Autographs have been called "frozen moments in time" by some people. Probably the most personal thing that one person can give is his or her signature. They have been a popular collectible for centuries developing their own descriptive term called "philography"
Autograph collectors often come across the following abbreviations during the pursuit of their hobby of Autograph collection. AD : Autograph Document ADS : Autograph Document Signed AL : Autograph Letter ALS : Autograph Letter Signed AN : Autograph Note ANS : Autograph Note Signed AQS : Autograph Quotation Signed AMs : Autograph Manuscript AMsS : Autograph Manuscript Signed DS : Document Signed INSCRIBED : Means autograph has been personalized e.g. To Praful…etc. LS : Letter Signed Ms : Manuscript SIG : A Signature in ink SP : Signed Photo MsS : Manuscript Signed MQS : Musical Quote Signed
Following are the few factors which are usually taken into consideration while deciding the rarity and value of an autograph. The status & achievements of the celebrity, Accessibility of the celebrity, Popularity of the celebrity, Desirability and demand of the autographs, Probability of getting the autographs, Historical importance of the autograph, The condition of the autograph, The surface of the autograph etc., Rarity of the autographs. Here a question comes up…What decides the rarity of an autograph? Following three factors are noteworthy in this regard. When fame comes to the personality after death, his autograph becomes rare. This means that in his early days, when he was not famous, he might not have given many autographs. Early death of a celebrity. This means that very few letters and autographs must have survived. Hence his autograph becomes rare. How was his habit of writing? If he was having a habit of writings to all and giving his autographs to many people, then many more autographs of such personalities will be available. And hence they would not be that rare. The collectors have to use their own personal discretion and take appropriate decision in evaluation. It may be clarified that the assessment and valuation is more dependent upon the demand and hence sometimes it is subjective and indicative only.
Today the class of autograph collectors is increasing in India. This interesting hobby not only gives pleasure of collection, but also works as the avenue of investment and source of income as its by-products. In Western world there are people who collect the autographs as hobbyists for happiness and harvest a rich return when they sell them. Like any other hobby, this hobby is also having a great potential. In Western and European countries autographs are auctioned, sold and purchased by the collectors. It has been rightly stated by Ray Rawlins in his book 'The Guinness Book of Autographs' as under: “Until comparatively recently, paintings, stamps and coins were much more sought after than autographs. Indeed little was known about the latter. But of late there are more and more collectors and in consequence, more and more dealers. Suffice it to say that, whilst unquestionably autographs are a wise financial investment, one can put hope that the great majority of people who seek them today are doing so because of a genuine interest in history, literature or for some other aesthetic reason.”
The collection of autographs is a valuable treasure. It should be preserved, protected and presented like treasure only. Following are the important norms for handling and storing autographs: Handle your autographs with extreme care. Always handle the autographs with clean hands and pick them up from the edges or sides only. Never alter autographs in any way. Do not cut, paste, fold, tape, staple, laminate, or otherwise mutilate the paper on which an autograph has been signed. All these things damage the autograph and make it less desirable to collectors. If a signature is cut off a letter it destroys the value both of the signature and of the letter. Take care that the autographs are not exposed to direct sunlight or florescent lighting. This can cause fading of the ink of most of the autographs and eventually it will lead to break down of paper. If framing an autograph is desired then please ensure glass with ultraviolet protection is used. This will slow down destruction of the autograph. Please remember that even ultraviolet glass will not fully prevent photos and signatures from fading if exposed to direct light sources. Hence take care to hang your items in areas with less direct light. However it is advisable not to frame important letters or autographs or any such item. Never try to restore an autograph that has been damaged. Also do not try to repair the autograph yourself except for some minor elementary requirements. And even in such cases one should never use any form of sticky tape which will cause deterioration of paper. As far as possible one should leave the item as it is without any alteration. Always unfold documents. If a document is folded it will eventually break along the folds. Remove paper clips and staples from multi-page documents because they cause rust stains. Always remember to keep the humidity and temperature low. Humidity and heat will promote the growth of damaging fungus on paper. The autograph collection should be kept in a cool and dry place. Autographs should be stored in acid-free, archival safe cellulose acetate folders. It is always advisable to keep them in loose-leafed transparent envelopes or between boards. A collector should keep the record of his collection. There should be a very well documentation of all the items which he has in his collection. An Index prepared for all the items which the collector has, will help him in monitoring his own hobby. A collector should keep his collection thematically, alphabetically or chronologically arranged. In short, his collection should be in some sort of an order. This type of an arranged collection is easy to handle and is of more interest to the observer. On the back of each autograph the collector must write the name of the personality, the place and date if possible. This is necessary because the signatures of some celebrities are not very legible and hence it becomes very difficult to decipher them later.
