price”. Nowadays however a growing number of auction houses “sell it and forget it”. Most won’t disassemble a frame for you (which you’ll want to make your shipping not just cheaper but also safer). In many cases it is left up to the purchaser to organize an item’s packing and shipping, which means, you have to hire a company to pick up, pack and ship your auction wins for you - and all at extra costs. Furthermore, if for one reason or another you aren’t able to pick an item up right away, you can be left with additional storage costs.

Add on to these extra logistics the buyer’s commission, handling fees and other miscellaneous “additions” (which can often provide a nasty surprise on your invoice), and the fact that a large number of auction houses charge extra if you pay with credit card, and you might wonder if it had been better to use that autograph dealer after all…


4. OTHER COLLECTORS

This can be an indispensable source of acquiring autographs for your collection, since knowing your seller on an individual basis and being able to personally attest for their integrity and knowledge is difficult to beat. 

Some of these individuals might be looking to downsize their collections, sell off “repeats” that overlap with other pieces in their possession, or perhaps they’ve passed away and their estate is looking to put together a private sale. However, it can be difficult to make their acquaintance and establish a connection allowing access to their collection in this kind of way, especially for new autograph collectors looking for where to buy authentic autographs.   

Some autograph dealers, like Tamino Autographs who has been a trusted seller of high-quality authentic autographs for over 15 years, can secure exclusive access in these cases due to their market presence and industry reputation; many of these collectors were also clients known on a personal basis, with relationships forged over time. This allows dealers to purchase prized collections and individual pieces which would otherwise be tremendously difficult to come by.

5. IN PERSON

If you are able to acquire that prized autograph from the signee

Placido Domingo signing autographs

themselves in person and before your eyes, there will be no questioning its authenticity for you. This can take a great deal of time and effort, but if you are putting together a more contemporary collection this can be a good option. Of course if you are looking for the autograph of a person who has unshackled these mortal coils and passed away, this method will be quite impossible, underscoring its limited reach.

For those celebrities who are still quite alive, you can get the chance at in-person signings, which also provides a great memory for you as well as the chance for a personally inscribed autograph. Indeed Tamino Autographs has used in-person signings for many of their modern opera, classical music, and film autographs so it’s important to be aware and up to date of what events are taking place.

OVERVIEW

The hobby of autograph collecting is not just about the autographs in your collection, but how you came to take possession of them too. It includes the way in which you acquired these treasured collectibles, and this is in itself almost an art: every collector should put in the effort to develop the necessary skills to gather up the collection they want, also protecting the time and money that’s been invested.

Finally, whilst there’s a lot that can be said about technical analysis and expert opinion, if something doesn’t feel right with the item being purchased and/or the seller´s guarantee or background, the best decision can often be to walk away. Don’t underestimate your instinct and always be patient - the next opportunity, and a better opportunity will come your way eventually.

RECOMMENDED READING:

- Where to Sell Autographs? Things to Keep and Eye on

- Autograph Authentication: Where to Get Autographs Authenticated...And More

- Glossary of Autograph Terms

 

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