Collecting Contemporary Entertainer Autographs

By: Brian G. Kathenes, ISA CAPP

Collecting contemporary entertainers is an incredibly popular hobby.  Movie stars, TV personalities, comedians, stage actors and actresses are just some of the categories collectors love.  Although I do not collect contemporary personalities, we see thousands of signed photos each year.  I am concerned with the illusion that most of these items are authentic.  It is my opinion, based on over forty years of experience as a dealer, collector, and a certified appraiser, that the vast majority of contemporary entertainment autographs in the marketplace are not authentic.  Collectors must understand the volume of requests that overwhelm an entertainers’ mail.  Celebrities combat this onslaught with secretarial signatures, printed signatures, pre-printed postcards, and pre-signed photographic reproductions.

Many collectors focus on quantity, not quality.  They shoot for large numbers of signed photographs in their collection with little concern of authenticity.

In a recent trip to Disney World, I was amazed to see children and parents running around with autograph books.  They would rush up to a Disney character to get and autograph and then leave.  There was little interaction with the character except for pushing a pen in their hand and sticking a book under their nose.  I would much prefer a handshake and a big hug (Yeah I'm just a big kid too!)   It is the experience of meeting, speaking and interacting with someone you admire that creates the quality of the experience. 

The same holds true for celebrities and VIPs.  If you have a chance to correspond with someone you respect, why not make it memorable.  Ask about their favorite quote.  Inquire about their career and how it progressed.  When I was eleven, I wrote to Mel Blanc; the amazing voice of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Brothers characters.  I could have asked for a signed photo, but instead I asked how to he got started doing voices.  He wrote back with a long handwritten letter explaining his start in radio and voice-over work.  I learned a great deal about the man and his life.  That letter means more to me than any contemporary entertainers signed photograph. 

Gerald Ford answered a letter regarding his involvement with Scouting.  His achievement of Eagle Scout is credited for his start on his political life based on the letter I received from him when I was a Scoutmaster.

Create a collection of significance.  Seek out those contemporary entertainers and celebrities that you respect.  Study their life and learn about them.  Write and ask questions that show you care.  Then take their valuable lessons and apply them in your life.  Not only will you build a collection of quality, but you will also build a successful life with the help of your new celebrity friends' experience.