When Q+PR were scheduled to play the MGM Grand a few years back, my wife and I flew down to Vegas so I could check them out with a few other Queen fans while she went shopping. Being on a Queen high after the show, we wandered into Antiquities International at the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace and discovered this autographed The Game album which wasn’t framed. After some negotiation with the sales rep — and feeling comfortable with the certificate of authenticity that came with it — we flew back home with the single most expensive Queen item in my collection to date.
I only have two other autographs by musical artists that would revival my new Queen collectible: Billy Joel’s, who I personally met and witnessed his signature being written; and Neil Diamond’s, which was a result of some back-and-forth correspondence in 1988 with Diamond's personal assistant, Alison Zanetos.
A few weeks ago, I was doing an Internet search for “Alison Zanetos” to see if she is still his personal assistant — Diamond is scheduled to be here in Calgary in July 2012, so I was thinking that if I could gain access to him through Zanetos somehow, I might have the opportunity to ask him personally if he remembers signing my fingerprint portrait 24 years ago.
The problem is, though, I came across a Neil Diamond discussion group and she was the subject of controversy regarding Neil’s autograph:
Perhaps the hardest signatures to verify are those that have been faked freehand. In the days before autopen, Walt Disney and many other Hollywood glitterati had their secretaries sign photos for them, says [Antiques Roadshow expert] Clive Farahar.
Sure, there are some differences, but I think the handwriting gestures in his first name are the same as is the “D” in Diamond. But if Alison could sign a mean Neil Diamond signature, maybe she did both of these?
So what about my autographed Queen album? Are they fakes? Well, I took another look at the evidence and compared the autographs from my purchase (labeled “1” from 1980) with the autographs from a cover of ANATO that Jacky Gunn from the Queen fan club claims are authentic (labeled “2” from 1975), and finally with a set of autographs from www.genuineautographs.com (labeled “3” from an unknown year). There are considerable differences, as you can see:
The “B” on Brian’s name is quite different from 2 to 3 as is the “R” in Roger’s name; and even John’s first name is almost completely different. So how do you know a signature is fake if their own handwriting changes over time and you weren’t there to witness it firsthand? That is a problem, according to Clive Farahar:
Human error – the fact real handwriting varies over time and in different circumstances - can make real and fake signatures extremely hard to validate or dismiss. Autographs by the Beatles are notoriously hard to authenticate. “You can’t recognise a lot of signatures done at stage doors. It looks like John Lennon but it could be anybody. If you walked out of a theatre as you signed your name, it would look dodgy,” says Mr Farahar.
So back to my Certificate of Authenticity issued by the Las Vegas dealer . . .
It claims the signatures are authentic (signed at the Seattle concert) and my discussion with the sales rep included the integrity of their suppliers, so did I end up with an album of fake autographs? I’m not sure either way at this point. I’ll still go ahead and get my Game album framed up along with some other Game-era paraphernalia I’ve got kicking around. Whatever the authenticity, it is now part of my collection with a history of its own.
I suppose the money-back guarantee offered by Antiquities International is always an option but I’d need to find a licensed and certified handwriting expert, pay between $50 and $400 for an analysis, and then pay to send the original cover back to Vegas. For the $600US I paid for the cover, I’ll settle for whatever the authenticity happens to be, which is a mystery at this point.