Collecting autographed First Day, RAF,WW2,Flight covers

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I was asked by one of the Stamp Collecting magazines to write an article about collecting signed First Day, WW2 & other signed covers.  I have copied the article below. I would be grateful if you could click on the yes box right at the bottom if you find this useful.

The increase in popularity of signed RAF, Concorde, commemorative & First Day Covers (FDCs) over the last 10 years has been really amazing. As unsigned First Day Covers seem to have lost the collectors interest, signed ones have become more and more popular.

FORGERIES : - Thankfully the problems of forgeries, which plague the signed photograph market online, are very small with signed covers. We have seen a few as prices have risen, so if your buying Brian Trubshaw, Frank Whittle, Douglas Bader or Margaret Thatcher take extra care. Most are produced by well known established trusted cover dealers who arranged the signings and are often certified and numbered. These can generally be found in the Porter catalogue of all the official signed varieties with current values as well. The special signed RAF museum covers are nearly all certified and numbered to the reverse and are well documented in the individual series. There is the odd forgery, autopen and the occasional secretarial signature but these are generally on big US stars you can buy with reasonable confidence on the majority of UK items. I would certainly be careful on higher value items like Winston Churchill, Gagarin or Neil Armstrong, where forgeries are known and only buy from respected AFTAL and UACC registered dealers.

VALUES: - I am often asked about the value of signed items and which might become valuable in years to come. I am always cautious in guessing future values as you will see below, but Historical figures and legends of stage and screen have always been popular and I am sure the rarest autographs will continue to appreciate. Beatles, Muhammad Ali, Queen rock group, Apollo XI, Laurel & Hardy, Winston Churchill, Bobby Moore remain some of the most sought after. With the 100th anniversary of the Titanic around the corner prices are soaring, beware they are likely to sink (forgive the pun) back shortly afterwards. The bubble on Concorde related material also seems to be falling away, so we expect prices to soften.

HUGE INTEREST IN CELEBRITIES: - We seem to see celebrities every day in the press and TV and I am sure this has certainly helped fuel the interest in owning signed items of the latest super stars. Prices on the most sought after items have increased considerably over the years. The recent auction of Princess Margaret’s assets caused huge interest and massive prices were seen, in many cases well over initial estimates. Official FDCs with good relevant celebrity signatures certainly fetch premium prices. Conversely there has also been a big increase in the amount of signed covers available, and where there is little interest in the signer, single stamp varieties or there is little relevance in the signer to the subject matter of the cover, values are certainly falling. I often see such signed covers selling on ebay for a few pounds, fetching little or no interest. This is a shame for the seller as the issue prices are the same for both items. As a buyer these do represent good value at present.

WW2 & RAF FLOWN COVERS: - RAF museum covers (also called flown covers) are an interesting example. These super covers have been produced by RAF charities since the 1960’s with covers commemorating great planes, squadrons or events. Group Captain Bill Randle, a WW2 Wellington pilot has raised many millions of pounds over the years arranging the covers and autographs. Most of these were actually flown on RAF planes and sorties. The basic flown unsigned cover and those signed by the RAF pilots who flew the sorties have little values where as the VIP special signed varieties autographed by WW2 fighter aces like Douglas Bader and other dignitaries have seen steady price rises. Famous signatures include Barnes Wallis, Arthur Bomber Harris, AVM Johnnie Johnson, Sir Keith Park, Tom Sopwith, fighter and bomber aces, Victoria and George Cross winners. The cheaper covers look great value to me, where can you buy a piece of aviation history flown by Concorde or the Red Arrows for less than a fiver! We have written a pretty comprehensive catalogue of all the RAF series and varieties, as there is not an official one available. We are happy to provide a copy on request.

