Louis XIV

Collecting documents signed by historical figures became a passion in my mid-20’s. The ability to hold in one’s hands a document signed by Abraham Lincoln, or Napoleon, or Giuseppe Verdi, or Queen Elizabeth (either one!) is a special experience.

Naturally, in a pursuit of this kind, authenticity is paramount. Dealers and experts have become extremely proficient in separating the real thing from even the most skilled forgeries. And over my collecting years, I’ve learned a great deal about handwriting styles, antique inks and papers, and the specific eccentricities peculiar to the personalities who have penned the examples in my collection.

Here are just a few of the notable examples in my collection:

My first autograph! Willie Mays (my idol!) signed this program for me at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, in about 1959Perhaps the greatest President. War-dated examples are particularly desirable. Care to speculate on what “Shoes & Boots, all right” might have meant?!

King George III. The King authorizes the various passwords around the castle, for each day of the month of August, 1784

Some signatures are considerably more chilling than others Unsigned pencil drawing of you-know-who, from “Steamboat Willie”, the 1928 animated cartoon which started it all for Walt Disney

My all-time favorite opera composer jots down a souvenir musical quotation from my all-time favorite opera. Giuseppe Verdi quotes music and lyric of "Piangea cantando", Desdemona's heartbreaking "Willow Song" aria from the last act of Otello

Next up, two Queen Elizabeths. The first is far and away the most beautiful signature in the collecting world. This document is the piece de resistance of my collection, very few examples of Elizabeth I exist in private hands. It was carefully restored by conservationist Ron Tank of the Huntington Library. Written and signed in 1563, the document settles a Loan of the Privy Seal.

“Trustye and wellbeloued, we grete you well….”

Three hundred and eighty years later, another Queen Elizabeth signs…..and fixes a parking ticket!

Click here for a montage of additional signature close-ups!