Beatles Autographs: Part I

 

By Frank Caiazzo

“Autographs of The Beatles,” by Beatles autograph expert Frank Caiazzo, was originally published in the October and November 1995 issues of Autograph Collector [now Autograph]. One of the most important works on Beatles autographs, this two-part article’s authentication and historical information have stood the test of time. We’re publishing it unedited, with the original B&W images from the magazine. Join Autograph Magazine Live! to be notified when Part II is available.

Among the many areas of Beatles collectibles, autographs of the Fab Four are certainly increasing in interest and value. Autographs are uniquely special in that they represent an occurrence of undivided attention by these legends, a frozen moment in their lives captured and forever treasured. But if you should decide that you would like to invest in anything supposedly penned by The Beatles, from a single autograph to a set of all four signatures, from a letter written by one of them to a manuscript for a Beatles song (often referred to as handwritten lyrics), there are a few things you should know first.

Closing in, you come to the category of Rock and Roll, and somewhere within this category, of course, are The Beatles. That’s a lot of ground to cover, especially in light of the fact that these four signatures alone can be very tricky and tough to get a good handle on without fairly intensive study. Over even short periods of time, their signatures were constantly undergoing minor characteristic changes, an evolution which saw the most drastic transformations during the year 1963—John and George in particular, seemed to be searching the most for a new “autographic identity.” Because of certain characteristic changes, it is actually possible for someone who is highly familiar with their signatures to date them (even to within a month or two) with a fair amount of accuracy. This is possible simply by knowing when even the most subtle changes took place, and applying this knowledge when looking at a signature or set of signatures of The Beatles.

As mentioned earlier, The Beatles signatures are very heavily forged, with these forgeries ranging in caliber from extremely poor to very cleverly executed. But no matter how well done the signatures are, a forger will be much more consistent with his style of “manufactured” signatures than The Beatles true autographs ever were. It is easy for him to “lock in” to a particular style wrought with errors and lacking the true feel and essence of the signatures he is forging.

If he has bad characteristics within each signature (all forgers have several, visible to a well-trained eye) ranging from the proportion of the letters amongst themselves, the formation or shaping of the letters, angles of the letters with respect to one another, or what I call “trade secrets”—things like where and when an “i” might be dotted, where a photo or LP is most likely not going to be signed by each individual, anachronistic errors such as signing a later photo or LP with an earlier style of signature, etc., a forger will always be consistent and his bad characteristics will always be evident. Quite frankly, once pointed out, even to a layperson, it would be easy to distinguish any forger’s distinct style each and every time. But it is only a person who is very knowledgeable of Beatles signatures who can easily spot these characteristic errors and pass along such tips, especially in the case of well-executed forgeries.

As you can see, that because of the variations between authentic Beatles signatures over time, and a great many different styles of forgeries filling in the cracks, this makes for a volatile mix, a virtual landmine effect when the whole picture is viewed at once. For every set of Beatles signatures sold over the past 10 years, at least 50 percent of them have been either forgeries, or “ghost signed” by Neil Aspinall, which brings us to his story.

Aspinall, who was The Beatles’ road manager starting in 1963 (he runs Apple today) [editor’s reminder: this article was written in 1995] , signed literally hundreds upon hundreds of items for them when they were either not available while on tour amidst the hysteria of Beatlemania, or simply did not want to be bothered with autograph requests. Often while on tour, they slept well into the afternoon if they could. Neil’s “Beatles” signatures were not necessarily done to deceive buyers and sellers of Beatles autographs, because at the time, there really was no market for them as we know it today. It was simply part of his job to satisfy some of the autograph requests The Beatles received (through Neil) while on the road, especially after 1963.

His signatures have until recently sold quite well through auctions and dealers alike, but they are really very easy to distinguish from genuine Beatles signatures—unlike many of the deliberate and often clever forgeries created for no other reason than to make easy money and rob the unfortunate person who ends up with them hanging on his wall (although the piece probably passed through at least one unsuspecting middleman or auction house, who also made money on it!).

