IMPORTANT UPDATES ON SIGNING EVENTS -
July, 2009 - BEWARE of posters signed by HP cast and especially JK Rowling. Many posters feature signatures which aren't consistant with verified examples. This affects your ability to resell it. If you are buying a poster with nice looking signatures, be very cautious because they may be printed on the paper rather than original signatures. Printing signatures on a poster is very easy to do with a large-scale printer and some graphics software. Be extra careful if the poster comes framed. If you purchase one, examine it immediately upon receipt and return it to the seller if the signatures are preprinted. There is information on checking for preprinted signatures on the JKRs Army web site, free of charge. Go to our website, which is listed on my eBay "About Me" page under websites. Click on "The Library" and page down a little, click on the research article about Preprints.
July 2009 - Please note that at the London premiere of "Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince", most of the cast signatures were very hurried. Also, many of the items signed were damaged by rain, as it was a very wet evening. Be careful if you see a pristine item with lovely signatures claimed to have been signed that evening! At the New York premiere and during publicity appearances that week, many items were signed by Daniel Radcliffe, Ruppert Grint, etc.. Signatures were rushed in most venues.
Since the 7/14/2007 launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, EVERY book signed by J.K. Rowling at special and signing events have included a holographic sticker to authenticate the signature. The sticker is VITAL to proving the authenticity of your signed book, so please make sure any books supposedly signed since then include a holographic sticker. Each sticker has been a little different. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of the sticker in a book you would like to buy, please email me and I can help validate it.
This guide is from information on a web page I maintain for collectors on a popular Harry Potter fan site. You can visit JKR's Army at the link listed on my "About Me" page. We are a not-for-profit group of collectors who provide information on safely collecting books and signed HP memorabilia.
Something Wicked This Way Comes-
I think many of us would love to own an item signed by either J.K. Rowling or cast members from the wonderful Harry Potter movies.
Unfortunately, there are millions (and millions, and millions) of devoted readers and only one JKR. These days, her time is spent with her growing family, writing, or working with charities. There are thousands of books with her signature, but tens of thousands of books with her FORGED signature. Forged books are a huge industry for unscrupulous or unknowing sellers.
Similarly, there are millions (and millions) of devoted movie fans and only a handful of actors who have starred in the Harry Potter movies. Imagine their schedule for a moment… working on the set, attending tutor sessions and classes, posing for stills, attending premiers and publicity functions… yeesh! When would Daniel, Emma, and Ruppert be able to SIGN things?! The answer is- infrequently! On the set sometimes… entering or exiting appearances. With the release of the "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", it is time for sellers of fraudulent "cast signed" items to appear on eBay. I believe the percentage of fake cast signed items is quite a bit higher than that of fake signed books. Genuine cast-signed items can be found and are fun to own. However, please be VERY careful when looking for a signed poster or photo. Make sure you do your homework! Artbox has issued cast-signed autograph cards for "Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Goblet of Fire". If you search through those as they are offered on eBay, you will see genuine examples of the main actors' signtures. Note that JK Rowling was NOT able to attend the "Goblet" premiere. Therefore, recent cast-signed posters/photos with her signature on them are HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS.
Lets cover a few specific points on various signed items.
J.K. Rowling's Signature-
The value of any Harry Potter book climbs dramatically once J.K. Rowling’s signature is added to it (up to $500 or more). Therefore, there is a lot of incentive for people to forge her signature. The best way to purchase signatures is from a reputable seller, but even they make mistakes. Watch for the following points:
VERY GENERALLY SPEAKING, JK Rowling’s signature –
- flows gracefully from one letter to another (with the odd exception of her being on the go as she signs the book)
- is usually signed straight across the page, rather than diagonally (again with the exception being books which are signed in crowds)
- generally uses white space and does NOT pass through large sections of text or graphics
- is usually signed in ball point (especially in the UK books), roller ball or fine tip felt though we have seen lovely signatures in medium point felt - almost always from her trips to the USA
- appears on the INSIDE of the book (Remember that signatures appearing on the outside of the dust jacket MAY have been scanned in to a PC and printed on the dust jacket using a laser printer.)
- does NOT include multiple small bumps – this may be an indication that the signature was drawn or traced onto the page
Be cautious when purchasing –
- later-printing signed books (Most signings were held to promote a book and most signatures are in first or early printings. This is especially true in the U.K. editions, where JKR generally signs the 1/1 hardback book at her signings, and allows only one or two books per person.) Although there ARE legitimately signed later-printing books, forgers love to use recent books, because they do not want to pay for expensive books.
- ANY signed U.S. book which was printed after The Prisoner of Azkaban 1/1 (JKR’s toured in the U.S. for this book, then was absent except for very quick trip in 2000). Although a FEW copies of The Goblet of Fire managed to get her signature, JKR did NOT tour the U.S. for that book. There are only a VERY few signed copies of the U.S. Order of the Phoenix and several dozen to maybe 500 copies of Half-Blood Prince signed for the New York City reading in 2006.)
- ANY signed UK Order of the Phoenix or Half-Blood Prince (There have been 2-3 brief signing sessions and one longer session for this book. They were by invitation only. True signatures in these books are QUITE rare.)
- ANY signed paperback (There are definitely signed paperbacks, especially from early in JKR’s career, but they are relatively few. Please be careful.)
