An autograph is a document written entirely in the handwriting of its author, as opposed to a typeset document or one transcribed by an amanuensis or a copyist. The meaning overlaps with that of the word holograph.
As the word is used by non-historians, it has come to mean a person's signature. This term is used in particular for the practice of collecting autographs of celebrities.
In East Asia, an autograph from a famous gentry is regarded as an honour. The value of an item bearing a high official's autograph could rise incredibly. In ancient dynasty of China, an autograph from an emperor of that dynasty was priceless but selling an item bearing it could be an offensive crime.
In Europe and North America, asking for a celebrity's autograph used to be seen as a kid's practice up to only a few decades ago. The boom of collecting autographs as a hobby came during the 1980s, and, as a consequence, many memorabilia dealers took notice, and what used to be an innocent hobby lost that innocence as both dealers and celebrities began to charge money for their signatures.
It should be noted that many celebrities, like boxers Lennox Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez, Hector 'Macho' Camacho, Sugar Ray Leonard and Julio Cesar Chavez, singers J.C. Chasez (OF NSYNC fame), Alanis Morissette, Amber Rose, Frankie Valli, and the members of Green Day, actors like Drew Carey, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, former President Bill Clinton as well as many other celebrities, still love signing autographs for free for the fans, keeping it a very interesting hobby to this day. Hilary Duff has gone as far as publicly lashing out at some of her fellow teen idol stars who avoid autograph collectors. Art Carney was another person who enjoyed signing autographs, until his passing in November of 2003. It is people like these who make taking autograph collecting as a hobby worth-while.
During the 1990s, many people started forging celebrity autographs and selling them as real. This enraged some of the celebrities, who would just stop signing autographs for everyone or sign exclusive deals with companies to distribute their autographs, to make sure everyone who got their autographs by paying for it was getting a real autograph and not a fake one.
Many dealers also would wait for the celebrity to come out of the place were they were at for hours, and then put 25 photos in front of them for the celebrity to sign and then in turn, the dealer could sell 24 of them. Other dealers also would find the celebrity's home address and write them asking for autographs multiple times. The celebrities, of course, sometimes grow tired of that and make it a point to sign only 1 autograph per person, and in the mail case, although there is no way they could all use to know who have they signed for at multiple times through the mail, boxer George Foreman has a peculiar way of knowing: He keeps the names and addresses of every person who writes him asking for an autograph in his personal computer, so that whenever he receives a letter, he will know if the person is a fan who admires him or just a dealer who wants to sell his autographs and needs more of them.
Regarding the forgeries, many of the dealers who did that began selling the fake autographs to customers in many states, so the FBI had to get involved in many cases.
But autograph collecting is more than just getting an autograph from that celebrity. Whether you get it in person or by mail, you know that by interacting with that person and letting them know you're a fan, you are creating yourself a moment in life you will never forget, especially when the celebrity is friendly and appreciates the attention, which is in most of the cases.
Some of the most popular areas to collect autographs are: sports, movie stars, teen idols, singers and music groups, political and religious leaders, writers, astronauts and racial leaders.
Among American stars, about 50 percent of them like signing, and among Hispanics almost 100 percent of them don't have a problem with signing either. Asians are OK signers too, and the European celebrities are generally considered very good signers too.
Autograph collecting as a hobby is slowly but steadily reaching a world-wide frenzy.
Autograph was also the name of a record label; see: Autograph Records See also tangible investments
See: Autograph hobby timeline
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Autograph Collectors Gallery
Autograph shopping site based in the United Kingdom, featuring actors, actresses, music, sports, and entertainment.
Scans of hundreds of Hollywood, television, music, sports, and other celebrity autographed photos. Has stores in St. Louis and Myrtle Beach.
Hundreds of celebrity-signed items for sale: sporting, actors/actresses, models, music, politics.
The Inkwell Autograph Gallery
Dealer of civil war era autographs located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Rare and Famous Memorabilia
Australian autograph dealer site featuring company profile, photos, online store, and contact information.
Dealer of celebrity and historical autographs, manuscripts, signed photographs and documents. Catalog searchable online, or downloadable as a PDF file.
A selection of British Celebrity Autographs for sale from the worlds of Rock, Comedy, TV and Film.
Features a wide range of autographed items for sale and up for auction. Based in the U.K., with prices indicated in pounds.
Dealer of signed photographs from films, sports, music, and TV.
J & K Autographs
Wide selection of autographs in many fields including actors/actresses, history, literature, politics, science, sports. Based in the United Kingdom.
Jack Bacon & Company
Vintage autographs for sale, with emphasis on political and historical items.
Pen to Paper Autographs
Offering a wide range of autographs in entertainment, music and sports. Based in the United Kingdom.
