Each method of collecting is examined below:-


              To personally meet every celebrity you want to obtain an autograph from will take years, or may never be possible at all.  An autograph collector who decides on this method only must have determination, and above all patience. If you are not prepared to wait for hours, occasionally in bad weather, without any guarantee that you will get an autograph at all then don't even entertain the idea.  Recently, I spent a few hours on three separate days waiting outside a hotel in Manchester where 'Take That' were staying during their 'Progress Live' tour.  Although I saw three members of the band (Howard, Jason, and Mark) I didn't manage to get any autographs at all.
              Success in this area depends on the effort invested to find out where a celebrity is going to be at any particular time.  They may be appearing in a play, for example, or even signing copies of their autobiography at a local bookstore.  Conventions are another good source, this is how I got the majority of my 'Star Trek' collection.  It will be necessary to travel further on occasion, and such costs must be taken into account.  Unfortunately, it will always be easier for collectors living in the London area than for anyone else as just about anyone famous turns up there at some point.  Film premieres are also excellent opportunities, but only for those near the front of the barriers.
              Although some people may think it is not worth the effort, at least if successful you know it is real.  Additionally, whatever expense was involved in travelling it would be far less than the costs involved when buying from a dealer, and you have a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you did it on your own.  If you decide to get it dedicated to yourself then bear in mind that it may make it harder to sell in the future.


             The first hurdle to overcome is to find a current address for the celebrity you have chosen.  This is not as hard as it sounds.  If you merely enter 'Celebrity addresses' into just about any search engine you will be overwhelmed with the number of responses.  Some of the websites insist that you subscribe in some manner, whereas others are free.  They make bold claims as to their accuracy but the proof is in the result.  In any event, I suggest you cross-reference various sites to satisfy yourself that an address is current.  Additionally, thorough research on your part may reveal  they will be at a particular venue, and this is often the best way to get an autograph.
             The main advantage of collecting in this manner is that you may be lucky and receive not only the autograph you requested, but also a note or letter.  This doesn't happen often but it has been known.  For example, I have a hand written letter from Kenneth Williams which was obtained in this manner.  The content of the letter will certainly determine the response.
              The writing of the letter itself can seem a bit of a chore to start with, especially as there is no guarantee of success, but it gets easier with experience.  It goes without saying that it should be legible (preferably typed), and accompanied by a stamped self-addressed envelope.  If it involves a lot of inconvenience for the person concerned then chances are that they just won't bother to reply.  It is important to state why you are a fan and add details of some of their work.  The more creative you are with your letter the better the chances of success.  Once the letter is posted be prepared for a long wait even if they do reply.  Celebrities frequently travel around the world.
               Assuming you get a reply try to contain your excitement because chances are it may not be real.  Always assume it is not until it has been authenticated.  Many celebrities use companies to deal with all their fan mail, and therefore they will not have ever seen your letter.  These are some of the tricks you need to be aware of:-

    (a)    Autopen
            An autopen is simply a machine capable of copying a persons signature.  The hand-written signature of the celebrity is saved onto a 'matrix' and saved on the computer.  The machine can then be used at any time to churn out thousands of fake autographs and each one from the matrix will be the same.  It is not unheard of for some celebrities to have a slightly different signature made into another matrix.  These are widely used due to the time-saving benefits.  Although they appear genuine to the inexperienced collector, they are relatively easy for a professional to dismiss as a fake.  Like all machines they have their faults which give the game away, for instance, they are often shaky due to vibration, and they can leave an ink dot at the start and finish of the process. 

    (b)    Other person

            It is often the case that a celebrity will get a relative or secretary to sign on their behalf.  Such people are often skilled in such forgeries which makes them very hard to distinguish from the genuine autograph.  Often, the only way to tell is by comparing it to known genuine autographs, if you are in a position to do so, and even then you cannot be absolutely certain. Someone forging the autograph will generally write slower and put more pressure, and therefore ink, onto the surface of whatever is signed.

    (c)    Pre-prints / Stamps

            A pre-print is simply a copy of an original autographed photograph, and each copy will be exactly the same.  If you get a reply this is most likely what you will receive as they are churned out by the thousands at very little cost, and they are favoured by the studio fan mail companies.   Due to the fact that the signature is part of the photograph it appears to be flat.  Obviously, a real autograph is on the surface of the photograph, as it was added later, and it will look completely different.  Closer examination under a light source will display different reflection qualities.
            Similarly, a stamped autograph is fairly easy to detect as there are often areas where the ink has smudged, or it has pooled in areas as excessive ink was used.  Again, a light source is useful and a purple tint may be evident.  