Due to the widespread ever increasing demand for celebrity autographs all over the world, many times Stamped Autographs, Pre-printed Autographs, Autopen Autographs, Secretarial Autographs and Fake Autographs are made available to the collectors. However this issue is not that very serious with the Indian celebrities. But still it is worthwhile to know about such types. Stamped Autographs: The "stamped" signature is a rubber stamp on a photo, usually evident by a fuzzy thickness of the autograph lines from beginning to end, and sometimes a smudge on the photo. Pre-Printed Autographs: This is a new trend that has been developed now. Here the celebrity signs his one photograph and then the same is produced in mass. Thus the 'Pre-Printed' autographed photo is a copy of an autographed photo. Nowadays many autographs received via mail are mostly 'Pre-Printed' The collectors can identify this variety by using the magnifying glass with light. Since preprinted signatures are part of the photo, the autograph usually appears to be below the surface gloss of the picture. To test, hold the photo at an angle to a light source. It can be detected if you shine a bright light on it, and bend the photo slightly. A real signature appears to float above a glossy photo, while a pre-printed signature looks flat. By using this device it will be known that the autograph is a printed one and is a part of the photograph. A real signature is on top of the photo and will have a different level of reflectivity compared to the rest of the picture. The glare of a preprinted signature will blend right in with the photo. Autopen Autographs: These types of Autopen autographs are not that relevant to Indian conditions. But still it is worth to know its use and functioning. It is very much known that the celebrities are usually very busy and it is very difficult for them to spare time for signing autographs. Hence a mechanical device which is known as Autopens is found out. These devices sign identical autographs quickly and accurately. Autopen Autographs can be recognized and identified by close study and by comparing the same with other original facsimile autographs. As initial indicative guidelines, it can be said that Autopen autographs usually appear to be shaky because the autopen machine sometimes vibrates when it signs. On some occasion, with an autopen, there will also be abrupt starts and stops to the signature. Secretarial Autographs: Just like Autopen autographs, Secretarial autographs are also not in vogue in India. It is only given here for the information of the collector. In some cases, celebrities do authorize their 'Secretaries' to sign on their behalf. This relieves their burden of signing many autographs themselves. However the "Secretarial" autographs are difficult to detect as they are coming from the original source. This type of Secretarial Autographs can be distinguished from the original autographs signed by the celebrities themselves by referring the original facsimiles given in some reference book, publication or from the websites of some reputed dealers. Fake Autographs: This is a very sad facet of this hobby. For unscrupulous people this is an easy method of making money through fake and forged autographs. The collectors should be careful while purchasing the autographs. If at all they have to purchase the autographs to complete their thematic subjects, they should purchase the same from a reputed or UACC approved dealers only. During his pursuit of autograph collection, a collector will come across all the above types of autographs which are other than the originals. But he will find that these are merely a few more of the pitfalls and hurdles which help to make the pursuit more exciting
In India the hobby of Autograph collection is gradually getting a momentum. At present most of the collectors are signature collectors. They start with collecting the signatures of those who have been made more popular by media like cinema, TV and newspapers. Hence cricketers, sport personalities, film stars, film personalities and TV artists are the personalities much sought forth for signatures by the collectors. Next category of attraction is of politicians whose signatures are usually obtained by the collectors. Hence one should collect the autographs that interest him. There are so many varied fields that one's choice is almost unlimited. But the best way to collect is to concentrate on some specific subject or theme. In this book I have tried to present as many themes as possible for the guidance of the collectors. It is always better to build theme wise autograph collection. Instead of collecting signatures of any and every celebrity who comes our way, it is better to concentrate on any specialized subject or theme. Such thematic collection would be appreciated by all who get the opportunity to view it and that in turn gives encouragement and happiness to those who collect them. A few examples are as under: Collecting signatures of Presidents/Prime Ministers of India Collecting signatures of Indian Cricketers and Sport personalities Collecting signatures of Indian Film Stars and Film personalities Collecting signatures on Philately First Day/Special Covers related to the achievements of celebrities Collecting signatures on Book covers/CD Covers Collecting signatures on Photographs Whatever fields of collecting are chosen, one thing is very clearly experienced that the interest and enthusiasm of the collector grows and increases with every new acquisition. The signatures of the same celebrity in different languages or signatures taken at different times and at different locations also can be collected. Many a time they are different. A signature given at home while sitting at ease is different than the signature given at the airport or at a function in a great hurry. If such signatures are put to gather and studied then new light can be thrown on the life of the relevant personality. I have tried to put as many signatures as possible with the photo of the celebrity in this book. One can see signatures of Mahatma Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi and many others in different languages and forms. Apart from only the signatures, autographs include letters, documents and manuscripts too. Hence, all these are important and value-added items for autograph collectors. In letters, content of the letter, condition of the letter, date of the letter and addressee of the letter definitely become the deciding factors for making it more desirable and valuable.
