Autograph Collecting
Although possible most of us will never have the opportunity to meet many of the celebrity figures whose signatures we
seek in person.  With that said, it is still relativley simple to obtain signatures from some of your favorite celebrities via
your local post office.

How I got Started

I was writing a research paper my senior year of high school. One of the options for references in our bibliography was
content from responses to letters we wrote from a source we had cited.  My paper was on the Kennedy Assassination.  
Wanting to impress I set out to find a way to contact historical figures who experienced the tragedy of the event first hand.  
At my local library I was introduced to a book called "Who's Who in America".  This book contained everyone who was
anyone in the US along with brief biographical data, more importantly CONTACT INFORMATION!!  This was about twenty
years ago, and although addresses changed constantly it was still a fairly reliable source as I was soon to discover.  I
carefully started drafting letters to all living members of JFK's Cabinet asking questions pertinent to my paper.  In a very
short time (about a month) I began receiving replies to my letters from Dean Rusk, Douglas Dillon, Pierre Salinger, etc.  
My passion then as now was classic movies and the artists who made them.  I decided what worked for politicians was worth
tying with movie stars.  I wrote my first letter to James Stewart About two months later I received a 3x5 signed BW photo.  
My first success…and as the saying goes “the rest was history� literally in my case.

Target the Autographs you Want Most

If you are at this site reading this article I can only assume your autograph interest is in Hollywood subject matter.  
Regardless it is best to start by determining what area of autographs you want to collect. This does not mean you cannot
diversify your collecting later. I have found it easiest to start out with the area of interest you have the most passion for.  
Your letters will be easier to write and will be more sincere in content. It helps to first make a list of all the celebrities you
would like to add to your collection. I will not discourage anyone from trying to sucessfully obtain autographs from their
favorite "A" list celebrities.  I personally have learned through trial, error and experience that their are those
"unreachable" celebrities.  The "A" listers that no matter what the approach only result in "RTS" Return to Sender, or a
studio fan mail preprinted photo (see below).  HOWEVER, there is always an exception!!   I personally have had a genuine
response from Jack Nicholson and on subsequent tries years later only received pre-printed studio fan mail.


There are many resources to locate addresses.  The Internet is full of sites claiming to have celebrity contact information.  
Many of these sites are bogus spamming advertisement sites.  There are a few private collectors like myself who have sites
with address information.  Many of these sites are very good, however the information can be outdated as it is very labor
intensive to update the info as it is constantly changing.  One of my favorite sites both for ease of use, and accuracy of the
information is formally known as  This site allows the users to post addresses and
successful responses including which addresses are bad and which are good. StarTiger also lists each persons past
experience with addresses to save you $$ when it comes to wasting stamps.  I have had a lot of success with addresses from
this site.  At one point this site was free, however it now has a reasonable subscription rate. Another good resource is
Autograph Collector Magazine.  Some celebrities have autograph information and or instructions on their websites: Peter
Cetera,  Esther Williams to name a few.

Writing the Request Letter

Of the over 550 autographed photos in my collection,  500 have cost me no more than a postage stamp, or three now.  
Perhaps the best way to ensure success in this hobby is to be assured that the letter you write will be read and responded
to.  My approach is simple: 1. I acknowledge the talent and work(s) I have enjoyed about the celebrity.  2.  I ask if it would
be possible for them to send me an autographed photo or sign the item I have sent to them.  3. I state in my letter that I
have enclosed a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) for convenience. 4. I graciously thank them for their time and
any consideration to my request.  I keep letters brief, sincere, and truthful.  Using this formula I have had a lot of success.

Sending your Request

I have found  using a 9x12 envelope works best when sending an autograph. request  An 8x10 photo will fit in them very
easily.  As mentioned above, enclose a second 9x12 envelope with the request letter otherwise known as an SASE (self-
addressed stamped envelope).  The second envelope should have your return address already written on it as well as having
enough return postage to cover the weight of the return mailing.  As of 12/2008 I have found three .42 stamps will do the
trick.   I feel that it's better to put too much postage than it is to have it not be enough.  You can include a piece of
cardboard to protect the item from being bent, this will increase your postage.  Not all celebrities, especially the older ones,
will have a photo to send to you.  I in many cases have purchasd photos and send them along with my request.  Keep one
thing in mind,  be sure only to send an item that you can afford to lose.


Many celebrities get hundreds if not thousands of fan letters and autograph requests a week. Those who are kind enougth
to make the effort to respond don't always do so in a timely manner.  Some respond within a few weeks, others months.  I
have had autographs come to me more than a year later when I had  either given up on the request or forgotten about it


This is a seperate field of expertise all its own, here are some of the basics to consider as a hobbiest collector.  When
collecting autographs via the mail you will encounter primarily four types of autograph responses.  Many reputable
companies such as PSA/DNA provide authentication services for a fee.


A Preprint is a photo of a celebrity that was originally signed once and then mass reproduced with the signature already on
it. I also catorgorize these with what are sometimes called "facsimile" and "stamped" autographs.  Basically this is the
signature being produced on the photo using a mass printing process. You can usually tell a preprinted autograph by tilting
it towards a light source such as a desk lamp.  Your looking to see if the signature blends in with the photo, or whether the
ink appears "raised" or  "on top" of the photo.  This works with a photo that was reproduced with the signature in the
photo.  If the signature is added to the photo in a second printing process the signature may look "raised" or "outside" the
original photo.  I also look at the ink itself as sharpie and pen have a distintive look vs. a printing ink. Do to mass amount
of fan mail recieved many celebrities use a fan mail service such as Studio Fan Mail.  These services send out pre-printed
autographed photo's.

