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Autograph collecting may have started in the 16th century when Germans kept albums of correspondence when they traveled. By the late 18th century in Europe it was popular to collect letters of famous people. Until the 20th century, literary, political, and religious autographs were collected. With the creation of the cinema, radio, and television autographs from popular culture figures were sought. Since the mid-1970s hobby shops began appearing in the United States. The hobby of collecting autographs took off in the 1980s. By the 1990s the industry skyrocketed. According to Brookes Barnes, the autograph market is worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Handwritten letters are most sought after and are valued at three to five times the value of typed letters. A handwritten letter from Beethoven fetched $50,000 and a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis fetched $10,500. In the early years sports signatures were particularly sought after reaching high prices. The death of any celebrity resulted in a rise in prices of autograph memorabilia. This made autographs of all types worth collecting. According to an article in the New York Times by Diane Sierpina, there are 1 million autographed document collectors nationwide and there are 5 million autographs collectors in the United States alone. According to Sports Collector Digest, the sports autograph market is worth $500 million. This number is in sports autographs alone; add celebrity, political, and other categories of autographs, and the number might reach the billions.
In the late 1990s according to the FBI, 70% of autograph memorabilia on the market was bogus. Due to the large amount of counterfeit autograph memorabilia, autograph clubs were developed to give potential purchasers the confidence to buy. It is a fact that a piece of autograph memorabilia is sold every 15 seconds on eBay or other Internet sites. The Autograph Club was first seen in the 1940s, with the hobby growing different clubs began emerging onto the scene. As the autograph clubs advanced, they began developing many new strategies to help the collector. Historically, clubs occurred in many different countries. Once people started buying, selling, and trading, there was need for people with a common interest to be able to associate with one another despite having no ties other than a common hobby. Autograph clubs were created for interest and enjoyment, along with financial rewards. Involvement in autograph clubs can lead to building advanced skills, knowledge, and experience. Education is the aim of most autograph clubs.
List of autograph clubs
Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC) - The largest autograph organization in the world with members and Registered Dealers in over 20 countries. Anyone can join as a member to get access to the Pen and Quill publication, but only those who have supplied references and been checked, and been full members for two years can come Registered Dealers, and only Registered Dealers can use the UACC name and logo in order to sell signed items, so always check any members registration on the website. The UACC educates the autograph collector in all aspects of the hobby on the UACC website and on the pages of The Pen & Quill.
Real Autograph Collectors Club (RACC) - An online community of in person autograph collectors and sellers with 5,000+ members in over 100 countries who have collectively obtained over 1 million in person autographs. The group can be joined through Facebook at Real Autograph Collectors Club (RACC) and also maintains a RACC Trusted Sellers list on the RACC Trusted website with over 50 of the world's top most reputable music and celebrity autograph dealers. RACC members offer authenticity opinions, discussions, in person autograph stories, live streaming, POV videos of autograph encounters, signing habits, buy and sell threads, and many other resources on the community's growing Facebook group.
Autograph Fair Trade Association Ltd - A UK based association formed during the 'Sporting Icons' forgery trial of Faisal Medani and Graeme Walker of Chester. Such was the scale of the forgery, the largest of its kind at that time, that a group of established dealers formed AFTAL to ensure that the general public would be able to purchase authentic signed memorabilia without the worry of it being fake. All AFTAL dealers have to abide by a very strict code which covers both authenticity and customer service. Well over 200 dealers have applied to join, but many are refused, and the dealer list on their website currently stands at over 100 members including some in mainland Europe and the USA. AFTAL
International Autograph Society (ADA) - was founded in 1986. Its members share an interest in handwritings of all kinds. The fields of collecting are multi-faceted according to the collectors’ fields themselves. The focus comprises manuscripts, autographed letter signed, signed documents, SP, FDC, cartoons and autograph cards.
Manuscript Society - The oldest society of autograph and manuscript collectors in the United States, the Manuscript Society has become an international organization with members in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. While collectors formed the heart of the organization in 1948, its membership today includes archivists, manuscript curators, librarians, and prominent manuscript dealers and auction houses.
International Autograph Dealer Alliance and Collectors Club (www.iada-cc.com) - This club is one of the largest groups dedicated exclusively to autographs and autograph collecting.
World Leaders Autograph Society- WLAS (www.wlas.weblahko.sk) - This community is an unique club of collectors from various countries who collect signatures of world leaders (presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, royalties, governors etc.). The society was founded in 2013 during the first meeting in Krakow, Poland and has more than 20 members from Norway, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Russia, the USA and the Republic of South Africa.
This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (July 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts by Charles Hamilton, Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1961
- The Complete Book of Autograph Collecting by George Sullivan, 1971
- Collecting Autographs by Herman M. Darvick, Julian Messner/Simon & Schuster, 1981
- American Autographs by Charles Hamilton, 2 vols., Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1983