Sunday, March 06, 2011

Your Charlton Heston autograph? It's probably fake.

As much as it pains me to write this, it needs to be done.

The Charlton Heston autograph in your collection was probably signed by a secretary.

I know the first step is denial... I've been through it myself. But let's put aside wishful thinking and look at the evidence.

For several years some collectors have speculated that Charlton Heston used a secretary for through-the-mail requests. This has been met with some doubt. The analysis I saw was less than convincing because it primarily compared old signatures to new, and it focused on differences in "Heston," which were very difficult to clearly discern. The doubt was also fueled by Mr. Heston himself who claimed on several occasions to personally respond to mail requests.

But, these suspicious collectors were on to something. And, I believe I have found the definitive "tell." It is in the first name. And once you see it, it is as clear as a bell.

The Theory
Photographs and other memorabilia sent to Mr. Heston's office were signed by a secretary. However, Mr. Heston did authentically sign books through-the-mail.

Real vs. Secretary
In authentic signatures, the R in "Charlton" is distinctly a lowercase "r" and less than half the height of the L. The first four letters are clearly "Char."

In secretarial signatures, the R looks much more like a lowercase "l" and is about the same height as the L. So, the first four letters appear to be "Chall."

The evidence

Authentic autographs

We'll start with books that were signed in-person. Note the distinct lowercase "r" and the R is much smaller in height than the L.

Portrait of Charlton Heston
Mr. Heston at a book signing. Note the distinct R.
Image by Mr & Mrs Scruples

Easton Press edition of Beijing Diary

Easton Press edition of In the Arena

Now, we'll move on to some signed checks with various dates. Note that the "r" is distinct in all time periods.




Next, here are signed Planet of the Apes trading cards (2001) from a supervised signing with Topps. Once again, the R is clear and no more than half the height of the L.

2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 1

2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 2
2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 3

Obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
Obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
Note that the r is still distinct and smaller than the L, even on a rushed in-person example

The following example shows the stark contrast between secretarial and authentic. Presented like this, it's pretty clear that the same hand did not sign these two signatures.

Top - obtained through-the-mail by Mike Sibley
Bottom - obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
The evidence shows that in every case where there was a known authentic exemplar, the R is distinct and much smaller than the L.

Here are some books that were obtained through-the-mail directly from Mr. Heston's office. The through-the-mail books also show a distinct R.

Obtained through-the-mail, March 2000

Obtained through-the-mail, January 2001

Secretarial Autographs

Here are examples of signed photographs obtained through-the-mail. Note the clear difference in the R formation and the R is almost as high as the L.

Through-the-mail, 1998

Through-the-mail, late 90s
Through-the-mail, late 90s

Through-the-mail, circa 2000

I could go on and list thousands of examples with the "Chall" formation. Just look at the signed photos on eBay or do a Google image search. About 95% of the photos have the earmarks of a secretarial signature. The books are almost always consistent with my theory as well.

Here is one signed photo I found that I believe to be authentic. Note the stark difference in the signature as opposed to the secretarial examples above. In addition to the distinct "r," the signature exhibits much less pressure.

Authentically signed photo? Note the contrast to the secretarial signatures above.

I reviewed hundreds of Charlton Heston autographs from various sources -- my personal collection, friends' collections and on online sites such as eBay.

I will note that, out a hundreds of exemplars, I found a handful of books that did not have a distinct "r" formation. My theory is these books may have been through-the-mail exemplars signed by a secretary. The reason for this could be that Mr. Heston's schedule did not allow for signing at that time or, once his illness took hold, secretaries began signing books through the mail as well as photos.

Dealers and Authenticators
I understand there will be resistance to these findings. There are thousands of signed Charlton Heston photos sitting in dealer inventories and probably tens of thousands more in collections -- the overwhelming majority of which are fakes. Some of these have been authenticated by reputable third party authenticators.

Don't trust third party authenticators with Heston -- they all got it wrong!

Upper Deck card - appears to be secretarial.

Until someone can produce proof otherwise, we must conclude we were all wrong.

For years Mr. Heston stated that he signed mail requests. Well, he was telling a half-truth. He was signing books sent to him, but his secretary was signing the photos and everything else.

Note all images are copyright their respective copyright owners.


TheElvisIRemember said...

His secretarial/office staff at Agamemon Studio, which was owned by him and his son, also used a rubber stamp of his signature, especially on autographed head shots, more frequently used as he got older and his handwriting became shaky. This was definitely necessary for the amount of autographs that was requested just on a daily basis, especially in his last years. Also, his accountants had rubber stamps, or pre-inked press stamps with his signature for the signing of checks which is legal form of endorsing checks. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Okay... interesting article. I myself have a "Chall" autograph...

