In the beginning, I started using a Polaroid camera. It worked out great. Sometimes, I would even ask the celebrity to sign the Polaroid photo. Here, for example, is the signature of Van Williams, the original Green Hornet, on a Polaroid photo –
The only problem? It was expensive, over $1.00 a photo back then!
So most of the time I would take the Picture Proof Photo with a 35 mm camera. Afterward, I would get the film from the camera developed. Then I would go through all the photos and negatives. I would then cut the negatives and tape the appropriate negative to the back of its photo. Then I would put that photo with the item that was signed to make it a total Picture Proof Autograph item.
Christian here at hobbyDB asked me to share what I learned in those 35 years. So here are my simple rules for taking Picture Proof Photos.
Make sure that –
1. The entire face of the celebrity signing the item is in the photo (you cannot just show the item being signed if their face is not in the photo as that could be anybody!). Here is Dale Earnhardt.
2. The entire item is in the photo. I see so many items being sold on eBay advertised as Picture Proof, but you only see the celebrity signing something and not the item. So I can only think that the seller actually uses the same photo for multi-autographed items that he is selling. It also helps if the item has been already signed before and you can see the first autographed in the second photo. Here is George Barris and John Milner –
3. The Picture Proof Photo shows exactly what writing utensil (pen, marker, or paint pen) the celebrity is signing with, such as this John de Lancie –
4. The Picture Proof Photo shows what color (black, blue, silver, gold) the writing utensil the celebrity is signing with. I once saw someone trying to sell an item that was signed in black, but in the photo, the celebrity was signing a similar item with a blue Sharpie.
5. You take the Picture Proof Photo when the celebrity was over half of signing his autograph where the photo shows the exact position of the hoops and loops of his autograph on the item being signed! The reason why this is so important is that no matter how many times a forger practices a signature, even if he has all the hoops and loops of the autograph look perfect, it is still next to being impossible for him to get the hoops and loops of the autograph in the exact same placement on the item as shown in the photo. This is hard and I often do not get that right (even after all those years!). Here is Gene Winfield –
6. Whenever I try to get a celebrity to sign two of the exact same item, I try to to make one item look different than the other item because I don’t what to get the Picture Proof Photos of the two items mixed up, so I don’t know what photo is for what item. I accomplished this by putting a small sticker on each one saying #1 and #2 and so on compared to how many items I have. Another way to differentiate one item from the other is to simply ask the celebrity that is signing to either sign with a different color marker and/or if they would sign in a different positioning than they signed on the first item. (You can see I used all three examples for the Picture Proof Photos on the two Facts Of Life-Blair figures that I asked Lisa Whelchel to sign for me).
As a general rule, I try to never have a celebrity sign no more than one of the same item because I think that it sends up a red flag to the celebrity where he or she automatically thinks you are not a collector of their work, but someone that is trying to take advantage of their generosity and trying to make a living off their signatures.
7. Whenever I am trying to get multiple autographs on one item, especially if it is a board. I try to have more than one sticker now on the front of the board so when I take the Picture Proof Photos, the photos will show exactly where each person has signed. You will want to know this because nobody likes a multiple-autographed item and not knowing who signed it. Later I make a drawing of the autographed item and put a conservative number by each autograph. Here is an example of why you will definitely want to know everyone that signed your item. On my 1957 Busch Beer sign, I tried to get everyone from the NASCAR Busch series to sign it. I had the perfect spot. Every driver was going out on the track one by one to qualify for the race. When they came into pit row afterward, they would get out of their car and I would catch them one by one while they were still dressed in their uniform. Then by the photos, I figure out who signed each autograph either by how they look, what they are wearing, do they have uniforms that say their sponsorships, or their numbers, and if I have that day’s sports program that will list everyone that was there during the signing.
One driver that signed the sign was a new driver no one really knew. But later after many years, I found out that the new driver that signed it actually was one of the greatest drivers of all time and became a seven-time champion named Jimmie Johnson! So while making a multiple-autographed item, try to get everyone to sign it, not just the favorite ones at that time, because who knows which ones will rise to the top in the future after the item is signed.
I think Picture Proof Photos gives future buyers of my items the opportunity to judge for themselves by looking through rules 1 to 7 of each photo of the items they are interested in proving whether each autograph is legitimate and true. Initially, I thought everyone that collected autographs was taking Picture Proof Photos of their items getting signed because I thought, besides supplying proof of having the Picture Proof Photo with the item signed, it also made a great display! But later, to my surprise, I found I was wrong. Hardly anyone that collects autographs takes photos of the celebrities signing their items. Most collectors rely on a person called an authenticator whom the collector sends him money and his item just for this authenticator (who was not there at the signing of the item) to send back a C.O.A. (or Certificate Of Authenticity) that the autograph on the item is real.
I now use an iPhone which makes it easier to take a Picture Proof Photo. So easy that a collector told me he made a necklace of his iPhone and while getting an autograph, he just turns on the video of the iPhone and videos the whole autograph process and later takes Picture Proof Photos off his video.
Collecting in person Picture Proof Autographs for over 35 years has made me aware of the fact that no one signs the exact same way every time.
A celebrity’s autograph is going to be different from the first they sign in a sit-down, relaxed autograph session to the last of 2,000 items from the same autograph session.
That same first autograph from a relaxed sit-down autograph session is also going to look completely different than what I call a “Pit Row Chase” from the same celebrity that usually looks like chicken scratches.
And it also depends on how much room a celebrity had to sign their signature.
Their autograph is going to look totally different on a big poster than on a DieCast windshield.
Some Issues Collecting Autographs
The problem I think with collecting autographs is there is no certainty and too much inconsistency of what is real and what is not. There a lot of collectors that aren’t professional authenticators, but think they are good enough to tell someone that an autograph is authentic for them to spend their money on a questionable autograph. I think some of them do it because they are really trying to help and maybe that they like the idea that other collectors think that they are professionals when they are not.
Some will say, I have been collecting long enough that they can spot a forgery. And yes, they can easily spot a bad forgery. But that is where part of the problem is. Some forgers practice many 100s and 1,000s of hours and are really good at their craft. So most collectors struggle with those!
I even tested this theory by posting a picture of a very early autographed DieCast of Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a Facebook autograph group asking if this autograph was real, not showing them the Picture Proof Photo.
About 40 collectors answered all saying it was a forgery, it was not real, and Jr. never signed that way before. Only one collector said it might be real!
Then I showed them the Picture Proof Photo showing them that the autograph was real.
Reasonably most of them weren’t happy, but it also makes me wonder with the popularity of the iPhone and everyone has one, why isn’t the autographing hobby evolving to have more Picture Proof Autographs
Hope you enjoyed this article on collecting Picture Proof Autographs and don’t forget to have fun collecting! And yes, please share your Autographs and Tips below!!