             This is by far the easiest way to start a collection, albeit certainly not the cheapest.  There are also virtually the same risks involved as writing to the celebrity yourself.  Personally, I wouldn't dream of purchasing an autograph unless the person was either dead, or there was some other reason to make me believe that obtaining it personally would be impossible.  Once again we will examine the options:-

    (a)    Dealers

            Needless to say, there are many reputable dealers around, but there are also many fraudsters who trade as such.  Once again the key is research.  There is no point asking the dealer themselves questions, they will merely fill your head with apparent 'contacts' at various locations and private signing sessions.  Don't buy unless you have satisfied yourself that the dealer is genuine, as well as the autograph itself.  As a starting point I suggest that you check that they are registered with the UACC (Universal Autograph Collectors Club), and approved by AFTAL (Autograph Fair Trade Association Ltd).  Associated dealers must comply with the relevant code of ethics which certainly gives some important protection.  However, this is not the same as a guarantee of a genuine autograph.
            A dealer will often provide what is known as a 'Certificate of Authenticity' (COA)  to give some confidence to the buyer that they are in fact buying a genuine article.  In actual fact, the certificate itself is basically worthless.  Anyone can make one on a standard household printer, and if they are selling you a forgery they won't be bothered about giving you a COA.  Even genuine dealers can be fooled by a good forgery, and the COA merely states their opinion that it is authentic. Naturally, other experts may think differently.  Some dealers even offer a money back guarantee if the item is later proved not to be genuine! What's all that about? Suggests to me that they either know it's not genuine, or have no way of knowing if it's genuine, but they are happy to sell it anyway!   Knowledge and experience are the tools needed to make a genuine purchase and,  until you feel confident on your own, I suggest you get an independent view from a trustworthy source before parting with your cash.  Furthermore, only buy one autograph at first.  Once you have authenticated that one then you may learn to trust the dealer.

    (b)    Private

            Risks are higher with private sellers due to the fact that it is virtually impossible to discover whether the seller is genuine and experienced.  Bear in mind that there are three kinds of sellers(whether private or dealers): honest sellers selling genuine autographs, fraudsters, or honest sellers selling what they believe to be genuine autographs.  Therefore, there is a 66% chance that you are buying a fake.  Most purchases of this nature would be done through internet auction sites such as Ebay.  There are no doubt genuine autographs on Ebay but the effort involved in sifting through the obvious fakes makes it hardly worth the effort.  In particular, the phenomenal success of 'Harry Potter' has meant that ebay is now flooded with fake autographs of the cast, and especially, J K Rowling.  Through vast research of my own, and comparison with genuine signatures which I own, I have become skilled in spotting fakes of this type, but If you don't believe me then check J K Rowling's own website where she explains in detail the trouble she has had trying to prevent such listings. 
            If you do decide to take the risk then bear the following in mind:-

    (i)        Ask questions by all means but don't expect an honest answer if they are knowingly selling forgeries
    (ii)       Check their feedback but don't let it fool you.  A 100% feedback may just mean they fooled everyone else.  Also, bear in mind that they change identities frequently!  Someone with a feedback of 0 may have sold the same item a hundred times previously.
    (iii)      Don't EVER buy if they are using private bidding.  It is their privacy they are protecting not yours!  There is no reason why a seller of a  genuine autograph would need to do a private listing.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 
    (iv)      Apply common sense - you won't get a genuine Elvis autograph for £20 or a j k Rowling for £10.   Do not buy any book allegedly signed by J K Rowling unless it is a first edition.  All official signings took place on the books release and  will be a first edition.  Fraudsters maximise profit by using inexpensive books and trying to convince you they got it signed on a chance  meeting.  Why anyone would want to get a 'Ted Smart' edition signed for example, as opposed to the original Bloomsbury publications, is beyond me as it instantly loses significant value.
    (v)       Check what else they are selling at present, and also their recent history. 

    (vi)      Enlarge the photo and save it. Try to authenticate by your own enquiries.  If you are struggling there are many services on the internet who  will authenticate for you for a small fee.  I merely point out that these services are available and do not personally recommend them.  The  best they could say is it is authentic in their opinion, but still be wrong.  Save your money.