Collecting Autographs

A Personal Connection

Collecting autographs - signed letters, documents, manuscripts, books, or photographs - has long been an exciting and deeply satisfying pastime. In today's world of fleeting electronic communication, these personal connections to the past offer the unique satisfaction of holding pieces of history, quite literally, in our hands.
Autographs bring moments in time to life, often with incredible power. The window they open onto the past helps us better understand a person or event of importance to us. Autographs let us feel an individual's presence, experience his or her joy or sadness, inspiration or frustration, exultation or despair. In short, at their best, autographs convey the essence of an individual's personality.
Preserving History
We define our present by examining its roots in the past, and autograph collectors preserve an important part of our heritage. Whether you collect letters from political figures explaining their motivations, musical scores by great composers, or pictures of famous actors with illuminating inscriptions, autographs offer valuable insights into the thoughts and aspirations of those who shaped history.
The Pleasures of Autographs
For many people, collecting autographs is a stimulating and absorbing pastime. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, often turned to his autograph collection as a distraction from the pressures of the presidency. Others find autographs a way to learn more about the people and circumstances that especially intrigue them. Some present autographs as memorable gifts, delighting in their recipients' pleasure at owning a memento of an admired individual.
Types of Autographs
 Autographs are available in several forms:
  • Letters, handwritten or typed, that range from routine correspondence to pieces with outstanding historical content.
  • Documents, including checks, contracts, official appointments, and presidential land grants. These often make handsome framed displays.
  • Manuscripts, from complete drafts of literary or musical works to short quotations written out especially for collectors.
  • Signed photographs. Available in many sizes, they are always popular.
  • Books inscribed by their authors.
  • Signatures and miscellaneous signed items. The least expensive type of autograph, signatures can be matted and framed with photographs of the subject. They are a fine category for the collector on a limited budget.
Fields of Interest
PADA dealers can offer you autographs in a wide range of collecting areas:
  • U.S. history and culture, including presidents, statesmen, and military figures
  • Music, literature, and fine and performing arts
  • Science and medicine
  • Foreign history and culture
  • Aviation, space, and exploration
  • Business and finance
  • Vintage entertainment and sports (pre-1960)
Five Guidelines for Buying Autographs
  1. Buy autographs that capture your interest; avoid fads and autographs presented as "great" investments or sold through pressure tactics.
  2. Learn as much as you can about what makes an autograph authentic and important.
  3. Use common sense when buying an autograph. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. Buy only what you can afford.
  5. Buy only from reputable dealers who can help you avoid risks and problems. PADA makes it easy for you to find an entire group of dealers on whom you can rely. Please consult our membership directory.
    PADA's Mission Statement

    To establish an autograph marketplace in which collectors can buy and sell with confidence and receive knowledgeable, accurate, and experienced advice.