Remember to ALWAYS get an image of the actual signature you are buying BEFORE you make a purchase. Keep the image and if the delivered product does not live up to it, send the item back to the seller.
Personally, I really like bookplates as a source for JK Rowling's signature. They are relatively safe as long as you choose a bookplate provided by either Bloomsbury or Scholastic. They are also a great way to insure that an already-precious book will have her signature in it. This has become especially important as she has decreased her personal appearances.
There are several exceptions to this point. First, Scholastic issued a large number of bookplates with Ms. Rowling's PREPRINTED signature. These were not signed in person, but the signature was printed onto the bookplate. These can be easily identified by the fact that the preprinted bookplates read "Compliments of J.K. Rowling, while the bookplates which have been hand-signed read “J.K. Rowling”. This is a very important point to remember. I recently saw a nationally reputable bookseller in the U.S. sell one of these preprinted bookplates as hand signed, when it was actually preprinted. The book it was in sold for over $4,000, based partially on the bookplate being hand-signed, when it was actually a preprinted giveaway item.
Second, JKR signs and donates bookplates for charitable causes. Sometimes she signs on plain bookplates. If you purchase a bookplate which has not been issued by one of the publishers, make certain a note from JKR’s personal assistant (signed) or J.K. Rowling (usually unsigned) accompanies it.
Several book sellers have started selling “facsimile” bookplates – which are copied bookplates. I suppose these are fine for those on a budget, as long as you clearly understand that you are NOT buying JKR’s hand-signed signature. Make certain that if you paid for a signed bookplate, it is not a photocopy. (That is, you can see indents in the paper from pressure being applied with the pen. You can also usually see the indents from the back of the bookplate.)
You can expect to pay $200 to $500 and up per bookplate. If a bookplate is priced under that, remember the old adage that “you get what you pay for”. If it is priced well over that (I have seen them priced above $1,200), keep in mind that you will probably be able to find one for less money.
Signed Movie Items-
Be very cautious when purchasing items which have supposedly been signed by cast members. The cast has few opportunities to sign posters and photos. It DOES happen on occasion, but those occasions are infrequent. Ask the seller WHEN the cast was gathered to sign the poster, then CHECK the news and see if such an event occurred and which members of the cast attended. Even then, proceed with caution – there just are not that many opportunities to obtain cast signatures. Be cautious when dealing with sellers who offer many signed items week after week, yet offer no proof of how the signatures were obtained. (A close friend is very privileged to know 2 cast members of the Harry Potter films. He has visited premiers, been on location for nearly 2 weeks with the cast, attended private cast parties, and toured the studio. Yet, he has obtained and sold only 50-100 signed items over the course of nearly 4 years.)
If the item you are looking at includes J.K. Rowling’s signature, it should be subjected to additional scrutiny. Although JKR does sign movie items on occasion, that occasion is VERY rare. She VERY RARELY appears with the cast, and she does NOT sign items that are sent to her in the mail.
Make CERTAIN you know what the cast signatures should look like. Most cast members started working on these movies at the age of 10 or 11. They are now 16-18. Their signatures have changed. Watch for “old” looking signatures on recently published items – a definite warning sign.
Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you purchase a signed Harry Potter movie script. Scripts are copyrighted by Warner Brothers. Ms. Rowling, cast, and crew would NOT sign such an item.
Be wary of preprints! A preprint is fine as long as you know that is what you are buying and it is priced accordingly. A preprinted signature is not necessarily authentic. Some sellers resell the image of an autograph they purchased. Therefore, preprints may be pictures of forged signatures. The BEST source of preprints is to write each star and request one. They will be sent to you free of charge and you will be assured of their authenticity.
Preprints may ALSO be forgeries. A fan may buy a bad signature and unknowingly reproduce it for sale. Therefore, once again, remember to research the signature you want and ALWAYS get an image of the actual signature you are buying before you make a purchase. Keep the image and if the delivered product does not live up to it, send the item back to the seller.
Let me share a little preprint story with you. I purchased a Chamber of Secrets poster with the signatures of many cast members on it – I think it was something like 16 signatures. The poster also included JKR’s signature. It was a full-size, BEAUTIFUL poster. It featured my favorite art from the movie and really beautiful signatures which were all easy to read. The signatures were all consistent with actual samples. I spent $350 on this poster, paid for it to be professionally mounted, and it became the centerpiece of my living room. Well, fast forward a year. The same seller listed a poster from Prisoner of Azkaban and the signatures were almost identical. “What are the odds of that?” I asked myself as my stomach started to turn. “Almost NIL”, myself answered. The signatures of all three main actors have changed over the last several years. I took the poster to my framing specialist and he removed it from the frame. Upon closer examination, there was no change in texture nor luster on the signatures. Also, the poster itself did not have the sheen that posters have. The entire “poster” and the signatures had been printed all at once on a large-scale color plotter such as is used for printing building plans. After MUCH argument, the seller refunded the purchase price. However, she did NOT refund the shipping charges nor the expense of having it mounted for framing. The experience was very stressful. Please try not let something like this happen to you.
In summary, you must be very cautious when you buy signed items. Not just on eBay, but anywhere! Research those signtures you want to obtain and also research the seller. Don't depend on feedback alone. Remember, "Constant Vigilance!".