Fake Laurel & Hardy autographs
and vignette stickers on ebay
The facts so far a total of 21 fake autographs on Ebay in the last 8 weeks, all on vintage autograph book pages with minor but consistent abnormalities. Of these, 14 have the L&H vignette stickers of which 11 have now been closely investigated and have all been proven to be modern day inkjet printed copies. A ring of 3 Ebay sellers "Edw*****13", "Ti*****olty" and "Dts*****ings" have been selling these, the main seller is an E***e from Dudley in the West Midlands. At the time of writing, refunds are being pursued for 14 autographs with 11 been made. Of the other 7 autographs, 3 did not sell on Ebay, 1 is being reviewed, and 3 are unknown buyers.
At the beginning of June, I was alerted to a sale on Ebay of a large number of L&H autographs on vintage autograph book leaves. They were being sold one at a time, a few days apart, by seller "Edw*****13" using "Buy-it-Now" or "Best-Offer" options with an occasional sale by one of the other Ebay sellers. Many were being sold at a sub-market value of £200 to £250 indeed, all very suspicious. However, each one was being sold with provenance and many had a vignette sticker; a blue-framed sticker containing cartoon caricatures of Stan & Ollie. Whereas they appeared to be fringe abnormalities in the autographs, the presence of the vignette sticker, was giving them credibility. This is because the vignette stickers would have been personally given, licked and stuck down by Stan in the presence of an adoring fan before he signed their autograph book during one of Stan & Ollie's theatrical tours of the 1940s and 1950s. On questioning the ebay seller "Edw*****13" , he claimed he was part selling his collection, part selling on behalf of relatives and part buying and selling from local auctions and adverts in local newspapers.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by two Sons to examine autographs they had just purchased from this seller. It was then when I started to notice that some of the fringe abnormalities were consistently appearing in a number of the autographs they were selling or had sold examples of this include:-
a) "Ha" in Hardy appeared more like "Ho" with a high join between the two letters, a trait I had not observed before (see fakes in Figures 1-3),
b) the upward stroke was marginally clockwise of the long downward stroke of the "L" in Laurel, an uncommon trait, as Stan would usually partly retrace the downward stroke (Figures 1-3),
c) Ollie`s use of a black biro pen instead of his standard blue biro (Figures 2 and 3).
JUST CLICK ON ANY OF THE SMALLER IMAGES TO ENLARGE
All was very suspicious as the odds of seeing the same fringe abnormalities appearing over and over again in an authentic batch of autographs would be less than winning the National Lottery . without a lottery ticket! One of the Sons sent me a vignette to inspect and sadly it became evident that it was a fake and an awakening to the fact that the vignettes were being reproduced.
Over the last few weeks I have seen a number of the vignettes close-up and asked buyers to send detailed scans of the suspect autographs and to perform a few simple checks on the accompanying vignettes. I have detected some variation in the ways they have been copied but this probably reflects a period of evolutionary development by the forger. However, there is a common factor in that a modern day inkjet printer has been used with modern day bleached white paper and the vignette has been poorly glued onto a vintage autograph page. Furthermore, they appear modern even though the forger has tried to age a few by using tea-bag staining or some form of scuffing (see fake in Figure 4). In comparison with a genuine vignette the differences are quite obvious but the seller is hoping that such comparisons would not be made.
The following presents a guide to perform a check, if you do not have an authentic vignette to make a comparison.
1) Size. The height inside the blue frame should measure 50mm. A few fake vignettes measure inside at 55mm, ie 10% bigger!
2) Paper thickness. The thickness of the vignette is significantly thinner than standard printer paper well it is a sticker/stamp! The forgeries show thick white paper edging and bleached white paper beneath.
3) Adhesion. The reverse of the vignette has a very thin layer of gum and is lightly stuck to the autograph page. It is common for Stan to have only partially stuck the vignette to the page, such that corners/sides can be lifted. Most forgeries are completely and quite thickly glued to the page. In some cases the brown glue is visible along the edges. Of the ones not glued down, the unprinted white paper can be observed.
4) Image - Background. The background around the caricatures is an off white, cream or beige colour. Modern day inkjets are based on computer technology that can struggle to emulate these very light colours. This can produce a white background with tiny yellow, pink or red dots. These tiny dots are difficult to see with the naked eye but can be seen with a strong magnifying glass under a bright light. This effect has been seen in the majority of the forgeries.
5) Image - Caricatures. Under a magnifying glass, the caricatures in the authentic vignette are made up of a regular matrix of coloured ink dots or cells, typical of an engraved plate printing process (called Gravure) (see Figure 5a for a genuine vignette). Again the modern day inkjets fail to accurately reproduce this and tend to wash out this detail. This effect has been seen in all the fake vignettes. (Magnify and compare the fake vignette on the left with a genuine vignette on the right, Figures 5b and 5c)
JUST CLICK ON ANY OF THE SMALLER IMAGES TO ENLARGE
In the forgeries I have seen close up and through comments received by buyers, the autographs are very fresh looking and have been slowly and forced drawn. The pen strokes are not continuous and flowing as they should be. There are sharp changes known as "jaggies" in the flow of the autograph. The forger has also shown some arrogance by purposely including abnormalities such as inscriptions by Ollie (fake Fig 4) and smiley faces on the "O" of Oliver (fake Fig 5b). This is all in a hope to increase its value with the vignette providing some credibility. To some unlucky buyers, additional autographed vignettes have been offered and sold outside of Ebay , where the inscription coincidentally carries the buyer's name (see fake Figure 6) the cynic would believe that they are being made to order! In fact, the use of fake vignettes on all these pieces has been his downfall!
All 3 sellers have been refunding buyers mainly co-ordinated by this E***e from Dudley ..and with no questions asked!! Furthermore, in the majority of cases, they have not wanted a return of the autographs. This, obviously, tells its own story!! They have also changed their stories concerning the origin and provenance of the autographs, arguing now that they were all bought at a fly-by-night auction in Dudley. We are presently contemplating what action to take next.
If you have recently bought one of these autographs then please contact us.We may be able to help you with a refund.
(Many thanks to Dean McKeown and the Sons that have been sadly duped by these fakes who have helped me in writing this article).
by Dave Tomlinson : CLICK TO EMAIL
ED NOTE: Although we know the full name(s) of the seller(s) we have masked their full identity(s) in this report by placing **** in the names, as refunds are being made to those who purchased fakes thanks to Dave and his team.
ALSO SEE OUR: BUYER BEWARE PAGE
Our Recommended Autograph Dealers
It is a sad fact that FAKE 'Laurel and Hardy Autographs' are rife on Internet auction sites and indeed some shows. Occasionally we do have some original autographs on offer ourselves, so if you are looking CLICK HERE TO EMAIL US
We fully recommend these dealers:
SueandMarkautographs.co.uk For a full range including many modern day celebrities
IS IT REAL.COM. A great site for information on buying real autographs
BRITISH COMEDY AUTOGRAPHS Also has some Laurel and Hardy
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