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This section is there to help you learn more about autographs and it's various aspects. After more than 20 years of collecting I thought it was about time to share my experience with you. I hope this section will educate people who are thinking about starting collecting or maybe already started and help them with various aspects.

Source
To me the source where the autograph comes from is one of the most important things. Unfortunately there are many autographs of a non-authentic nature offered for sale, particularly through the Internet. If you have the right contacts however, you will not likely receive fakes. Good, honest and reliable collectors and dealers have a reputation to keep up and are unlikely to get involved with anything other than genuine material.
It is very important to know the right people!
If a autograph is offered and there isn't a short path from the driver to the person who offers it but it arrived there from a through b, and c, or the history isn't clear at all, or if you have just a strange uneasy feeling about a autograph the safest thing to do is leave it for what it is. That way you won't regret having obtained it later.
Don't be lured into a false sense of security by so called "certificates of authenticity" which are sometimes offered. They're not worth the paper they're printed on.

Collecting versus buying
Receiving a autograph from a driver in person is the best that can happen to a collector. Unfortunately it is nowadays near impossible to meet a current Formula 1 driver in person. By the way, autographs of current Formula 1 drivers are amongst the most difficult to authenticate because many drivers change their autographs frequently, (mostly they are getting shorter and uglier) because many are obtained while they are walking, in a hurry or they have signed a lot already. If they are retired from F1 and drive Le Mans or other categories you have a better chance to meet them in person. Alternatively you could try to obtain a autograph by writing them a letter or buy a autograph from a respectable collector or dealer which has it's pro's and con's which is explained below.

Writing drivers a letter
Write drivers a nice letter -providing you have a correct address- include a few nice photo's, do not forget to include a SAE and hope you will get a reply. Be patient and don't give up because sometimes it can take a very long time before you receive a answer, and sometimes even none at all!

+ most of the times these autographs are nicer because they are not written in a hurry.
+ generally cheaper than buying -if photo's are returned as intended-, but this also    depends on the seller. A collector is in general cheaper than a dealer.
- uncertainty; Drivers can refuse to write back, mail can get lost or damage and    sometimes you have to wait several months or more before you receive your photo's    back.

Buying
Buying is a more certain way of obtaining a autograph. Although probably a bit more expensive than writing with all it's uncertainty's you will know for sure you get exactly what you want. Time has proved that autographs are a sound investment and only gain in value.

+ much easier and you get exactly what you pay for.
+ no risk of losing (expensive) photo's and therefore more peace of mind.
- slightly more expensive.

Fakes
Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who try to make money by forging autographs. Therefore you should be very careful and get some information before you buy from a collector or dealer. Try to find out about their history and reputation. Comparing prices can give a first indication whether the offered item is genuine. Many autographs are extremely hard to obtain which reflects in their prices. If a "collector" or "dealer" has many of the same rare autographs at a price which seems to good to be true it probably is. Be careful!

Autopens
Autopens are mechanical devices that can sign identical autographs quickly and accurately. They have been around for some decades now and are used by some drivers in a attempt to try to satisfy the collector without costing them a lot of time. Autopens always 'sign' in exactly the same way, following a pattern which is used as a template for the machine. Autopens can be identified by looking at the pickup and putdown points, inkflow, tiny squiggles in a attempt to draw a straight line and the pressure of the machine which is the same from the beginning of the autographs to the end unlike originals, and each copy of the autopen is exactly the same.

Pre-Printed Autographs
This is a relatively new technique where the driver signs one real photograph after which it will be mass reproduced.You can either instantly see that the signature is part of the photograph because it lies under the gloss finish of the photo, or in case of a semi gloss that there's no real ink used, and like the autopen each copy is exactly the same.

Checking authenticity
These are some of the things that a collector should check;

What material is it signed on?
Before you authenticicate the autograph itself, see what it is signed on. If for exapmle a Ascari autograph is signed on a glossy colour photo it is most certainly a fake. Also look at the style of the signature and the period. A old photo of -again- Ascari with autograph signed with a felt tip pen is also most certainly fake. In that period they used to sign with fountain pens of which the ink fades with time. Felt tip pens were not used until approximately 1964.

References
Compare the signature against known originals of in-person collected signatures available in specialist publications and autograph magazines and keep copies of genuine autographs. Drivers generally sign on the same location and with the same size -often relative to the size of the photo-, unless they are walking, in a hurry or have signed a lot already.

Smoothness
Genuine signatures show varying degrees of pressure and thickness in stroke and have a consistent flow to them. Many fake autographs are produced at a slow pace to prevent error and have no flow to them at all. Check for obvious spelling mistakes and dates. Sometimes signed books are offered which were published after a drivers death... Forgers also tend to make the same obvious mistakes over and over again.

Handle your collection correctly and with care

  • Ensure the autographs are kept out of direct sunlight as this will fade the ink and      colours. Strong artificial light is also not reccomended.
  • If you decide to frame autographs, use acid free material, a passe-partout to prevent      the autographs touching the glass and UF3 plexiglass or so called "museum glass"      which has UV protection to protect the autograph and the photo. A good framestore      can help you here with valuable advice. The safest alternative however is to scan
         the signed photo you want to frame and let a photographer print a photo of the scan.
         This way you can keep the original in a safe place and have it on the wall as well.
  • Store them in documentproof transparent folders made of non-acid material.
  • Make sure you store your autographs in a dry place. A (fireproof) safe is not a good      idea because the high humidity it contains for protection against fire will cause      damage to the photo's.
  • If you have stains on your photo's from cellotape -young ollectors sometimes glued      their freshly signed photo to the wall with cellotape (...) or a hastily signed      autographs has smudged you can remove the stain with a cottonstick and pure      alcohol, but be very careful and try a small area first!

    Insurance
    Consider if your collection is valuable enough to insure separately. Make a list of your collection which describes every photo and/or make scans. Don't forget to send a updated list or CD-Rom to your insurance broker from time to time.

    Packaging autographs
    When you are exchanging autographs with another collector pack them very carefuly. Always use a transparent plastic cover around the photo's to prevent them from getting wet or scratched. Then put the photo's between two pieces of cardboard of the same size and tape them together on all four sides with some cellotape.
    Clearly put the address on the envelope and make sure you write yours on the back as well in case of problems with delivery or the envelope gets damaged and the receiver's address is no longer clearly visible. Minimise the risk of something going wrong as much as possible!

    Be aware of the fact that as soon as you have agreed a deal with another collector the autographs are theirs. In short: Treat their ag's the way you want yours to be treated...

    I hope the above has been of assistance.

    Johan


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