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An autograph is a prized heirloom for the collector

An autograph is a prized heirloom for the collector

Celebrity autographs are a true treasure for collectors and admirers of talent. Uniqueness, historical significance, a halo of mystery around the author make such relics a source of pride of their owners.

What is an autograph and its definition
An autograph is a handwritten signature or handwritten text by the author. There is a difference between the terms "autograph" and "signature":

  • The signature is more often formal, eg. in the conclusion of transactions. 
  • An autograph is a memorable inscription, such as the author of a book. 

History of the emergence of interest in autographs
The fashion for collecting celebrity autographs originated in France in the 16th century. The first major collections belonged to:

  • Loménie-de-Brienne, Secretary of State to King Henry IV;
  • To the Dupuis Brothers historians;
  • To the Minister of Finance J. Б. Colbert.

These were mostly historical documents, letters from statesmen. Then the interest shifted to autographs of cultural and artistic figures. The love of collecting swept England, Germany. 

Auctions began to be held: The first auction of an autograph collection was held in Paris in 1801. The first guides for collectors were published, for example in France in 1822. 

The value of an autograph to a collector 

The value of an autograph is influenced by:

  • Author's notoriety;
  • The rarity of extant manuscripts;
  • Interesting historical content. 
Forgeries of famous signatures are common. How can you tell the difference between the original and the original?
    1. Use reference books and catalogs of autograph specimens;
    2. Contact professional experts. 
The world's major autograph collections are held in national libraries and museums. 

Some examples
Albert Einstein visited Japan in 1922. One day a courier came to his hotel room, but Einstein didn't have change for a tip on him. He then handed the courier two handwritten notes, assuring him that they would eventually be of good value. Einstein was right. A note that read, "A quiet and humble life gives more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness" was sold, years later, for 15 million dollars. And the second note with an optimistic inscription: "If there is a will, there will be a way," went for 240 thousand at auction.

The owner of the autograph of the famous playwright William Shakespeare may consider himself a millionaire. Only six of his signatures have survived, each estimated to be worth $5,000,000 dollars.

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