In fact, on The Beatles’ initial visit to America, the plane ride over from England gave Neil an opportunity to sign the stacks of Capitol promotional photographs he was given in anticipation of a large number of requests. He soon got tired of signing The Beatles’ full names and ended the trip by signing the photos with their first names only. (It is interest­ing to note that a high-ranking New York police official whose job it was to brief the band on security measures before they departed the plane, wound up the proud owner of two of these Aspinall signed photos, even though there are pictures of him coming off of the plane with The Beatles!) Oftentimes when there was a police request for Beatles signatures, Neil was the one who did the signing, merely to keep those who were responsible for guarding their lives in a particular city as happy as he could.

Anyone who wrote to The Official Beatles Fan Club in the 1960s requesting autographs undoubtedly received signatures in response to their request, signatures which were signed by secretaries of the Fan Club, along with a letter stating that “the lads were more than happy to sign for you.” Again, this was done not to deceive, but to satisfy the impossible numbers of people who wanted to own something signed by The Beatles. Keeping people happy, especially Fan Club members, was a big priority. Although these secretarial signatures have in the past sold as being authentic, they are quite easy to distinguish.

But because of variances in the situations surrounding the time and place where the signatures were obtained, The Beatles’ signatures could look markedly different, even when signed within a few days of each other. For example, did Paul use his right hand as a backing for a leaf of paper he was signing, or did he use George’s back? I have seen both in photos because no flat surface was available. Were The Beatles literally “on the run” between their limo and a backstage door as they were signing, or were they seated behind a bar as they were on Dec. 14, 1963 at the Wimbledon Palais in London?

Regardless, certain characteristics within their signatures could vary almost month to month in 1963, their most fertile signing year by far. They signed so much that year because they were touring throughout England the whole time, starting out virtually unknown outside of Liverpool and continuing along on a backbreaking schedule of concert after concert, BBC radio appearances, TV shows and photographic sessions. During this time, the Beatles were very accessible and no reasonable demand was refused, the least of all being autograph requests.

In February, 1964 The Beatles came to America and from that point forward changed the face of popular music forever, while achieving phenomenal worldwide fame unequaled by anyone before or since. It is not surprising then, that from the time they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964, until they officially broke up in April 1970, they were increasingly less accessible and, of course, highly guarded.

In Australia in June, 1964 they were greeted by 300,000 fans as they stood on a balcony waving to the massive crowd. Although this sounds extreme, wherever they went they were surrounded by mass hysteria. While on tour they spent most of their time imprisoned in their hotel rooms, often occupying entire floors with guards at all entrances. As time went by they signed less and less. Very few 1965 examples have surfaced, and 1966 is a tough set to get. Contrary to popular opinion, The Beatles did very little signing in the U.S. at all between 1964 and 1966 (the last time all four were in America at the same time). In fact, 90 percent of everything The Beatles signed as a group was signed in England and, of that, most was signed before the end of 1963. The Beatles signed more in 1963 than they did the rest of their career combined!

After they stopped touring in August, 1966, The Beatles were rarely seen together as a foursome, although they did continue to record together until August, 1969. Sets of autographs have surfaced from the year of psychedelia, 1967, and only because they were out in public together for two weeks touring the English countryside in a bus while filming Magical Mystery Tour in September. The only people who got signatures after that were the “Apple Scruffs,” or groups of people who congregated outside of EMI Abbey Road Studios or Apple Headquarters and caught them individually as they came and went. Needless to say, sets of all four signatures from 1968 and 1969 are nearly impossible to find.

One of the most difficult sets to put together would be a set of all four Beatles’ signatures on a single item (LP/photo, etc.) obtained individually as solo artists, post 1970. Yet this is an area heavily targeted by forgers. With the exception of documents signed by all four in the 1970s, I have seen no more than 15 such sets, yet I have seen at least 30 Sgt. Pepper signed albums alone that purport to have been, by the style of each forged signature, signed in the 70s and 80s. I have spoken to an “in-person” autograph recipient who was lucky enough to put together two post-Beatles sets and it took him almost eight years to do it. Of these two sets, George signed one first name only. In 1994, he needed money and decided to sell his in-person Beatles signatures, including these two sets. He offered them to two noted autograph experts, one of whom actually claims to specialize in Rock and Roll. Both dealers said that his signatures didn’t look good to them, to which he reacted with great indignation. Then he offered them to me and, needless to say, I was extremely delighted.

There is a hierarchy of Beatles autographs as far as desirability and value goes. They are, to a degree, subjective and realize possibly the most variance among the many areas of Beatles collecting. The value examples given here are merely recent pricing trends as of mid-1995.

