As many people know, significant signatures can bring up the value of an antique if they are proven to be real. While this is a great thing for those selling antiques with a notable person’s autograph on them, it also means that people will forge signatures in order to increase the value of the item they are trying to sell. Before buying any antique that is said to have someone’s autograph on it, it is important to have this antique appraised and authenticated.

If you want to try and verify this antique by yourself before paying to have it officially authenticated, there are a few things you can look for that will differentiate a fake signature from an authentic one.

Read below if you want to learn more!

The Ink Used

When trying to authenticate a signature, the ink used can be a large indicator of whether it is real.

Many forged autographs will be stamped on a piece instead of written with a pen. Look closely at the ink to tell if a signature has been stamped on. If it is stamped, more ink will be located in the center of a given letter in the name.  

Another indicator in the ink is its color. Older signatures are likely to have oxidized, and so the ink should be a brown color if it was originally colored black. If a signature from a later time period is still deep black, this signature is most likely fake, and you should not continue with the purchase unless you can get it legally authenticated.

Finally, when looking at the ink, you should look for inconsistency. Like most everything done by hand, signatures are never perfect. If a signature is too smooth and does not contain any of the normal signs of human error, such as a random bump in a letter, inconsistent ink, etc., this signature is most likely fake and printed by a machine or traced over.

Compare to Authenticated Signatures

One of the best tells as to whether an autograph is authentic or not is whether it has the same style as other ones done by the same person. For example, Marilyn Monroe’s signature has a swooping M in it, so if someone were trying to authenticate her autograph, they would look for this type of M.

A person’s signature style can depend on the era it was written as well. Sometimes celebrities’ signatures will change over time, so it is important to make sure that the style of signature not only matches the person, but the time period as well.

An example of this is how some celebrities will add or drop a middle initial to their signature, depending on the time period. For instance, in the fifties, a new celebrity might have written their middle initial in their signature, but as time progressed and they gained popularity, they might have eventually dropped it, say in the 60s, in order to shorten the time it took to write their name.

What is the Signature Signed On

What the signature is signed on is another great indicator of whether an autograph is authentic. The main things to consider when looking at the surface of the signature are whether it makes sense for the specific person and if the timeline lines up.

As mentioned above, when looking at the object a signature is on, you should question whether it makes sense. For example, if you are looking to verify a famous musician’s signature, it would probably not make sense for their signature to be on a football. Rather, it is more likely to be real if it is located on something such as their album cover.

The timeline of the object existing and the signature should match up as well. For example, if you are looking to verify that a signature on a bat is Babe Ruth’s, you should make sure that the bat was made before he died in 1948. This is a crucial area to check when trying to authenticate an autograph because it is physically impossible for some signatures to exist on certain objects.

Personalized Messages

Signatures that contain a message along with the name are less commonly faked. There are a few reasons for this, including how a message affects the value of an item as well as the difficulty of forging a whole message.


Personal messages usually devalue a signature because not everyone wants memorabilia signed to another person. Due to this, forgers are less likely to create a personal message because this means that they would most likely get less money for their forgery.

Another reason personalized messages are less often forged is that they are easier to identify as fake. This is because there is more text for a specialist to analyze, and so it is more likely that the forgery will be spotted and thus worthless. 

The Benefits of Working with an Appraisal Specialist

Spotting the difference between a fake signature and a real one can be difficult, so your best option is to reach out to a professional appraisal company. An appraisal specialist offers several benefits:

  • Expertise – A qualified appraiser can look at the ink used, similar signatures, and the items that the autograph exists on and verify whether the signature is real or not.  
  • Legitimacy – An in-person, USPAP-compliant appraisal is accepted by courts, banks, and other professional organizations. It’s useful if you need to sell an item.
  • Speed – You can email pictures of your signature for an online appraisal, which offers a fast and easy way to identify if it’s potentially real and/or valuable.

You also want to contact an appraiser before buying any signatures or autographs to ensure what you’re purchasing is authentic.

Final Thoughts

Authentic signatures are, without a doubt, a collectible item that can be worth large amounts of money. Different notable signatures can hold significance for different people, and because of this, the value can change drastically due to a multitude of factors. This is why if you are trying to determine the authenticity and/or value of a signature, it is important to get it appraised professionally.

Do you own a notable person’s signature? If so, please share your item in the comments below!