By Frank Caiazzo
“Beatles Autograph Authentication,” by Beatles autograph expert Frank Caiazzo, was originally published as “Autographs of The Beatles,” in the October and November 1995 issues of Autograph Collector [now Autograph]. Read Part I here. 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.
In Part I, we finished with values of various Beatles signed material, showing that a signed photo starts at $3,500 (1995 prices) and goes up from there.
Next in the hierarchy would be a signed tour program.
Signed tour programs are about on par with signed photographs, both in desirability and price range. They are more abundant than signed photos, and I have seen a variety of authentic signed tour programs, mostly from British performances in 1963 when The Beatles were fairly accessible.
The program that turns up signed most is the one from The Beatles/Roy Orbison “package tour,” which ran from May 18 through June 9, 1963. At least 20 have been on the market from 1985-1995. “One date only” programs are rare and valuable even unsigned. But if one should come on the market signed by all four, its value would increase even more. Signed programs usually sell for $3,500 and up depending upon condition, contrast of the signatures and rarity of the program itself.
I don’t see too many signed Beatles programs that are forgeries because they have quite a bit of value unsigned, but some do turn up from time to time with signatures deliberately executed to deceive the buyer. Many programs signed for The Beatles by Neil Aspinall have changed hands over the years, though, most initially sold at auction.
The most common and affordable sets of Beatles autographs are found either on a page from an autograph book, often called an album page, or all four signatures on a sheet or scrap of paper. In England in the 1960s, many young females carried autograph books in their purses, as it was not uncommon to run across a celebrity of varying degrees. Those fortunate enough to meet The Beatles, particularly in 1963, had a good chance of coming away with a set of signatures—if they had something for them to sign.
Album pages are generally in the $2,200-2,500 range, depending upon size, condition, and whether or not one of the band members wrote “Beatles,” “love,” or “XXX.” (It is not unusual for more than one of them to have written “love” or “XXX” on the same page.) When “Beatles” was written, it was generally by Paul, who was more naturally the “in-group” PR man. George and Ringo are just about tied for second place in this category, with John pulling up the rear.
Individual signatures on paper are priced as such: John Lennon goes in the $700-800 range, Paul McCartney around $250. A George Harrison signature will set you back $200, and a Ringo Starr autograph should be around $125. If these same signatures are on a photo or LP cover, you can double these prices to get a rough idea of what they might cost.
Without a doubt, the most desirable of all Beatle handwriting would be a manuscript for a Lennon-McCartney composition written in either’s hand. These are the crème de la crème of Beatle collecting, period! No mass-produced collectible, whether memorabilia or record, can be a match for an original set of handwritten lyrics.
This is true simply because The Beatles were first and foremost about music. To own an original manuscript is akin to possessing a rare piece of art by a master painter. They are available every now and then, at lofty prices.
Almost every set of lyrics I see are completely written out by one Beatle, either by John, Paul or George. It’s very rare to find a collaborative effort on paper, but I have seen a few.
One of the rare collaborative efforts that comes to mind is a short section of a working draft for “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” John wrote “Suddenly the girl at the turnstile.” It is obvious that he was stuck here, so Paul came in to help by crossing out “the girl” and filled the blank with “someone is there,” and wrote the next line, “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
Working drafts of a Beatles composition, especially when most of the song is complete, would rank higher than a final rewrite, which would have been written to be learned by the other Beatles in the studio immediately before the recording session.These rewrites are extremely valuable as well but, unfortunately, most were left behind in Studio Two after the session was over, only to be discarded by the Abbey Road janitors.
A working manuscript for a Beatles tune would represent possibly the very first time a song well known by hundreds of millions of people appeared in any form on this earth.
A strong Lennon composition could go for as much as $100,000, as did “A Day in the Life” a few years ago [early 1990s].
Strong McCartney lyrics can fetch $50,000 plus. A good Harrison manuscript might go as high as $25,000. I consider these bargain prices, speculating on what the future might bring for a classic Beatle tune written in the hand of John Lennon or Paul McCartney. One day $1,000,000 will be a good buy.
