I am ashamed to admit that I wasn't aware of a 2008 book titled Autograph Hell
until seeing a post on the website AutographAlert.com
. Autograph Hell, which I read cover to cover in two days, was written by Charles Irion, a passionate autograph collector who became disillusioned when he discovered how much of his prized collection turned out to be questionable or definitely fake.
Irion examined the role of third party authentication in the autograph industry's huge problem with fraud, and summed it up with the subtitle of his book: "It doesn't have to be real, it just has to be authentic," an actual quote from an autograph dealer. If the quote makes no sense to you now, it will after you read the book.
Like most collectors, Irion built his collection with a variety of methods, including in person. And like many collectors, Irion was shocked when some autographs that he obtained personally from the celebrities were judged as "not authentic" by third party authentication companies. Irion also discovered corruption and favoritism and conflicts of interest with these third party authenticators. If you've read my blog posts, you'll see that Irion's discoveries mirrored many of my own. Irion's book confirms and strengthens my belief that third party authentication is one huge scam that, regardless of the intentions of those companies, has done more harm than good to the autograph business.
In other chapters, Irion summarizes the FBI's Operation Bullpen
(which was the title and subject of an entire book written by Kevin Nelson) and provides a detailed and revealing history of autograph collecting, and associated fraud. I had no idea that autograph collecting dates back centuries, and so does autograph forgery! Believe it or not, autograph forgery is directly linked to one of history's most infamous serial killers, Jack the Ripper. Not only that, but celebrity complaints about autograph hounds bugging them dates back several decades.
The bottom line is if you're an autograph collector or autograph dealer, you owe it to yourself to read Autograph Hell
. You can buy it directly from the author from his Autograph Hell
website, and he'll even sign it for you.