In a very real sense, the item upon which the auto­graphs appear has the most significant effect on value and desirability. First in line is a signed album cover or a 45 RPM picture sleeve from the 60s. These are certainly the most sought after in that they encompass all the desirable at­tributes in terms of historic and aesthetic appeal that relate directly to their claim to fame, because The Beatles were first and foremost about music. Signed LPs command anywhere from $4,000 on up, depending upon factors such as the title, overall condition and contrast of the signatures.

But one thing to keep in mind is that because these are so desirable, they are a big target for forgeries. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Meet The Beatles are the most commonly forged LP titles in America, due obviously to the stature that they hold as far as Beatles albums are concerned. In England however, there doesn’t seem to be any particular favorite for forgers, although they do seem to be clever enough to go for the original mono Parlophone issues (LPs or EPs), as well as the two red label singles, Love Me Do and Please, Please Me. In all, I have seen just about every U.S. and U.K. album title show up at one time or another with signatures that were not authentic. Of these, a small percentage were signed “honestly” by Neil Aspinall.

An equally desirable, yet much rarer item, would be a legal written contract or document containing all four of The Beatles signatures. These are interesting in that they fall into more of a utility/business nature and are not simply the result of an individual or fan’s request. Obviously the advent of items like this are the byproduct of daily business activities. In these cases the collector of such an item will possess a piece of The Beatles’ lives that they themselves had no intention of anyone even seeing other than those directly involved.

In recent years there has been a deluge of Apple signed checks and documents that have entered the market­place for the first time, at first slowly and then more rapidly, almost causing a flood in the market—only to end up in collections and become available only occasionally. There are some collectors who will only buy checks or documents because they feel that these are unquestionably authentic. For the most part this is true, although there have been a few contracts that were forgeries coming from California in the past few years. While these particular contracts appear to be “official” on the surface, with various magistrate stamps, date stamps and seemingly legal verbiage, the signatures (usually Brian Epstein and John Lennon) were very poorly executed.

Contracts signed by all four members are very collect­ible, when they are offered, with prices starting in the $5,000 range. The cost could rise sharply, however, if the body of the contract contains significant information regarding the history of the group and their music.

Next in line of desirability to collectors would be signed photographs, which are actually quite rare and again a big target for forgeries. There are scores of signed magazine photos which have been sold over the years that are not authentic. These are popular with forgers because they can buy a magazine chock full of photos to sign rather cheaply. I have seen Beatles magazines (one that comes immediately to mind is a book put out by PYX Productions in late 1963, with beautiful color photos on the front and back and a variety of black and white “collarless suit” poses within) that have been signed on every usable photo, turning them into a forger’s goldmine.

Authentic vintage signed 8×10″ photographs are difficult to come by but, when they do come along, they are extremely desirable and in the $3,500 plus range, depending upon the condition of the photo and the contrast of the signatures. Signed photos containing classic Dezo Hoffman poses can bring $4,000 or more.

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America’s Most Historic Signed Beatles Album Being Auctioned October 1

“To ‘Doc Gordon’ Thanks for the Jabs” from George Harrison 

Band-Signed “Meet the Beatles” Thanks Doctor Who
Treated Harrison Before Beatles U.S. Debut on Ed Sullivan.

George inscribed the album, “To ‘Doc Gordon’ Thanks for the Jabs … From George Harrison.” John, Paul and Ringo also signed.

Hidden away in a stack of records for 47 years, the Beatles album marking the most important event in rock and roll history is being auctioned October 1.

The “Meet the Beatles” album was signed by John, Paul, George and Ringo, with a special inscription added by George, the day before America met the Beatles on the “The Ed Sullivan Show,” February 9, 1964.

George’s inscription was a thank you to Dr. Jules Gordon, the house physician at The Plaza Hotel. Dr. Gordon treated Harrison’s 104-degree fever and raw throat that threatened to keep him from joining the Beatles for their historic Sunday American debut. George was so ill that Beatles’ manager Neil Aspinall had to stand in for him for most of Saturday’s rehearsals.

Beatles’ manager Neil Aspinall fills in for a sick George Harrison during Saturday rehearsals for the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

But Dr. Gordon’s shots and vaporizer treatments started working and George was able to join rehearsals later in the day. George’s sister, Louise, was charged with watching over him until the doctor came back Sunday to check on his recovery.

