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Over the years I have noticed a large amount of ‘pre-printed’ autographs for sale especially on the internet.

Unfortunately, they are easy to produce in mass quantities, have very little cost associated with them and fool many unsuspecting buyers.

What is a pre-print you ask?

Well, it is simply a photographic reproduction of an original signed photo. In this case, an original autographed photo is copied and then reproduced. Many popular stars do this to keep up with the demand for their autograph requested via the mail and many sellers do this to make money by selling copies of the autographs they have collected.

In this case the autographs are actually part of the photo and therefore not a legitimate autograph (the actual autograph may be authentic in terms of the signature however it is still a copy and basically worthless).

Many sellers intentionally create preprints, either by copying their own legitimate autographs or by actually taking photographs forging the signature and copying those. These sellers often use confusing language or place the word preprint in hard to locate places in the auction text so as to trick the buyer into believing it is a real autograph.

The sellers will often list these preprints in the authentic autographs categories further confusing the buyers. Some sellers of preprints try to be legitimate and are very clear that there items are preprints including even putting the letters ‘PP’,‘RP’ or facsimile in the title or even explain it very clearly in the auction description that it is actually a copy of the original. Either way, be aware that it is not a legitimate autograph.

Here are a few steps you can take to help recognize a preprinted autograph fortunately the steps require you to have the autograph in your possession thus making it tough to determine if it is a preprints before you buy it.

1. The signature will appear to be below the surface of the glossy portion of the photo and it will often appear very ‘flat’.

2. To test this, hold the photo at an angle very close to a bright source of light. A real autograph is on surface of the photo and should reflect differently than the rest of the surface. It will be very obvious when it is a legitimate autograph signed on top of the photo.
A preprint will blend right in with the surface of the photo because it is actually part of the photo and the glossy reflection will be the same in the background of the photo as well as where the autograph is printed. You may have to move the photo around to get the right angle and notice the difference in reflection but with a little practice you'll become adept at this in no time.

3. Since the autographs are duplications of the originals, if you happen to have more than one of the same picture you will notice that the autograph will be exactly the same. It will be very obvious as nobody ever signs the same way twice. You might also do an Internet search to see if you can find other examples of that photo for sale with the same exact signature.

4. You can also lightly run your finger over the autograph to sense if it is on top of the photo. This works quite well once you get some practice. In this case it would be good if you already had a real autographed item so you can get the idea of what it feels like. Just be sure to start sliding before the signature so that you can feel the difference between the photo and the signature and be very careful so you don't damage the signature if it in fact is on top of the photo. Paint pen is much more obvious than felt tip marker.

5. As a last resort, you can place some alcohol or other photo-safe solvent on a cotton swab and try to erase a portion of the signature. However, this does not always work and when it does it damages the autograph which is less than ideal. If it is a re-print, the autograph will not be affected by this test.


When you search for autographs on eBay (or most any internet site) be sure to add the following to your search string which will remove the majority of the preprints from your results:

-rp -pp -reprint -preprint -print -rpnt -copy (the minus sign omits the results including the word after it and be sure to make sure you clear the box that states search 'title and description' because many legitimate dealers state that they do not sell reprints in their item descriptions and this search would then exclude them as well.)

A Johnny Depp search example:

johnny depp signed photo -rp -pp -reprint -preprint -print -rpnt -copy

This is how we search anytime autographs are involved. Some preprints will still show up (just a few from sellers who try to trick buyers) but try a search with and without the string and see the difference. It will be dramatic!

Many celebrities are just too busy to respond to all the requests for their autograph. They will often use services such as Studio Fan Mail to produce and mail these preprints in response to the often overwhelming mail requests for their autograph. It's a shame that they have to use these services and cannot personally answer every request. I wonder how many fans receive get preprints in the mail thinking that it is really an authentic and original autograph.

Some celebrities who are well known for sending preprints or secretarials are (this is just a partial list):

Alan Alda
Alex Rodriguez
Alyson Hannigan
Andy Garcia
Angelina Jolie
Benicio Del Toro
Carmen Electra
Christian Slater
Clint Eastwood
David Duchovny
Dean Cain
Drew Barrymore
Gillian Anderson
Halle Berry
Hank Azaria
Henry Winkler
Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Garner
Jensen Ackles
Jessica Biel
Jim Carrey
Jodi Foster
John Travolta
Kaley Cuoco
Kate Mulgrew
Kathy Ireland
Kim Bassinger
Krista Allen
Lauren Graham
LeVar Burton
Marg Helgenberger
Matthew Fox
Matthew Perry
Minnie Driver
Neil Patrick Harris
Neve Campbell
Nicholas Cage
Ozzy Osbourne & Family
Poppy Montgomery
Robert Deniro
Robert Duvall
Robert Patrick
Rod Stewart
Sarah Michelle Gellar
The Rock
Thomas Jane
Tim Allen
Tobey Maguire
Tom Arnold
Tony Hawk
Tyra Banks
Zoey Deschanel
Most TV Cast Photos
Most Star Trek actors


Please educate yourself, buy smart, buy from us and let us know if we can help!


World of Autographs

P.S. Remember to have some fun and not take life too seriously!

Now go buy some of our authentic autographs!

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