Chapter III: Choosing a Professional
If your collecting desires drive you towards putting together
signatures of the deceased you will most likely need to work
with a professional autograph dealer. This is where a collector
needs to be most careful. You choice can make or break your appreciation
for the hobby. Choosing a dealer is somewhat like choosing a
spouse. Hopefully for your pocketbook you wont have to
go through two or three before finding the right one. Use of
the word professional does not necessarily indicate
their items are expensive. It defines someone who has studied
the subject of autograph collecting for quite sometime and has
high ethical standards. These dealers have done the appropriate
research and will only sell genuine autographs. Unfortunately,
professional dealers are few and far between. You will have to
seek them out as most are low key and advertise little. The hundreds
of people you may run into fall into the sellers of autograph
category. One of the biggest mistakes a beginning collector can
make is falling for a fast line from what appears to be a charming
Personally, I have seen grown men cry. After years of collecting
they had to sell their collection usually because of a family
tragedy. A Florida police officer needed to sell his entire collection
which he purchased over a period of time from a single dealer.
Each item came with a Certificate of Authenticity. He tried to
consign his items with an auction and was told everything in
the collection was a forgery. Years of collecting wasted and
obviously this collector wants nothing to do with the hobby.
There was another Florida fellow who fell for a fast talking
store owner. He dipped into his retirement savings to purchase
what he felt was the deal of the century. The new collector hired
me to come to his home and get a true evaluation of his new found
treasures. Everything in the collection was bogus. His entire
retirement savings was gone! Because of this incident, within
a few months, this same fellow found himself in divorce court.
Be especially cautious with those who run full page ads in trade
magazines. There is usually a reason why they need to get that
type exposure. Also beware of small shops that sell autographs
in the tourist type towns. Its in your best interest to
know who you are about to deal with. You may want to go into
a few collectible shops or antique stores in the same town and
ask about the autograph sellers reputation. You may be shocked
with what you hear and you may want to avoid the autograph shop
Those sellers who claim to be a member of this and that organization
can also get you into big trouble. There are many sellers of
autographs who were forced out of a club for serious ethics violations.
There are other sellers who have spent time in prison for an
autograph related incident and are back in business with full
page ads. There are others who came close to going to jail and
they are still in business.
- Many sellers of autographs are better talkers than
most used car salesmen. They can talk your ear off and try to
impress you with how long they claim to be in business.
This means nothing since some sellers know little about the subject
of autograph collecting but they do know how to sell a commodity.
Look into their background and their autograph educational background.
You may find they came from a stamp or coin industry. Theres
usually a reason, and not a good one, why they left the first
and have now found selling autographs. You should ask how many
of the fourteen different educational courses did they take that
were offered around the United States. If you hear excuses, or
like some will tell you taking a course is a waste of time,
its time to walk away. Have they written any books or signature
studies? This will give you an indication of how active they
are in the business. If your visiting their place of business,
request to see their autograph reference library. Most important,
if you have decided on a specific dealer, before making a single
purchase, place some calls around the country and ask questions
about this dealer from their peers.
- If you get two to three autograph sellers saying
positive things about your choice of dealer than you most likely
found an autograph professional. Some of the most professional
of the autograph dealers are low key and need to be discovered
by word of mouth.
Next and very importantly, totally understand the dealers terms
of sale. If they have a no refund policy if the item is
later determined to be not authentic, walk away. Autograph guaranteed
genuine for life, full refund given is what you want to hear
and see it in writing on your invoice.
When making your first purchase and every purchase thereafter,
always ask for a receipt describing the item, the date of sale,
make sure the dealers name and address is on the receipt, the
purchase price and a statement that the item is returnable for
full purchase price if the autograph is found to not be authentic.
THIS IS YOUR LEGAL DOCUMENT.
It is recommended you deal with a handful of professional
autograph dealers. This will get you off to a good start and
give you more exposure. Asking the same question of two or more
dealers can be educational and help you make your own decision.
Chapter IV: Autograph Organizations (Continued)