Collecting U. S. presidential autographs and documents can be fun, expensive and risky. Tackling the risky segment first, one should be aware of where to go and where not to go to purchase collectible signatures.
We all know that eBay is a veritable source of endless collectible riches and therefore, many believe, should be where we would start our shopping – or is it? Of the thousands of items for sale on this global internet marketplace and the vast turnover of merchandise, how much oversight is given to the key element in collecting – authenticity. If it is not real, then the price is indeed too good to be true and the risk can prove to be expensive.
I believe that auctions and online auctions whose business model is primarily involved in the buying, selling, and authenticating collectibles is the safer route to take. The majority of these specialization firms are diligent in guaranteeing that their products are fully authenticated based on their expertise and experience. In fact, the majority offer a money back guarantee on any item sold should it prove not to be genuinely and factually represented.
Even experts can be fooled and knowing as much about the person you are collecting is as important as where you purchase it. It is always good to rely not only on the experts but on your own study and research as well.
A case in point is “The Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, who transcended a movie star career all the way up to the most powerful position in the world. Reagan’s autographs and letters can be rich in content and replete with the vision that permeated his presidency and career, but ‘caveat emptor’ because the great communicator was also ‘The Great Delegator.”
Ronald Reagan may have been the most prolific correspondent of any American president since Thomas Jefferson. The total number of letters written over his lifetime probably exceeds 10,000. Collectively, his letters reveal his character and thinking like no other source.
During his years as governor, from 1967 to 1975, Reagan wrote letters in his office in the state capitol as well as in his home in Pacific Palisades, which he often visited on the weekend. He dictated some of them. It was in these years that Reagan’s personal secretary, Helene von Damm, did in fact use her authority to sign her boss’s name.
After his governorship and before his presidency, between 1975 and 1980, some of Reagan’s letters were written by members of his staff, but Reagan did personally write a substantial number of letters during these years. As was the case in his governorship, he both dictated and wrote letters by hand. Between 1979 and 1980, for example, Reagan dictated over 800 letters.
In the beginning, Reagan’s signatures became a family affair. Early on in his budding movie career, his Mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan, signed most of her son’s correspondence. Later as California Governor, his Mother as well as secretaries signed much of Reagan’s correspondence. Later, during his presidential years, Reagan correspondence was a mixture of his live signature, secretarial signings, and auto-pen.
As in most celebrity autographs, there are definitive clues that we use at Nugent Appraisal to discern genuine signatures from those done by others, either as intended and approved fakes, or as criminal frauds.