Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Autograph Scammer Goes Down

I enjoy showing off my autographed first editions as much as the next guy - maybe even more. But I try to make sure that I get author signatures in person or, at the least, from a source I know well enough to trust 100%. I have been lucky enough to catch up with many of my favorite writers at various book events, even to getting books signed by Stephen King in both London and Houston, for instance. I have signed first editions from folks like James Lee Burke, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Mortimer, E.L. Doctorow, Jane Smiley, Ruth Rendell, Clyde Edgerton, Don Robertson, Louise Erdrich, Mary Gordon, and Frances Fyfield, among others. I even have signed firsts from a couple of my sports heroes, Jim Bouton and Nolan Ryan.

I've sometimes wondered if, by getting a book personalized to me by an author, I was decreasing its value. Older first editions, even those considered "modern," have a tendency to go up in value over the years and I suspect that buyers don't want books with my name written in them - even by the book's author. But I don't intend to ever sell my books, especially the signed ones, so the point is moot.

But there are lowlifes out there willing to sell anything someone else is willing to buy, faked autographs included. Take a look at this KYW Newsradio blurb about one such creep:
According to Dubnoff, Smith bought first-edition books by such authors at Truman Capote, James Michener, Norman Mailer, Tom Clancy, Tom Wolfe and others, forged their signatures, and then sold them at inflated prices on Ebay.

For example, Dubnoff says, Smith bought Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire for $46:

"He sold that same book, this time with a forged signature by Anne Rice in the book, for $566. So his profit was more than 500 dollars on this one book."

Dubnoff says Smith used two different Ebay accounts...
I ran into this kind of thing years ago with baseball cards, programs, and the like. In the 1980s, I was an officer in the official Houston Astros fan group and had easy access to both the visiting and home players. Over the period of about six years, I snagged a few hundred autographs from players, managers and coaches, and I still have every single one of them. When I compare some of the ones I gathered in person to those I see on the internet market, I have to laugh. So many of those shown for sale on the net are such obvious fakes that I can't imagine ever wanting to acquire an autograph through that channel.

It's a "Buyer, Beware" world. Be careful out there.


  1. Sam, couldn't agree with you more about the handful(s) of unscrupulous people selling signed novels on the Internet. I'm an avid collector of several authors and like you try to get most of my book signed in person. However, with some, like say John Irving, who is a reluctant signer, I have bought many from dealers. The forgeries on eBay are so rampant with Irving titles, I even wrote a guide on how to spot Irving fakes. Nice entry. I'd love to see your bookshelves.

  2. Sean, I guess con men will be with us till the end of time...they've been with us since the beginning, after all...but this kind of thing really irks me.

    Where is your Irving guide available, by the way?

  3. Sam, i posted the guide on ebay, and i think it should come up on a search for irving's books. i haven't checked on it lately, so i'll have a look to see if it's still there.

  4. Thanks, Sean, I'll take a look for it on eBay.