Sunday, December 21, 2008

Repros: Caveat Emptor

As I've stated repeatedly, in collecting knowledge is power. One important lesson here is the recognition of items that are misrepresented as authentic.

In autograph collecting, which I participated in for some time and continue to dabble, the pitfalls are many. Autographs of recent sports figures are often outright forgeries, even despite "letters of authenticity". Many prominent figures are particularly difficult- The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo (almost always bad), Jean Harlow (most signed by her mother) are at the top. Babe Ruth is a very commonly forged, especially on blank pieces of paper. Any autograph in pencil is suspect.
Recent presidents are very tough. Aside from intentional forgeries, the autopen has fooled even some good dealers. I've seen autopen examples sent to prominent people, cherished and displayed for years and the alleged signer never laid a hand on the paper. Secretarial signatures also need to be excluded. Some proxy signatures are pretty tough to detect- Jimmy Carter's secretary, Elizabeth Clough, was particularly adept. Eisenhower, JFK and even FDR had some pretty good imitators. Not for any financial gain or anything sinister, its just that these people get many. many requests and they simply can't keep up with them. Guaranteed, if you write the White House, you'll get back a lovely personalized letter- signed by a machine. Caveat emptor to the max here!

Since this is a magazine collector's blog, we should talk about those. Probably the most commom and frustrating reproductions I've encountered over the years are the first issues of TIME and Newsweek. They are very, very often on eBay represented by the seller as authentic, usually because the seller himself doesn't know what he or she is selling.
The Newsweek repro was obviously reproduced from a volume where the originals had been cropped so the captions on the bottom two photograph's "Saturday" and "Sunday" are missing. Also, the back cover of the original is pink and the the repro is orange.

authentic

repro

TIME is a little tougher since it was printed in black and white. The paper of the originals is thinner than most repros. The easiest way in to look at the bottom of the back cover. Repor's say nothing or "printed in U. S. A.". The originals say "Williams Printing Company New York". A true pristine first issue of TIME is quite rare and is worth upwars of five hundred dollars. I recently got one that had been removed from a bound volume (without the staples) for a little over a hundred.
An authentic TIME rear
Other common repro's are the first issue of the 1883 Life. The miniatures are all later printings (by the later Life as a subsciption premium in the 1950's). The original is a quarto size.
Other first issue repros I've encountered are Arizona Highways (original is very rare and valuable, repro has a vague white line down the middle where the original had been folded)
Motor Trend (repro is slightly smaller and glossier) Rolling Stone (so stated as a repro inside)
Hot Rod (original quite scarce, repro has no white margin at bottom and printed date is white background rather than red). High Times (original priced at one dollar)
Playboy has recently produced a limited edition repro of the first issue with some minor cover variations. For now they are being sold as repros for about forty dollars. Its only a matter of time until someone offers one as original (and some unsuspecting buyer thinks he's got a real bargain). By the way, the ongoing demand for original Playboy first issues is truly amazing and decent copies always seem to bring over two thousand dollars.
Lately there's been quite a few Reader's Digest first issues offered. There may be a publishing point on the index page on a repro and the quantity appearing is just too many for all them to be original (5000 printing run in 1922).

1 comment:

David said...

You can distinguish an original Reader's Digest in its Table of Contents, which contains the typographical error of "Is the State Too Vulgar," in place of "Is the Stage Too Vulgar".