But did I sign it ?



           Collecting autographs, also known as Philography, is a fascinating hobby which I have enjoyed for over fifty years.  My collection is in excess of a thousand and over 90% of them were obtained personally either by myself or my brother.  The names above illustrate a small sample of those in my collection.  I chose the name for the website based upon the fact that the only way to know for sure that an autograph is genuine is to be there when it is signed.  If my police career has taught me anything it is that if there is money to be made people will forge anything, and autographs are no exception.  Nowadays, autographs are sold just about anywhere and it is big business for both dealers and fraudsters.  It is necessary, therefore, to equip yourself with certain knowledge prior to starting your collection or it may be worthless. 
            Let me first start with an apology.  People will also steal anything and that includes images from websites.  Fortunately, I am proficient in Photoshop, and therefore images  are not only marked with copyright information but have been cropped and blurred on occasion to prevent theft.  It is regrettable that I have had to take this course of action but it is necessary. It should not change the viewing experience and in many cases will not be obvious unless the image is enlarged.   

            If you only collect in person then you don't need any further advice, except with regard to safe storage of the item.  However, if you decide to obtain autographs by any other means, whether it be purchasing the item or writing to the person concerned, then there is much to learn.  In particular, you need to authenticate it.  My 'Guidelines' will assist you in all these areas as well as prevent you from becoming the victim of an elaborate scam.  In all cases, the key element to a successful collection is research, but first of all consider why you want to collect autographs at all; is it a hobby, for 'Investment' purposes, or a business.  In the early days. whichever it is, I  suggest you focus on a particular area of interest rather than anybody who happens to be famous.   I have a particular interest in 'Star Trek' and, more recently, 'Harry Potter' so you will find many references to these.         

            An autograph has been compared to a fingerprint, it certainly shares the unique quality, but a persons signature actually changes over time.  This again makes it harder to authenticate.  An autograph is a moment frozen in time.  It links that person to a certain date and location and these details are invaluable for authentication purposes.  If you obtain it personally then you know it is genuine, but if you ever decide to sell it then you have to convince someone else.  For that reason, it is important to retain concert and theatre programmes, for example, as well as tickets.  Photographs can be useful but please remember that some celebrities don't like to have their photograph taken if you have just surprised them, after all they have enough trouble with the media.  Ask by all means, but I warn you now that you will not always get the response you anticipated. 
            It is often the case that autograph collectors are viewed as an inconvenience at best and something to be avoided if at all possible.  Therefore, celebrities will often leave by a different entrance in order to do so.  On occasions, celebrities have behaved appallingly and after hours of waiting I have left wondering why I bothered in the first place.  I would love to 'Name and Shame' but it pays to be careful when the whole world can see it. 
            Each method of collecting is discussed in detail in my 'Guidelines' but there are some general points you should bear in mind.  Don't just go for the very famous celebrities.  These will be harder to obtain and there will be more forgeries.  The more an autograph is worth then the more forgeries will be in existence.  If possible, it is good to get an autograph when the person is starting out on their career rather than when they have reached the peak of their professional career.   I obtained Jodie Foster's autograph when she was a teenager filming 'Bugsy Malone' at Pinewood film studios.   Although she was known then she was certainly not the star that she is today.  It is often the case that autographs obtained early on in a career are worth more.  For example, an autograph from Cassius Clay is worth 2-3 times more than one signed Muhammad Ali.
            Unfortunately, what was once a pleasurable and relatively cheap pastime has been transformed into a global business.  Like all businesses the objective is to make money, and this has been done at the expense of the genuine collector.  Whereas I have been fortunate to attend many conventions and book signings where I could obtain autographs for free those days are sadly gone.  It is now the case with conventions that after paying a hefty entrance fee you then have to pay for each signature obtained.  The amount will vary considerably depending on the celebrity signing but could be anywhere between £5 and a few hundred pounds.
           I have always been curious as to who actually sets the fee but what is important is that people are being forced to abandon the hobby in these difficult economic times.  Furthermore, dealers and charities are losing out as people only have a limited disposable income.  I would like to know that some of the money is going to a worthy cause instead of further lining the pockets of already rich celebrities.  I am particularly concerned as it is now possible to pay by credit card for autographs at conventions which I believe to be highly irresponsible behaviour.
               Hopefully, celebrities will realise that they wouldn't be where they are without their fans and show some respect by not charging such outrageous fees.  I have met many celebrities who treat their fans with respect and my favourites can be found in the 'Hall of Fame'.