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Collecting Autographs - My Learnings

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

I enjoy gaining signed memorabilia from magicians. Signed posters and playing cards being a particular highlight.


I know that I am not alone and I have come across other collectors. I am proud to have a collection that is growing with well over 150 such signed items now.


Over the years, I have learnt a few things when acquiring signatures and I hope that you find this useful.


I will discuss in person signings, eBay, certificate of authenticities, quality of signatures, storage/archiving and general learnings including possible fakes.


Magicians are generally a very friendly bunch. Approach and you will likely gain signed playing cards and selfies. Conventions and shows are ideal. Just make sure that you have some playing cards and a sharpie pen with you. In person signings also create good memories.


Attending a magic convention gives huge opportunities to gain many signed items. VIP experiences are also a good opportunity to gain signed items and possibly hard to find items such as the signing of a tour poster.


Playing cards, posters, books and even effects devised by the performer are all great to get signed.


And if you are going to a show and know you may have a chance to see an artist, it can be a good time to get any books signed that they have written if an author.


And if when not going to shows or conventions, I try to take playing cards with me in case of opportunities.

Some of my signed posters

Avoid e-bay if you can. Some good quality signatures can be available online but carefully judge the seller, the description and research whether you believe the signature is legit. A seller who is a known dealer of signatures or is a magic dealer with positive seller history.


Some sellers online will provide a certificate of authenticity (COA) or photo of the history of the signing of the item. In truth, while useful, it does not guarantee quality as they can be easily produced and many firms claim to provide and create COA's.

Paul Zerdin COA

Occasionally some items just do not work when signed as the right colour has not been chosen. A good example being dark photos signed with a black pen. So while a COA was issued, the quality of the autograph lacks. An example of a COA not guaranteeing quality though it maybe legit.

Black pen choice not ideal - silver of gold being a preference.

Not everything comes with a COA of course. And some items are just worth a risk. Make a judgement and decide if likely to be legitimate.


I should note that some conventions will have dealers who will sell and issue a COA for signatures signed at the event. While it maybe useful, a photo of the person signing the item will likely hold more value and be cheaper evidence.


When finding a Betty Davenport signed playing card on e-bay a number of years back, I decided it was likely legitimate despite no COA, as probably not a huge market to fake her signature. It was dated and with a signature which is harder to come across on old card stock. It was also relatively cheap.

Betty Davenport signed playing card

You will of course note in this example and the next photo, the autographed items are signed "To". There is no wrong or right. Certainly a serious collector perhaps hoping in time to sell and make money, will gain signatures without personalisation using "To".


As all my items are generally signed in person and are just for my collecting pleasure, my preference is to have the item signed to me.


Of course, it is not always easy to meet people in person. Many magic performers also live overseas. Therefore, writing to artists can be a great way to get autographs through the post. Especially if you include a stamp self addressed envelope. That way, I have even gained birthday cards and other signed items. Or purchases of items from the performers official website will gain success.

Signed items from Harapan One and Mandy Muden

The great thing about sourcing direct is that you know the signature is real. However, a few exceptions still need to be thought about.


Many book sellers release signed editions of books. Take care on that front as there is a practice called auto pen. Items sold as signed but in fact just a machine that signs the signature in a uniformed manner, using same pressure and thickness throughout.


When David Copperfield's "History of Magic" was released, many believe that auto pen was used for many signed copies. My edition is probably a good example. The publisher would then use a selection of real signatures but sign with autopen in an attempt to make all the signatures look unique.


At the time I was disappointed as you are of course charged more for the book.


Also take care when reviewing older autographed items. Stamps on older items is quite common and it was also know that some performers such as Houdini had secretaries sign.


Printed signatures can also be common and in the event that a signature is not legit, it should be declared as printed. Though you cannot always guarantee that will be the case.

Storage is an important consideration when collecting any signed items. - holdalls. I always source folders from Amazon. But don't make the mistake that I made once and ruin an autographed photo by not storing correctly.


I always log the items that I purchase or gain, and the mistake that I made was that while the item was in a pile waiting to be logged, the photo got stuck to the service of another item. On removal, it took some of the photo print away of a signed Barry and Stuart item.

Storage case and a mishap with an item not carefully looked after.

While you can of course log items and archive/catalogue in many ways, I like to use this website to track my collection. I tend to log everything and write a small history about the item. That way, I have everything documented and it is also available to share so others can also enjoy. A photo of the item is also shared.


Do take a look at my collectables pages which documents my items here.

Archiving your collectables in a log

I hope that you have found this guide of my learnings useful.


Please do comment below if you have further advice/guidance on collecting autographs.

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