Elvis Autographs : Real or Fake: Authenticating Elvis Presley Autographs
May 20, 2010
Elvis is difficult because there are so many variations in the way his name was signed.
Today it is the source of the biggest rip-offs in the Elvis world.
So how do you tell real from fake?
It could be said that you can't, not 100%. Usually if it looks real, it comes down to the trust placed in the person who it was signed for and an authentication letter from them. Obviously someone famous and well connected to Elvis has a much higher probability of truth, the 'genuine article'. They can provide an authentication letter, but this is only credible if provided directly to you by the trusted person signing the letter!
The problem is that is it 'looks real' it means very little. Over the years Elvis' secretaries and staff became very adapt at 'signing Elvis' autograph' and this is one big reason also why it is so difficult to say what is real.
So an authentic document like a drivers licence, contract, employee record (as below) give the buyer the knowledge that it is a genuine signature. Whereas one on a blank piece of paper or anything on a publicly available document, like a Las Vegas Dinner Menu or scarf has no link to authenticate it.
Above, two authentic Elvis autographs.
Above left picture, one of the oldest known Elvis Presley autographs/signatures.
A woman in Tupelo that had been employed at the school in the 1950s came across the English Fairy Tales book. The astute Milam Junior High librarian noticed that one of the names on the checkout card - which every student had to sign when borrowing a book - was that of Elvis Presley!
Written next to the name was the notation 7-C, signifying Elvis' 7th grade homeroom class.
A further search of the library unearthed another card with the singing star's signature. Obtaining permission from the school, the excited woman took the two cards home and put them in her scrapbook.
There are many that claim they can authentic an Elvis autograph, for a fee, it is our opinion most of these a pure fraud and the rest can only authenticate the logical as mentioned above mention official documents etc.
So our advise, be wary.
This article is intended to help the many that ask us for help.
Authenticating Elvis Presley Autographs
1 Origin & Traceability - The Who, What, When, and How?
The Items' source, it's ownership trail, and is this information supported by documented evidence?
2 Identity & Association - Is the item intrinsically well known or easy to associate with a particular facet of the person's life, career or of some other particular significance?
3 Trust - Does the item come from a recognized and respected source?
Do you trust the seller? ... What are there credentials?
4 Description - Is the item description accurate in documenting the artifacts origin and evidencing traceability. Do the people, places and dates all stack up? Is the story of how the item was originally obtained and subsequently transferred between owners plausible? Is there any corroborating evidence?
5 Condition - Elvis has been gone for 30+ years. Hence all original items can be expected to show some signs of age however well protected. Is the condition consistent with similar artifacts of the period?
6 Comparison with known exemplars - How does the item compare with known authenticated documents of the same type e.g. personal checks, contracts, letters, 'in-person' signed autographs from the same contemporary time period.
Proxy Signatures aka 'Secretarial':
Some of the hardest signatures to authenticate are those that have been faked deliberately freehand in a style designed to duplicate the original form of the autograph. Long before autopens had been in wide use, many vintage Hollywood stars were known to employ secretaries who were authorised to sign photographs and fan mail replies on their behalf. Frank Sinatra and Walt Disney are two examples where it can be sometimes difficult to establish provenance, especially in Mr. Sinatra's case recognising the wide variation of his signature across a long and illustrious career. Elvis' office at Graceland are known to have signed letters, and thank you note replies back to fans etc. These items are referred to as 'Secretarial' autographs to help satisfy the enormous number of requests in reply to fan mail. Numerous examples abound of Hollywood dignitaries of the period using a similar method. Experts report in the case of JFK that
'... you can tell if it was by secretary one, two or three'.
Above, Elvis Presley's Signature and note to President Richard M. Nixon.
You will find is the use of 'stock template' autographs provided by Elvis to use pre-printed on various items of merchandise and in particular album covers, photo albums and the like. These are fairly easy to spot and for the most part come from one or other of the following samples provided by the Graceland archives:
Elvis autographs used as sample to be reproduced on merchandise.
Most celebrity autographs are fake!: Fake Celebrity Autographs Outnumber RealET Entertainment - AP By Colleen Long, Associated Press Writer NEW YORK
Before you plunk down hundreds for a signed copy of a dusty Beatles album or a golf ball whacked by Tiger Woods, take a good look at it. Chances are, it's fake.
Most celebrity autographs are incredibly difficult to authenticate, experts say, and if a deal to purchase something autographed by your favorite star seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Only six percent of all autographed Beatles memorabilia is authentic, according to PSA/DNA Authentication Services, a California-based organization that examines collectibles.
Only 24 percent of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley signatures PSA/DNA has examined were genuine, and only 33 percent of more than 10,000 Woods and Michael Jordan autographs they scrutinized were real.
Celebrities are aware of the problem, but there's not much they can do. Woods won't sign golf balls, because they are such easy targets for forgeries. He says he has seen hundreds of false autographs. 'I feel sorry for the person who buys it and thinks it's authentic', Woods told The Associated Press.
'It's a reflection not only on the person that sold it — and they don't care, they get their money. I don't want to leave that impression, because I didn't do it.' PSA/DNA has been tracking fakes for about two years, and started tracking celebrity autographs last year, president Joe Orlando said. The company's experts analyze handwriting and materials, and preside over signings to authenticate signatures. Items are outfitted with a hologram which tracks the life of the signed poster, jersey or album cover. So far, the company has authenticated more than eight million items, but that doesn't scratch the surface of the millions of forged items out there, Orlando said. 'People's autographs change over time, and you must have a keen eye as a collector', he said. 'Experts must know how they change and when they change.
Even then, signatures are different all the time. Forgers capitalize on that. It's very tricky'.
Memorabilia can also be pricey, but it's worth it to collectors. A Babe Ruth signed ball went for $115,000 and one of his bats fetched $1.3 million at auction. Generally cards, jerseys, albums and posters can be worth a few hundred dollars. Woods, Jordan and many celebrities use services like Upper Deck or PSA/DNA to verify that their merchandise is real. 'It's curtailed it a little bit', Woods said. 'Now we have a way to make sure my signature is authentic with the hologram. The thing is, the average person who wants a quick hit just goes on online auction. 'OK, I get can that for $100,' and boom, they got it', even though it might not be real.
But FBI agent Timothy Fitzsimmons said it's dangerous to rely too much on authenticators.
'The forgers sometimes go to great lengths to get items authenticated', he said. 'Sometimes, forged signatures were even identified as real ones, and the real ones as forgeries'.
Fitzsimmons says it's most important to find out the item's history, all the way back to its ultimate source. Based in San Diego, he has been working on prosecuting forgers for the past eight years. He said more than 60 suspects have been arrested around the country for selling forged merchandise, mostly on Internet auction houses. 'Marlon Brando, Tom Cruise , these are very famous people and their signatures are worth a lot because they don't sign too often', he said. 'Fakes just breed on the Internet'.
They must know what they're spending their money on', said Chris Donlay, spokesman for the site. Donlay said there are links to organizations that help figure out if an item is real. Estee Portnoy, Jordan's business manager, said the basketball legend has had a contract with Upper Deck for about 14 years, and he does signings every month. 'I can't tell you the number of people who call our office, especially parents, to see if we can verify if something they bought is authentic', Portnoy said. 'About 99 percent of the time, we can't'.
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.