Personal Love of Collecting Historical Documents and Autographs
Collecting historical autographs has intrigued me for many years given the fact one can own a real piece of history. When first coming into this collecting field many years ago, my first thought was "Aren't these documents locked away in a museum or archives?" It's easy to assume that. But, many important letters and documents are in private collections.
As a collector and specialist of historical autographs, when I handle a document signed by Abraham Lincoln, it would sink in that Abraham Lincoln personally touched, looked at and signed that sheet of paper. As a matter of fact, I remember many years ago a dealer was offering a letter signed by Lincoln that had slight smearing of the writing and a fingerprint by the signature. Wow!
You can buy a document or letter signed by James Madison, Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, or Booker T. Washington for a very reasonable price and know that you purchased a slice of their life. How cool is that?
During my 40 years of buying and collecting autographs or documents, experience has taught me several things to beware. If you heed the following advice, you will avoid the pitfalls I have experienced in my early years.
First, avoid clipped (or cut) signatures. This is where the only thing on the slip of paper is the signature (along with maybe a couple/few words). One reason to avoid this type of autograph is that just a signature tells you nothing about the individual who signed it. Why did the signer sign the paper? Kind of a boring item to collect, right?
But, more importantly, one reason to avoid this format is due to the many examples of fake cut signatures on the market. When looking at internet auction sites or visiting general antique venues, it amazes me the number of fakes offered. Recently, I saw a fake clipped signature of Abraham Lincoln sell for over $3000 on an internet auction site.
You also need to exercise caution when buying any autographs that have been framed buy an unknown or questionable source. For one, a frame can cover the flaws of a signed letter or document. An example would be gluing the item to backing, like acidic board.
As a matter of fact, I have taken apart frames currently offered by a particular seller of autographs and other related artifacts who consistently frames important items by heat gluing them onto the backing. This destroys the value and renders them virtually worthless.
Secondly, an unscrupulous seller may try to intentionally pass off a fake or severely damaged item through framing. An item that is virtually hard to sell by itself would entice the seller to frame it to hide any flaws or, far worse and deceptively wrong, cover any signs of the item being a copy or forgery.
Lastly, and strictly the opinion of the author of this blog, but try to also be very careful when buying modern sports and entertainment signed pieces from unknown or nonreputable sources. Through the years, it is my observation that unscrupulous sellers sell fake autographs through many non vetted outlets like internet auctions or tourist spots.
As shown on my Frameabilia website, I verify, back and guarantee all offerings through personal and independent sources both containing many years of experience and knowledge. Not only do I deal in autographs, but I am also a long time active collector
Buying and collecting historical documents offers cultural and educational aspects. And if you employ the above "rules" of collecting, you will find it to be a truly fun and challenging hobby that awaits you.