Richard Fraser M.D.
FORENSIC HANDWRITING EXAMINER
COURT QUALIFIED    FORGERY    BEHAVIOR PROFILING    MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNAL MEDICINE & GERIATRIC MEDICINE

Collecting autographs and memorabilia is a natural off-shoot of document examination. The trouble however is determination of authenticity. Many sports memorabilia are forgeries and it can be difficult to readily find standards for comparison.

Many celebrities had other people sign their name to answer the large number of requests for autographs. Bob Hope had his secretary sign for him. When asked why he always replied, "because she signed my name better than I ever could"!

Kodak used the advertising slogan that "pictures are the nearest thing to life itself". Autographs unlike pictures are not images but rather result from the action of an individual. Owning an autograph is owning a piece of paper which actually touched the celebrity and, in essence, represents a tangible piece of history.

Beatles autographs are becoming more popular given the Beatles place in rock history and the aging baby boomers seeking memorabilia of their youth. Being popular their value is always increasing and therefore forgeries are increasing. They are among the most forged of all autographs on the market today:

     

Adding to the problem is that the Beatles' signatures can be difficult to identify as the signatures were constantly changing. Also, because of variation in the situations surrounding the year of the signing, the writing surface and the circumstances under which the signatures were obtained, The Beatles' signatures look markedly different, even when signed within a few days of each other.

In 1963 the Beatles signed more autographs because they were touring throughout England and being unknown they were very accessible. From the time they invaded America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964 they were increasingly less accessible, highly guarded and signed fewer autographs. Because of the mass hysteria they generated when on tour they spent most of their time in hotel rooms, often occupying entire floors with guards at all entrances and sleeping well into the afternoon. After 1967 the only way to get signatures was to wait outside the Abbey Road Studios and catch them individually as they came and went.

There is a hierarchy of Beatles autographs as far as desirability and value. Earlier signatures on a photograph being more valuable with the quality of the signatures and photograph playing a strong role.

    One of the most difficult sets to put together would be a set of all four Beatles' signatures on a single item (LP/ photo, etc.) obtained individually as solo artists, post 1970. The album I am holding in the picture on my home page containing the Beatles' signatures was noted by the owner to have been put together in 1978 by his uncle flying around the country chasing after each Beatle individually. George was said to have been found coming out of his hotel and the uncle had been standing in the rain outside a California hotel waiting for hours. John Lennon's signature was obtained on a third attempt as he would not sign the autograph the first two times. The uncle had flown to New York specifically to catch John Lennon making the signature that much more valuable. Ringo was also said to have been caught in California, whereas Paul was in New York and gave an autograph following a performance when exiting the theater.

   Although the stories surrounding each signature were imaginative and picturesque and colorful, the signatures are unfortunately not authentic. Subtle differences in the stroke structure and letter formations are consistent with a forger, John Ford of Pennsylvania. The biggest giveaway is the 31/2T by George's signature which is supposedly the OM symbol, the sign being the main symbol of Hinduism:

 

  Other giveaways are the size and relationship of the capitals "R" & "S" in Ringo's signature as well as the placement of the star below the signature.

However, fear not! The signatures on the Sgt Pepper Album below are authentic, purchased by the owner from a dealer for $42,000.00!