Handwritten lyrics are not without their fair share of problems. Like everything else very valuable, there are some fairly well executed forgeries that have made their way into collectors’ hands. The financial rewards can be quite substantial. In the recent past there was a nearly successful attempt from a forger in France to get a manuscript for “All You Need is Love” in an auction in the $70,000-80,000 range. I strongly believe that as prices move upward that there will be more and more people out there attempting to cash in by penning a well-known Beatles song.
After 1970, John, Paul, George and Ringo were solo artists, working for the most part only on their own projects, with few collaborations, but they continued to sign autographs through the 70s, 80s and beyond; John until his death in late 1980.
The solo era signature of John Lennon is the most misunderstood among autograph dealers, who can’t come to an agreement on what is authentic and what is not. At first glance, it is easy to see why. His erratic signing nature, first seen in the 60s, continued on through the 70s and, in fact, became much more pronounced.
For example, he made a three-day guest appearance at a charity function the weekend of May 16- 18, 1975 in Philadelphia at the WFIL television studios, and signed all three days to raise money for muscular dystrophy. Many of the autographs that he signed in-person that weekend look very different from each other. In fact, these “WFIL” signatures bear little resemblance to other Lennon 1975 autographs that I have seen. It would be easy for some to dismiss some of the signatures collected that weekend as forgeries, but the people who watched John sign for them would put up a hell of a fight.
Paul McCartney’s autograph was fairly stable through the 70s and early to mid 80s. His in-person signature could be quite sloppy and abbreviated, particularly from the late 1980s on. Autographs signed at the end of press conferences would start out looking fairly complete, but the more he signed, the less legible they became.
George Harrison’s solo-era signature has undergone some changes since his departure from the band. It is tighter and much more curvilinear. He still uses the “piggyback” style of starting the “H” in his last name on the second “g” in his first. Recently, his has become a tough autograph to obtain, as he is quite concerned about maintaining his privacy.
Ringo Starr’s autograph has been the most consistent, not only throughout his career as a Beatle, but the 70s and 80s as well. In 1992 he stopped signing his full name, possibly forever, only writing “Ringo” with a star to the right. This is the same star he used to write below and between his first and last name, but larger. I know of people who have asked him to sign his full name, only to be refused.
Beatles Signing Sessions
There are three occasions during The Beatles career when they had signing sessions.
The first was at Dawson’s Music Shop in Widnes, UK, on October 6, 1962, one day after the release of their first Parlophone group single, “Love Me Do.” During this session, which lasted about two hours, The Beatles signed copies of the 45 right on the crimson red and silver colored label.
The second signing session was on January 24, 1963, at their manager Brian Epstein’s NEM central Liverpool record store, almost two weeks after the release of their second single, “Please, Please Me.” Again, the band signed copies of the 45 on the red label.
The third and final time The Beatles were seated before a line of fans signing items was put together by their Fan Club, not as a signing session, but as a consolation to make up for some of the problems regarding fan club membership kits, took place on December 14, 1963 at The Wimbledon Palais in London. By this time they were already a national treasure, having toured England all year long while making key television appearances, and releasing two LPs, five singles and three EP’s.
This was the only signing session when The Beatles could have signed LP’s: Please, Please Me and With The Beatles. With official attendance figures stating that some 3,000 fans got to meet with and shake the hands of The Beatles, it is surprising that many of them did not bring anything to be signed, although all four of them were ready, with pens in hand. Afterward, the group put on a concert for all those who came to see them.
Beatles signatures represent a blue chip investment. In 1987, a set of all four signatures on an album page was selling in the $400-$450 range. Today (late 1995) you can expect to pay upwards of $2,500. Remarkably, this level of appreciation was achieved even though the market was absolutely flooded with forgeries, which were selling alongside the authentic pieces.
As The Beatles turn the corner and become important historical figures of the 20th century, this extraordinary level of appreciation will likely continue, as there is hardly an autograph investment with the potential of The Beatles. As they escalate in value, they will provide the collector not only with a small piece of music history, but also an item to be cherished and showcased forever.
But if you buy, it is vitally important that you are buying from a source that is not only highly reputable, but also extremely knowledgeable in this area, because The Beatle autograph market can be very tricky.