Offers autographed celebrity photos, movie posters, music posters, and backstage passes from past concerts.
Richard Simon Sports Memorabilia and Autographs
Autographs and memorabilia in sports and entertainment, specializing in vintage material.
Rocky Mountain Rarities
Military, aviation, political, and scientific autographs for sale. Specialty is World War 2 German military autographs.
Sign of the Times
Sports, movies, TV, historical autographs and other memorabilia.
An online dealer of autographed memorabilia featuring a website with merchandise grouped by actor, TV show, or movie. Prices are in British pounds.
Dealer in celebrity autographs and memorabilia based in the United Kingdom.
A dealer with emphasis on autographs from politics, sports, music, and celebrities.
Cloud Cuckoo Land
A UK based dealer with autographs from music, literature, history, sports, and entertainment media.
Dealer with autographs for sale in categories such as male, female, and cast autographed photographs.
Autographs of America
Dealer specializing in autographs from sports, politics, music, history, astronomy, and Hollywood.
Sells hand signed memorabilia of actors, actresses, musicians, and politicians. Offers autographed items like action figures, books, and photos.
Autographs As Gifts
UK based dealer of Autographs from film, television, sports, and modeling. Ordering is done via contact information on homepage.
Edward N. Bomsey Autographs
An American dealer based in Virginia specializing in political and historical autographs.
UK dealer of autographs organized into categories such as; male celebrities, female celebrities, sports, and music. Prices are in UK and US currencies.
Autograph dealer based in the UK featuring products available for purchase online.
In-person celebrity autographs from the movie and television entertainment industry.
Limited edition lithographs autographed by the original Mercury 7 astronauts and the crews from the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
Buying and selling autographs from cultural arts, history, science and literature.
Walls of Fame
Historical and political autographs and memorabilia by an experienced Neptune, New Jersey couple.
Australian dealer of autographs from movies, television, and sports. Prices are in Australian and US dollars.
Includes sports, TV, movie, and music.
A UK based Autograph Dealer, stocking a wide range of entertainment, sporting, musical and historical memorabilia.
A dealer based in the UK, offering a large selection of signed memorabilia.
Al Wittnebert Autographs
Dealer specializing in autographs pertaining to sci-fi, horror, aviation, and super heros. Orders are processed via phone or email.
Starr Autographs and Memorabilia
Merchant featuring an online catalog of autographs for sale grouped by actor, actress, super model, sports star, and musician.
John Wilson Manuscripts
A dealer of autographed letters and manuscripts from the fields of science, literature, military history, and art.
Online merchant selling autographs from movies, TV, music, sports, business, and politcs.
Robert A. Erickson Autographs
Online autograph dealer specializing exclusively in the purchase and sale of U.S. Presidential autographs.
Dealer of autographed celebrity photos of men and women from music, modeling, and entertainment.
Dealer specializing in autographs from productions like Star Trek, James Bond, and general sci-fi. Features celebrity autographs by name also.
Ray Anthony, Inc.
Merchant specializing in autographed paper currency and historical documents.
Selling music and entertainment autographs/memorabilia, with focus on movies.
Searchable online autograph catalog featuring TV/movie stars, music and sports. Also has auctions.
Features in-person celebrity autographed photos and memorabilia.
Moments in Time
Dealer of autographs, original historical documents, and manuscripts.
UK based dealer of celebrity autographed photos from the world of Movies, Music, and Animation.
Safka & Bareis
Autographed photographs for sale as well as unsigned photographs by theme.
North Shore Manuscript
Sells autographs of American political figures, first ladies, scientists, and business leaders.
University Archives, ABAA
Autographs and historical documents.
Features autographed photos of sports celebrities and movie actors.
Laurel & Hardy Collectibles
Sells letters written by Stan Laurel and autographed photos and letters written by movie and tv stars.
Features signed 8x10 photos of celebrities and catalog with prices and few pictures.
Scott J.Winslow Associates
Sells autographed manuscripts and photos for various historical figures via catalog organized by subject.
Lights, Camera, Action Autographs
A UACC registered dealer based in the Uk that specializes in signed celebrity photographs.
Sells sports and celebrity autographs obtained in person via paypal after availability confirmation.
Features catalog of items for sale alphabetically as well as occasional auctions, and lifetime guarantee on purchases.
Profiles in History
Dealer of guaranteed authentic historical Autographs and Hollywood Memorabilia.
Also offers movie props and other related items. UK located site offers international shipping.
Genuine Celebrity Autographs
UK based site offering male/female celebrities, sports, and group autographed material.
US dealer offering autographed items from the world of Music, Movies and Television.