But I was always believed to trust PSA/DNA and their verifications...

Until I found 2 Charlton Heston autographs, or should I say "Challton Heston", that were both verified by PSA/DNA and the cert numbers match the cert verification on their site.

So which is it?

Here they are by the way, check for yourself..

If these PSA verified autographs happen to be fakes, wouldn't that hurt the company severely? When I buy autographs online, rarely, I always look for UACC dealers or PSA DNA autographs so that I can look them up on their sites...


Steve said...

I believe those both to be secretarial. The photo is one of the standard photos Heston would send with mail requests.

As I wrote, I believe all the third party authenticators got this one wrong. JSA (Jimmy Spence) has since come forward and stated he believes these findings to be true and has updated his files accordingly.

Autograph World, R&R Auctions and Al Wittnebert have all stated they believe these findings have merit.

PSA/DNA was nortified of this study over a week ago and has not yet commented.

Yes, it will ding them a bit, but nobody is perfect and stuff like this should be expected once in a while.

In hindsight, weren't we all a bit naive to think Heston was signing mass amounts of photos through the mail on a daily basis?

Unknown said...

I have an envelope, signed letter, and signed picture from 1976. It's very hard to tell. I would like to scan them later tonight and post a link to the pics... perhaps someone could give me their learned opinion. It does not look like the secretary signature but there are no authentic 1970's sigs here to compare it to.

Unknown said...

Here are the scans:

What do you think?

Steve said...

Peg - I beleive both of those examples are most likely authentic. Thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

Thanks, that's neat. Back in my "memories" box it goes :)

Alan said...

Great research! Very informative.

Boswell said...

My thinking is that this must be an original, as it is a legal document (in connection with his deal on Three Musketeers) but it doesn't hurt to be sure (close-up of signature comes last):

Steve said...

Boswell... that contract appears to be authentically signed. Nice item! :-)

Boswell said...

Thanks, Steve!

doublexvt said...

I believe that the secretarial signings occurred as far as the late 1970's- if anyone interested I can post a scan of an signed photo obtained via mail c. 1979 that appears to be secretarial.

Steve said...

Sure, please post a link to the scan. If this is a problem, let me know and I'll provide you with my email address. Thanks!

doublexvt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
doublexvt said...

ok Steve let me try this one more time- if this link does not work let me know, if you have an email address that would be great in any event as I have more on this to send.

This was obtained in the mail in late 1979, photo was sent to his home address.

kez said...

I cannot remember the date but Charlton Heston was in london at a premiere of his film Anthony & Cleopatra,i was sat behind him and i asked him for his autograph on a programme of the film,he obliged me with my request i and still have it here at my home.

TrentBizzle said...

This one look good?

Steve said...

Yes, it does not appear to be secretarial.

Pamela Parizo said...

Thanks so much for your blog. I just bought a copy of "In the Arena" on Amazon for $13.99 from a bookseller in Alabama. I really wasn't concerned about the autograph; I just wanted to read the book. But your blog helps me to know that the autograph is genuine, as it has many features of the authentic signature.

Mystery Man said...

This is a real long-shot, but I found a copy of Charlton Heston's Hollywood inscribed, "John, Quite a business we're in. Yours, Charly." The signature looks nothing like the authentic or secretarial versions, but perhaps he reserved his practiced style of writing for formal signatures (I admit I'm reaching). Have you ever heard of him going by Charly among close acquaintances?

Steve said...

I believe he went as "Chuck" to his friends. I have a book signed as "Chuck." If you can post a link to an image, that would be more telling.

missymoo22 said...

Hi, I have a legit Charlton Heston autograph (my mother has it signed in person). Would it be worth anything? Thank you

Steve said...

Depending on the pose and quality of the signature and if it is personalized, it could range from $20 to $60 in my opinion.

Unknown said...

I also thank you for this blog. I have had Vietnamese money that my brother sent me in the mid 60's. It is signed by Charlton Heston and I have always know this but one or several of your bank documents verifies this. He was visiting the troops in Vietnam. I have kept it in a safe place and will pass it on the my son and grandson. Thanks again, Cynthia

Unknown said...

Hi, I wrote to Mr Heston in 1998 and received 2 items back. Looking at your site i think they are sec's. Could you just confirm please. Thanks.

Steve said...

Sue: Regrettably those are both secretarial in my opinion.