How to Identify Autographs

By Marlon Trotsky ; Updated April 12, 2017
Most people derive great joy from getting an autograph signed by their favorite player.

Collecting autographs is a favorite pastime of many children, one that in some cases spills over into adulthood. Getting the "John Hancock" of your favorite ballplayer or actor often rivals, or even surpasses, the rush of watching the actual game or movie. If you happen upon an autograph via an auction, garage sale or flea market you cannot always be certain who actually signed the item. It is these instances when tips for identifying a difficult-to-read autograph can come in handy.

Examine the item that was autographed for contextual clues. Obviously, if you're holding a baseball card chances are the person whose card it is also signed it. Similarly, if the autograph appears on the program from a play, the person who autographed it is likely a member of the production's cast or crew. These clues can help you determine when or where the autograph came from. This will help you narrow down the list of people whose signature it is.

Study the signature closely with a magnifying glass, making note of the way each letter is constructed. Then, if you have even an inkling of whose autograph it might be, run a Google search to find a picture of that person's signature. Print out this image and compare it to the autograph.

Consult handwriting experts who may be able to decipher a difficult-to-read autograph. You can also reach out to anyone with expertise in the field, such as a reputable dealer or collector. Peruse trade publications, books and articles on the subject. You may come cross something that will shed light on the origin of the signature. Consider crowdsourcing the search by posting a picture of the signature on a message board for autograph hunters to see if anyone can recognize it.

About the Author

Marlon Trotsky was born in St. Paul, Minn. and graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, while minoring in sociology. His work has appeared in various print and online publications, including: "The Trentonian," "San Jose Mercury News" and "Oakland Tribune."