Knowing how excited his sons would be that he treated one of the Beatles, Dr. Gordon sent someone to get an album, hoping “the Boys” would sign it before he left Saturday.  The Beatles were happy to oblige, with an especially grateful George writing:

To “Doc Gordon” Thanks for the Jabs … From George Harrison.

The reverse of Dr. Gordon’s signed and inscribed “Meet the Beatles” album.

Authenticated by Frank Caiazzo, the world’s most respected Beatles autograph authenticator, it is the only personalized album known that was signed by all four Beatles while they were in New York for the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

While as many as seven “Meet the Beatles” are known to have been signed during this time, this is the only album that clearly commemorates the Beatles’ first American performance—and Dr. Gordon’s pivotal role.

Front cover of Dr. Gordon’s “Meet the Beatles” album.

Their appearance on Ed Sullivan was more than the Beatles’ American debut. It launched The British Invasion, which brought a flood of British bands to America, including the groundbreaking likes of The Rolling Stones,  The Yardbirds and The Moody Blues. These top British artists inspired American musicians, much like Elvis, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry had inspired the British Rockers in the 1950s. Their combined influences changed the sound of rock and roll music forever, making it the dominant music worldwide to this day. 

Will it Break $100,000.00 on October 1?

Letter of Authentication by Frank Caiazzo, widely recognized as the world’s top Beatles autograph authenticator.

This is only the 15th band-signed U.S. release Beatles album known to exist—and seven of them are “Meet the Beatles.” Dr. Gordon’s family consigned the album to Case Antiques for their October 1 auction, and while their estimate is $40,000 to $45,000, it could bring $100,000-plus. U.S. release Beatles albums generally sell for about $100,000 or more, and the importance of this personalized album means it will likely sell for a substantial premium—whether at the auction or later if the successful bidder offers it for sale.

Dr. Gordon’s family offered the other “Meet the Beatles” they had in Case’s Spring auction last May. That one, which Dr. Gordon had signed for one of his sons but was not inscribed or personalized, sold for $63,250 and is now being offered by the buyer at $125,000. Case is primarily an art and antique auction house, and many Beatles collectors didn’t now the album was being sold. So while it went for a good price, it didn’t bring as much as it likely would have at one of the traditional autograph auction houses.

That’s not likely to happen this time.

Auction Listing:

Lot 566: Signed Meet The Beatles Album, “Thanks for jabs”

The second of two “Meet the Beatles” albums, autographed by all four band members, from the estate of Dr. Jules Gordon and his direct heirs. Update – On 9/16/2011, Frank Caiazzo, world recognized Beatles autograph expert, inspected this album and verified its authenticity. A document of authenticity from Frank Caiazzo is included in the photographs and will be provided to the winning bidder in addition to an affidavit of authentication from the descendant. The first completely autographed “Meet the Beatles” album from the Gordon family sold in our May 22nd, 2011 auction (lot #281). This is the last remaining album from the Gordon family and is personally inscribed to Dr. Gordon by George Harrison. The inscription reads “To “Doc Gordon” thanks for the JABS from George Harrison” along with the signatures of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr. Original album and album cover. 12-1/4? H x 12-1/4? W. This signed album was given to Dr. Gordon, who treated George Harrison for a sore throat the day before the Beatles American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Thomas Buckley noted in the New York Times on Feb. 8, 1964: “Mr. Harrison, who is known as the quiet Beatle, awoke yesterday with a sore throat. He was treated by Dr. Jules Gordon, used a vaporizer and rejoined his colleagues at the studio late in the afternoon. ‘I should be perfect for tomorrow,’ he said.” According to George Harrison’s sister, Louise Caldwell, Harrison’s health was more serious than reported. In “The Beatles Off The Record” by Keith Badman, Caldwell recalled: “The doctor said he couldn’t do the Ed Sullivan Show because he had a temperature of 104. But they pumped him with everything. He was thinking about getting a nurse to administer the medicine, every hour on the hour. Then the doctor suddenly realized that I was there and was his sister and he said to me, ‘Would you see to it? It’s probably just as well that you’re here because I don’t think there’s a single female in the city that isn’t crazy about the Beatles! You’re probably the only one who could function around him normally.’” Dr. Jules Gordon of New York City was the house doctor at the Plaza Hotel from 1942 until 1985. This album, given to one of his direct heirs in 1964, has been with the family ever since and has never before been offered for sale. Condition: Slight overall toning to cover. Wear to upper spine. Some scratching to the album itself.

