Over the years I have noticed a large amount of ‘pre-printed’ autographs for sale especially on the internet. They are easy to produce in mass quantities and have very little cost associated with them.
What is a pre-print you ask?
Well, it is simply a photographic reproduction of an original signed photo. In this case, an original autographed photo is copied and then reproduced. Many popular stars do this to keep up with the demand for their autograph via the mail and many eBay sellers do this to make money by selling copies of their own autographs.
In this case the autographs are actually part of the photo and therefore not a legitimate autograph (the actual autograph may be authentic in terms of the signature however it is still a copy and basically worthless).
Many eBay sellers intentionally create preprints, either by copying their own legitimate autographs or by actually taking photographs forging the signature and copying those. These sellers often use confusing language or place the word preprint in difficult to locate places in the auction text so as to trick the buyer into believing it is a real autograph. The sellers will often as the autographs in the authentic autographed categories further confusing the buyers. Some sellers of preprints try to be legitimate and are very clear that there items are preprints including even putting the letters ‘PP’,‘RP’ or facsimile in the title or even explain it very clearly in the auction description that it is actually a copy of the original. Either way, be aware that it is not a legitimate autograph.
When you search for autographs on eBay be sure to add the following to your search string which will remove the majority of the preprints from your results:
-rp -pp -reprint -preprint -print -rpnt (the minus sign omits the results including the word after it and be sure to make sure you clear the box that states search 'title and description' because many legitimate dealers state that they do not sell reprints in their item descriptions and this search would then exclude them as well.)
A Johnny Depp search example: johnny depp signed photo -rp -pp -reprint -preprint -print -rpnt
This is how we search anytime autographs are involved. Some preprints will still show up (just a few from sellers who try to trick buyers) but try a search with and without the string and see the difference. It will be dramatic!
Many celebrities are just too busy to respond to all the requests for their autograph. They will often utilize services such as Studio Fan Mail to produce and mail these preprints in response to the often overwhelming mail requests for their autograph. It's a shame that they have to utilize these services and cannot reply personally to every request. I wonder how many fans receive these preprints in the mail thinking that it is really an authentic and original autograph.
Here are a few steps you can take to help recognize a preprinted autograph. Unfortunately the steps require you to have the autograph in your possession thus making it difficult to determine if it is a preprint before you purchase it.
1. The signature will appear to be below the surface of the glossy portion of the photo and it will often appear very ‘flat’.2. To test this, hold the photo at an angle very close to a bright source of light. A real autograph is on surface of the photo and should reflect differently than the rest of the surface. It will be very obvious when it is a legitimate autograph signed on top of the photo. A preprint will blend right in with the surface of the photo because it is actually part of the photo and the glossy reflection will be the same in the background of the photo as well as where the autograph is printed. You may have to move the photo around to get the right angle and notice the difference in reflection but with a little practice you'll become adept at this in no time.
3. Since the autographs are duplications of the originals, if you happen to have more than one of the same picture you will notice that the autograph will be exactly the same. It will be very obvious as nobody ever signs the same way twice. You might also do an Internet search to see if you can find other examples of that photo for sale with the same exact signature.
4. You can also lightly run your finger over the autograph to sense if it is on top of the photo. This works quite well once you get some practice. In this case it would be good if you already had a real autographed item so you can get the idea of what it feels like. Just be sure to start sliding before the signature so that you can feel the difference between the photo and the signature and be very careful so you don't damage the signature if it in fact is on top of the photo.
5. As a last resort, you can place some alcohol on a Q-tip and try to erase a portion of the signature. However, this does not always work and when it does it damages the autograph which is less than ideal.
Some celebrities who are well known for sending preprints or secretarials are (this is just a partial list):
Benicio Del Toro
Neil Patrick Harris
Ozzy Osbourne (all the Osboures do it)
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Most TV Cast Photos
Most Star Trek actors
Please educate yourself, buy smart, buy from us and let us know if we can help!
World of Autographs
P.S. Remember to have some fun and not take life too seriously!
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