BEWARE BUYING AS INVESTMENT:- I would however, urge caution to any collector thinking of signed covers and FDCs as an investment. I have seen plenty of collectors over the years unhappy about the true resale value of their prized collections. Always remember collectables are very easy to buy and quite difficult to sell, catalogue values are simply a guide. We bought a huge mixed collection of covers, autographs and postcards a few weeks ago, which the owner had been trying to sell for three years with little or on interest from any dealers. With high auction charges, plenty of new issue material and Ebay, getting a good price for your collection is not easy.  They should be bought as collectors items and hopefully a few gems will rise in value over the years.

RECENT BIG PRICE RISES: - I do not want to put collectors off, as there have certainly been some big rises over the years. Mainly these have been seen with figures of huge historical interest. In the Military field Battle of Britain fighter aces Douglas Bader (£300+ on 1965 Battle of Britain FDC), Dambuster bomb inventor Barnes Wallis (£295), Field Marshall Montgomery of Alamein (£375), Colditz Castle Escapers Pat Reid (£250) & Airey Neave (£250) are just a few where retail prices have at least quadrupled.

Concorde signed covers have also seen spectacular rises since its last flight, however I would be cautious currently, as I am sure prices will soon settle down to more reasonable levels. I was astonished to see a Brian Trubshaw signed cover sold recently for £350. It might well be a good time to sell while prices are high and dealers have plenty of interest.

Pele (£250), Muhammad Ali (£400), Sir Edmund Hillary (£150), Sherpa Tenzing (£400), Sir Stanley Matthews (£75), Margaret Thatcher (£75), Roald Dahl (£25), Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett (£250) & Ronnie Barker (£70) are other examples where prices have seen nice rises and I fully expect this trend to continue on these legendary figures.

George Best signed FDCs (£180) have doubled recently since his untimely death. I expect in years to come George Best may well become as sought after as Bobby Moore the 1966 World Cup winning captain. Prices have now softened a little but I expect this is temporary phase. Bobby Moore now fetches up to £750 on a 1966 World Cup FDC with Wembley postmark and I am sure will remain popular even if we win the cup again. Great football managers Sir Alf Ramsey (£250), Matt Busby (£150) & Bill Shankley (£150) are very popular if you can find one! There are a number of 1966 pieces signed by the remaining 10 members for sale as they have been attending many autograph shows and I am sure these may well appreciate in the future.

WHAT LOOKS GOOD: - Some celebrities like the new Dr Who David Tennant and David Jason are tough to find and fetch very good prices. Politicians are always popular, with Prime Ministers always fetching premium prices (until they lose of course!). Space signed covers are also becoming more popular. Many of the Apollo moonwalkers now attend autograph shows in the US & UK so signed items are now easier to come by. Shuttle crew astronauts are not so popular but at just a few pounds each they do look great value to me and who knows the 1st man on Mars is sure to fetch a big price. Sports personalities seem to have a short period of popularity after winning big events with big piece variances. Some legendary figures like Geoff Hurst & the 1966 team, Roger Banister, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart; Michael Schumacher will always remain popular. James Bond and Star Wars have a huge following and cast signed pieces will always be sought after.

GET YOUR AUTOGRAPHS FOR FREE: - Many celebrities, including many soap stars will sign items by post, many have details on their web sites so you might well be able to get your cover signed for the cost of a stamp! You do need to be patient as these celebrities get lost of requests and it may take some time before you get a reply.

MEET THE STARS AT AUTOGRAPH SHOWS: - Lots of stars now attend the many autographs shows around the country, so it is possible to attend one of these shows, meet the stars and get some items signed as well. We recently attended the Autographica show at Heathrow. Guests included Richard Kiel (Jaws in the Bond Movies), Apollo Moonwalkers Charlie Duke, first Space Walker Alexi Leonov, Sir Norman Wisdom, Honor Blackman and many more. Previous shows included Val Kilmer, Buzz Aldrin, Ursula Andress, Valentina Tereshkova, George Lazenby, Dave Prowse aka Darth Vadar, Kenny Baker aka R2D2.  We always have a great time and as an event it can be highly recommended.  Collectormania also run a number of superb shows. Check out their websites for the next shows....

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