The word 'autograph' is made of two Greek words 'auto' and 'graphos' and it means 'self-writing'. Anything written by oneself is an autograph be it a single word or many words and does not have to be signed. Thus signature is certainly a form of autograph. But autograph does not necessarily mean only signature. Just as hobby of collecting Stamps is called Philately, collecting of coins is called Numismatics, collecting match-labels is called Phillumeny, the hobby of collecting autographs is known as Philography which means love of writing. Autograph includes letters, documents and manuscripts written or signed by the notable and distinguished personalities. Many a time these letters, documents and manuscripts form a base of history and literature. They are the most intimate relics of the great celebrities. Letters sometimes tell us about the character and attitude of the person towards life. I have seen a letter in which a request was made to Mahatma Gandhi to give his autograph. In the margin of this letter, his Personal Assistant had written the remarks that 'Bapu' is a 'Pakka Bania' (Businessman). He does not give his autograph to any one free of cost. Please donate Rs. 5 to Harijan Seva Fund first and then ask for the autograph. Mr. Morarji Desai, former Prime Minister of India was not giving his autographs if a person is not wearing Khadi. However in some cases I have seen that he was insisting that a person should take a vow in writing that he shall wear Khadi and then he was giving his autograph below the vow of that person. It is difficult to imagine since when and how this hobby of Autograph collection has started. But it must have an origin in the possessing and preserving instinct of men who are rational and emotional human beings. They must have liked to possess and preserve the written expression or message of love and wisdom from their loved and respected ones. We do see even now that students when they depart from their colleges do take autographs of their friends and professors in albums or notebooks just to preserve and cherish in future the memories of their happy college days. The disciples do take blessings from their masters and preserve them. When this desire of getting and preserving the written message is extended to the wider scope it forms the hobby of autograph collection, in which the collectors with a view to get the autographs, approach the personalities who have achieved some goal in their life and has made a landmark in the history giving inspirations to so many people.
It is rightly said that men are rational animals. The almighty has endowed us with mind, intellect and body. All of them have immense capacity to perform and produce creative art and innovative science. This in turn also gives the birth to many hobbies which can be classified as Performing and Possessive Hobbies. Performing hobbies are those which require personal performing involvement e.g. dancing, painting, singing, playing musical instruments etc. Possessive hobbies constitute collection of material things like stamps, coins, medals, tokens, autographs etc. From the above it is clear that possessive hobbies do not require any personal performing involvement and hence the effort of the collector remains as a collection even after his death. Both types of Hobbies have a great importance in our lives. It gives us relaxation from the boredom, stress and monotony from doing the same thing daily again and again in our profession and day to day life. Nowadays our daily life has become a photocopy of the previous day. Hobby takes us out from our routine mundane life and gives us pleasure and happiness. It gives us intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Just as hobby gives happiness, it also boosts good health. In the latter age many people feel void and vacumed as they have no activity to keep themselves occupied. And this invites some diseases which ultimately bring early end to their lives. Hobby keeps them occupied, active and energetic. And this in turn gives them health and longitivity. My slogan for the life is - Hobby is for Health & Hobby is for Happiness.
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