Secretarial Signatures

This is when the  secretary for the celebrity forges his/her name. These are sometimes the most difficult to spot, since the
secretary is sometimes very good at copying the celebrity’s handwriting.  References and periodicals will help you
determine what is real and what is fake. To help determine if a signature is real or a forgery, obtain a known sample of the
signature from in-person examples in these sources. Compare the two carefully. A good tip to remember is to turn the
signatures upside-down when examining them—this will eliminate certain biases formed when one’s mind perceives
the letters of the name instead of its form. Secretarial signatures are often more carefully drawn and are more compact
than the authentic signature.

Many inexperienced collectors make the mistake that an autograph must be real if a letter comes with it that says the
celebrity signed the item being sent. Sometimes this is simply a trick some secretaries use to make their forgeries seem
real. For example, secretarial signatures sent from Lyndon Johnson’s office often came with an accompanying letter
that said “The President was very happy to sign the enclosed photo. It comes with his best wishes.â€�  aMany autograph
organizations and publications have listings of celebrities known to use secretarial signatures.


The Autopen is a machine which signs an autograph in the celebrity's handwriting.   It was developed in the early part of
this century but only became popular in the late 1940's.

The process of creating an autopen signature is as follows--a celebrity signs his name once on a sheet of paper, and a
pattern or template is created for the machine at the autopen company. When the template is installed, the autopen
machine is then able to recreate the autograph. The item to be "autographed" is inserted under the arm, the motor is
turned on, and the pen moves according to the matrix design. The signature that is produced is identical to the celebrityâ
€™s own signature, but it now can be produced at a rate of hundreds per hour by a secretary. Since the resulting signature
is in the handwriting of the celebrity and is drawn with an actual pen, the only sure way to tell if a signature is an Autopen
is to compare it to a known sample of the pattern.  May autopen signatures leave a distinct "ink dot" where the pen
pressue starts making contact with the document  and picks up at the end of the process.

“First assume an autograph is a forgery, and then let its provenance, your study and opinions from experts prove it is
Steve Cyrkin
Autograph Collecting Magazine Live

Always ask yourself is this too good to be true?  If you know the value of a genuine autograph of let's say Judy Garland is
in the $1000 to $2000 dollar range and you see it on ebay for $100 it is probably too good to be true.  Don't let your desire to
own a piece out weigh common sense and some investingating.  When buying online, especially on ebay always check the
background of the seller NO MATTER what they claim or say.  I will be the first to admit in the early days I got burned on
a few purcahses by letting my passion for collecting out weigh my common sense.  There are merchants on ebay who only
accept cash or money orders. When it comes to autographs or any products for that matter this is an immediate NO WAY.  
Never purchase from anyone who does not accept paypal on ebay.  Always do your homework and ask questions before you
make a purchase.  If you cannot get a satisfactory answer or comfort level, walk away it is not worth it.  If possible get a
second or third opinion from someone who knows their stuff.  There are authentic autographs on ebay, but without doing
your home work, being cautious, and patient you will get burned.


This is the obvious autograph  we are all anticipating and are hoping to receive.  Althougth without professional
authentication there is no way of knowing an autograph is 100%  authentic and even then no guarantee.   In time you can
generally become comfortable with determining the genuine from the fake, or at least narrowing down the potential
authentics by eliminating preprints, autopens, secretarials.

To date I have over 500 autographs in my personal collection.
Please feel free to email me with comments or questions
Autograph Abbreviation List

BW, B/W, b&w, etc. Black & White
C Color
COA Certificate of Authenticity
FOE Forwarding Order Expired
HOF Hall Of Fame
I Inscribed or Personalized
IC Index Card
IP An autograph obtained in person
ISP Inscribed Signed Photograph/Picture
ISPC Inscribed Signed Postcard
RTS Return To Sender
SAE Self-Addressed Envelope (no postage)
SASE Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope; usually a 9x12 sized envelope
SC Signed Card
SIC Signed Index Card
SP Signed Photo, no inscription
SPC Signed Postcard
TCS Trading Card, Signed
TLS Typed Letter Signed By The Star
TTM Through The Mail
Jim Carey Preprint
De Niro - Secretarial
Peter Cetera via
James Stewart Autopen
The purpose and use of this sight is for informational exhibition of privately owned memorabilia and contains data as reference for memorabilia identification. This site
is not for profit. This sight is in no way sanctioned, operated, endorsed, or affiliated with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. (AMPAS) This sight is
in no way is intended to be looked at or represent an official site in any manner. Oscar” statuette, and owner of its trademarks and service marks, including
“OSCAR®,” “OSCARS®,” “ACADEMY AWARD®,” “ACADEMY AWARDS®,” “OSCAR NIGHT®,” “A.M.P.A.S, design mark are trademarks and service
marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Copyright 2008

Your Charlton Heston autograph? It's probably fake.
A recent new revelation in Charlton Heston autographs Photographs and
other memorabilia sent to Mr. Heston's office were signed by a secretary.

Whole story @
Zippers Collecting Obsession
Don't trust third party authenticators with Heston
they all got it wrong!