Print Friendly and PDF

Sign Here

These days it’s “enter your PIN” or “type in your password” and the keypad has replaced the pen but there was a time when a person’s signature meant something.

It stood for authenticity, confidence and trust.

Recently the Magna Carta, the foundation for many of our modern freedoms and laws, celebrated its 800th birthday. The signatures of the barons on that piece of parchment really meant something.

So what of the hand-written moniker, the John Hancock, today?

(John Hancock added his signature to the American Declaration of Independence with such an extravagant flourish that his name is still used a synonym for ‘signature’.)

Examples of historical handiwork are much valued by collectors.

Usually the older the better, and certainly the rarer the better.

Great figures from history: royals, politicians, warriors, scientists, literary figures and more recently movie and music stars all have their followers and their price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.07.19 pm

To cater for enthusiasts the Professional Autograph Dealers Association has 48 members across the USA and Europe. ( and the Universal Autograph Collectors Club has over 140 dealer members. (

US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes were noted collectors of autographs and spoke almost reverently of what spending time with their collections meant to them.

Is this a hobby you could be interested in?

Fraser’s, the leading autograph sale house in the UK, now part of Bloomsbury Auctions, has an Autographs and Memorabilia event coming up on September 4th. The catalogue cover features a rare Spiderman comic.

Among the many items are: Lot 69: Daniel Day Lewis a ‘Cockney’ scrapbook in his handwriting with photos and documents, possibly for his role in “My Beautiful Laundrette.’ (Estimate 2500-3500 pounds)

Lot 79 ‘Praying Mantis-style’ KungFu book with annotations, diagrams and graphs in Bruce Lee’s hand. (50,000-55,000)

Lot 111 is a large collection of operatic musical scores with the handwriting of Maria Callas in annotations and prompts for herself. (5000-7000)

Lot 142 is a attractively printed patent application regarding dynamos for electric motors by Thomas Edison (20,000-25,000)

Lot 143 is a letter from Albert Einstein answering a question from a woman about the velocity of light. (32,000-33,000)

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.14.12 pm

Lot 162 is a photo of Earth from the Moon signed in gold by the astronauts Armstrong, Collins, Bean, Gordon, Haise, Mitchell, Lovell, Scott, Cernan, Duke and Boorman. (13,000-13,500)

Here’s one for cricket fans, Lot 208, a 6-page brochure from the 1938 Ashes Tour with pics and signatures of all 17 players and the manager, including Bradman, McCabe, Barnes, Hassett, Fingleton and O’Reilly (200-300)

Bloomsbury Auctions Autographs & memorabilia September 4 2015
Two sides of Katharine

Among the more modest offerings Lot 74 is a small card addressed to a film executive written on both sides by Katharine Hepburn. Underneath her writing you can just make out her printed NY address:

Underneath her writing you can just make out her printed NY address:

Katharine Houghton Hepburn 244 East Forty-Ninth Street. (200-300)

Bloomsbury Auctions Autographs & memorabilia September 4 2015
Small but perfectly signed

For lovers of the theatre Lot 84 is a small leather bound copy of Shakespeare’s Richard III. The flyleaf is signed by 3 of Britain’s peerless Knights of the Stage: Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. (400-600)

Bloomsbury Auctions Autographs & memorabilia September 4 2015
3 Knights salute a King

For the food lover, Lot 146 is an impressive menu from a lavish dinner prepared at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney some years ago. It is signed by three-starred chefs George Blanc, Pierre Troisgros, Paul Bocuse and Alain Pic. (100-200)

Bloomsbury Auctions Autographs & memorabilia September 4 2015
A veritable feast of signatures

What are they worth? That’s over to you.

Fraser’s has some words to guide the collector of autographs.

“An objective valuation should be based on six things – signer, content, rarity, condition, date and medium used. There is clearly a difference between a handwritten document and a signed scrap of paper. Any subjective value based on sentimental value does not enhance the true value.”

Would you like to connect to history through the hand-written sign of someone who made it?

See more at or





Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


We acknowledge the Turrbal people, as well as the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work. We respectfully recognise Elders, past, present, and emerging, and that Indigenous Sovereignty was never ceded.

Follow by Email