How to spot autopen autographs



2015-06-26 13:02:56

How to spot autopen autographs

Paul explains how to spot those tricky autopen autographs that can be the bane of a collector's life

Following last week's Ask Paul on how to spot a fake stamp, another reader has asked how to identify an autopen autograph.

 In this genuine Neil Armstrong autograph, there are clear changes in pressure

For me, identifying an autograph is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting. I enjoy the detective work that comes with discerning a fake from the real deal, and subsequently valuing the item against other examples.

Autopen signatures can be the bane of many collectors' lives. An autopen is a machine that copies a person's signature and then reproduces it at a rate many times faster than could normally be done - some top celebritieseven have several autopens with slightly altered autographs, making it even more difficult to tell which is the real thing. However, follow my advice and you should be well on your way.

First off, autopens signatures are usually of the same thickness and pressure throughout, and resemble a signature in black marker pen.Uniformity is obviously something very hard to achieve when signing your own name, as youadjust the position of your hand.

Almost all of the autopen examples that I have seen are shaky, which results from the movement of the machine. Unless the person whose autograph you desire is known for being particularly nervous, I would think twice before buying one of these.

There is also a slight yellowing that I have noticed around the signature, presumably left by the printing of the signature onto the item. This is clearly visible if the signature has a white background but is very difficult to spot on most examples.

If you happen to have a magnifying glass handy, take a good look at the autograph and look for any minute tears orindentations in the paper created by the pen. As the autopen doesn't actually write, but rather prints, the autograph, it will not have damaged the paper at all.

However, my top tip would be to find an inscribed item, as these are almost never completed using an autopen. Obviously, those without a previous collector's name will look better in your collection, but it is a sure-fire way to tell that yours is genuine.


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Edward Lopez

2017-06-03 23:27:22

10 years ago I discovered on signatures made by some (Damilic) Autopen signatures spikes on the signature letters. Because of this discovery in 1987 I wrote to Astronaut Frank Borman and asked him if his signature on a letter to me was done by an Autopen. He replied in longhand and said no. When I brought my spikes discovery to Damilic's attention their reply was that I had made an important discovery. I had sent them a couple of ultracloseup photos showing the spikes on Hillary Rodham Clinton's



2016-09-30 04:36:07

Hi Scott,

Looks like Paul didn't reply, but our Autopens use a real pen, just like a person - you won't be able to see anything in the ink!

Also, while the signature may end up shaky if the machine speed is set too fast, most times it will actually be indistinguishable from the original signature.

You can learn more about our signature machines at if you are interested.




2016-05-31 18:33:43

Hi Paul,

Will an autopen signature be more or less likely to have "overspray" when magnified? My wife got an "autographed" CD from the artist's web site but it looks iffy to me. It is in blue ink but when I blow up a pic of it on my iphone, there is a very thin, dotted black outline to it. Makes me think of an inkjet printer.


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