Investing in autographs is becoming more and more popular. In the current turbulent times they are seen as a nice diversification. Prices on such piece have seen consistent price rises over the years.
Collecting autographs can be a fun and interesting hobby and due to high demand and the seriousness of many collectors, it could prove to be a sound investment for the future. Demand is high for signatures of film stars, musicians, sports stars, politicians and members of the royal family.
The cheapest way to acquire celebrity autographs is obviously to get them from the person yourself – this also guarantees authenticity as there are likely to be many fakes in circulation, being passed off as the genuine article. Many dealers offer certificate with each autograph guaranteeing money back if it turns out not to be genuine.
Some celebrities and sports personalities are also wary of signing autographs if they suspect the intention is to sell it on so they may only agree to sign an autograph as a message addressed to a specifically named fan.
The re-sale value of an autograph can vary hugely depending on the lasting popularity of the personality and often, if the autograph is that of someone who has died, the value will be far higher. Marilyn Monroe’s autographs are currently each worth between £10,000 and £20,000. Dealers make a living from buying and selling autographs however there is no guarantee that a small investor can make a fortune in a short space of time. But you could get a great deal of enjoyment from building up your collection.
Fraser's, a division of the Stanley Gibbons Group of Companies, has analysed the top 100 most sought-after autographs for the Fraser's 100 Autograph Index and have compared their retail price in 1997 to today's market value. The resultant investment index gives an average of the percentage growth in value over the period, it also shows the range of themes which are popular collecting fields such as royalty, art, pop, sport, historic figures, film and space travel.
The increase over the past five years as shown by Fraser's 100 Autograph Index is an amazing 170%. This equates to an average of 24% per annum.
Investing in the right autograph at the right time can be even better. From 1997 - 2004 a typical Paul McCartney signed photo rose an astonishing 660% from £125 to £950.
The key requirement is to ensure that you purchase a genuine article from a trustworthy dealer who can supply the source and history of the autograph concerned. Of course, as is said about the stock market, historical performance is no guarantee for the future. Article in the Independant By Jasmine Birtles
Make a scrawl your signature investment
Autograph hunting may be dismissed as a child's hobby but there is big money to be made if you get the right signature.
'Autographs have always been a good investment for those who collect important names in history like Churchill or John F Kennedy,' says Sheldon Tarakan, an American autograph dealer and president of the Universal Autograph Collectors' Club. 'Truly great names like Einstein, Mozart, Brahms, Gershwin, Cole Porter and so on increase in value each year and hold their value even in economic downturns.'
Adam Andrusier has collec-ted signatures since he was 12. He says the content of a manu- script or letter signed by a famous person affects the price. 'If it just says 'I'm coming round for tea', you're not going to get so much for it even if it's from an important historical figure. But if it's a composer [discussing] his latest symphony, it can be worth a lot.'
Hinda Rose of dealer Maggs Brothers in London says it has a letter of Tolkein's in its latest catalogue. Addres- sed 'My dear Jennifer' and signed 'Uncle Ronald', this discusses misprints in The Hobbit. It is on sale for £9,500.
'At the moment, classical music composers are doing well,' adds Mr Andrusier. 'Old letters and documents from important composers are particularly popular.' He has a special interest in jazz musicians and says many people are keen on their autographs. 'It's rare to get them because the famous ones didn't usually send signed photographs out. You had to go up to them in the club to get their signatures.'
Rarity adds value. Diana, Princess of Wales, and former US presidents like JF Kennedy and Ronald Reagan used an 'autopen'', which reproduced their signature millions of times. 'Anything that's been signed by an autopen or a secretary is not going to be worth much, if anything,' says Mr Andrusier.
In the short term, signatures can be affected by fashion. At the height of their fame, a Spice Girls autograph fetched between £200 and £300. Now they're worth a fraction of that.
Certain old-time Hollywood stars, though, have retained their autograph value. 'The most collected female star is Marilyn Monroe, and among the men, Humphrey Bogart is probably the biggest,' says Ms Rose.
One way new collectors can get started is to gather their own autographs by hanging around TV centres, backstage at concerts or at stage doors in West End theatres. You can also write to a celebrity asking for an autograph, though you can't be sure it's genuine. Buying off the internet is even less certain unless you use an established dealer.
The annual trade show Autographica is a good place to pick up signatures. Garry King, the show organiser, says visitors can buy from over 40 dealers and obtain autographs from celebrities themselves. 'This year we've got two of the 12 men who have walked on the moon coming.'
He says serious dealers and collectors will travel miles for a genuine autograph. 'One dealer I know will fly to Los Angeles or New York to get the signatures personally.'
This kind of authenticity is increasingly necessary, he says, as it is so much easier to sell forgeries on the internet.
Experts also warn against buying anything that is over-hyped. 'There are fads and fashions in autographs,' says Mr Andrusier, 'and they're unlikely to hold their value.'
WHEN THE PEN IS MIGHTY
Prices: from £80 for a signed photograph of Harrison Ford to millions for a Leonardo da Vinci signed manuscript.
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