For more information, go to www.caseantiques.com, email Case Antiques at info@caseantiques.com or call them at 865-558-3033.

 

Autograph Magazine Signed Beatles Album Census

Beatles albums signed by John, Paul, George and Ringo are among the most valuable and desirable Rock ’n’ Roll collectibles. Only about 125 are known; most being their first album, “Please Please Me.” But how many signed Beatles albums really exist? Autograph Magazine wants to find out.

Announcing Autograph Magazine’s Signed Beatles Album Census. Our goal is to locate and track every Beatles album signed by the Fab Four, in order to preserve our musical heritage and protect collectors against forgeries. If you have an album signed by the Beatles, I encourage you to have yours counted. It’s free.

Genuine Beatles-Signed Abbey Road Album, UK Release

Genuine Beatles-Signed Abbey Road Album, UK Release. It was signed for “Apple Scruff” Cathy Sarver.

And if you have a Beatles album signed by all four band members, you’ve got something quite valuable. Albums in good condition typically range from about $15,000 for the most common one, “Please Please Me,” to well over $100,000 for some of the rarest albums, especially U.S. releases.


Most Beatles Albums Are Extremely Rare or Unknown Signed

You wouldn’t know it by the hundreds of albums offered online and in some memorabilia galleries, but band-signed Beatles albums are very hard to come by. Many are currently unknown, or there are only one or two examples. Some are “secretarials,” where some or all of the autographs were signed in the Beatles’ names by their management, staff…and occasionally one of the Beatles signing for others. But most are outright forgeries offered by sellers that prey on the unwary. They often come with certificates of authenticity from dubious authenticators and forensic document examiners.

Rule of Thumb: Only “Please Please Me” commonly sells for under $30,000 signed, and the occasional “With The Beatles.” Any other undamaged band-signed Beatles album priced in that range should be looked at with extreme caution.

How rare are genuine signed Beatles albums? These are Autograph’s estimates of the counts of signed Beatles albums that are accepted as genuine by the legitimate autograph community:


US Release Band-Signed Beatles Albums
4-5 “Meet the Beatles”
2 “Help”
1 “Beatles 65”
1 “Beatles VI”
0 “Rubber Soul”

2 “Revolver”
0 “Magical Mystery Tour”
0 “Abbey Road”
0 “Yellow Submarine”
1 “White Album”
1 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
0
Let it Be
12-13 Known


UK Release Band-Signed Beatles Albums
Roughly 75 “Please Please Me” (Their first album, signed in three 1963 UK promotional tours)
15-20 “With the Beatles” (The tail end of their easier accessibility)
8-10 “Hard Day’s Night”
3 “Beatles for Sale”
2 “Help”
1 “Rubber Soul”
1 “Revolver”
5 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
0 “Magical Mystery Tour” (All reissues from the 1980s and up.)
0 “White Album”
0 “Yellow Submarine”
2 “Abbey Road”
0 “Let it Be”
Roughly 112-119 Known (37-44 plus roughly 75 “Please Please Me” albums)


How to Participate in the Census

  1. Email large images of your album showing the autographs clearly to Beatles@autographmagazine.com, along with your name, state or province, and country. Put “Beatles Census” and the title of the album in the subject line.
  2. Send separate emails for each album.
  3. In preliminary authentication, we weed out albums with signatures we believe are clearly forgeries. We want to do this without knowing how you acquired the album or who authenticated it, whenever possible. So don’t tell us or include receipts or authentication papers. If there is an authentication sticker on an unsigned side of your album, please don’t include the image of that side at this time. We may ask for its history later.
  4. After preliminary authentication, the images of all albums, approved or rejected, will be entered in our Beatles Signed Album Census forum for comment and discussion, without your name or the album’s history mentioned. You’re welcome to participate in any and all discussions. We’ll review all commentary in the forum before registering an album with the census.

 

Two Levels of Signed Beatles Album Census Registrations:

  1. Confirmed: For albums inspected in person by at least one of our accepted experts. This is in addition to online authentication by several of our experts.
  2. Online: For albums authenticated and approved online only by our experts.

Submit your images to Autograph Magazine’s Signed Beatles Album Census today!

Discuss this article on Autograph Magazine Live!

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