Is It Real?
Many collectors of historical autographs discover that one or more of their collectibles is a forgery, or a secretarial signature, or an autopenned example. This problem is much more prevalent among the sports and entertainment categories, but it does happen in the historical category.
Collectors cannot rely on auction houses and dealers to weed out “mistakes.” I read a large number of catalogs, and at one time or another, most offer items with authenticity problems. Please take the time to learn some basic collecting information.
Truman autographs on Foreign Service Appointments are generally pre-prints. Yes, I know many books say HST signed “everything.” But I have seen letters (and I own one) sent as Senator with an obviously secretarial signature. As president, Truman was overwhelmed with work. He decided to have his signature pre-printed on the low-grade Foreign Service Appointments.
Right now I am looking at the foreign service officer appointment of Perry Jester dated 12/9/47. If you don’t use a magnifying glass you would assume HST’s signature is authentic. It even has light and dark areas and flying starts and stops. It’s a beautiful example of his signature, except it isn’t an original one and is worthless.
Napoleon Signatures aren’t always Napoleon. If you have the “Stein & Day Book of World Autographs,“ you will see all the variations of his signature. What they don’t tell you is that Murat (one of Napoleon’s Marshalls) signed a lot of Napoleon’s correspondence. But Murat did not put a paraph under the signature—a dead giveaway that the signature is secretarial and worthless.
Albert Schweitzer used a secretary to write most of his letters in a handwriting and with a signature very similar to his own. If you own the “Stein & Day Book of World Autographs,“ you can see examples of both. (If it’s too neat, it’s most likely the secretary.)
Presidents stopped signing land grants in 1832. After that time, clerks were authorized to sign for them. The clerks for Fillmore and Buchanan got very good at imitating presidential signatures. The key: Look below the so-called presidential signature for the word “By” and another signature. That’s the clerk who signed the “authorized forgery.” A land grant with this type of signature is not authentically signed and is almost worthless.
President Andrew Johnson signatures on Military Appointments. Many collectors are not aware that he used a “stamped” signature on nearly all military and naval commissions dated after his first 2 months in office. Johnson had hurt his hand, and this steel stamp was created to ease his signing chores. You can find an example of the “stamp” in Hamilton’s 2 vol. set of “Autographs of America” or email me and I’ll send you a sample.
There are many other examples. I’ll provide more info in a future article.