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The world’s most valuable signature

Day in day out we sell some of the world’s rarest autographs.

From James Dean to Henry VIII, if you can imagine it we’ve either got it or can get it.

However, there’s one I can guarantee that we’ll never have in stock.

I’ll give you a clue.

It belongs to the greatest writer in history.

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

There are only six known copies of William Shakespeare’s autograph in existence – all of which feature on legal documents and are housed under lock and key in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

If one was to ever sell, it’s estimated that it would go for around $5m.

That figure would increase significantly if it was attached to a manuscript copy of one of his plays, not a single copy of which has ever surfaced.

Shakespeare's will - one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

Shakespeare’s will – one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

The extraordinary value placed on his signature is far above that for any other person, a phenomenon that can be explained both by his extraordinary contribution to literature and the air of mystery that surrounds him.

Despite his fame and status, we still known very little about Shakespeare.

The fact that very few records or relics are known to have survived means that there is no market for memorabilia pertaining to him, despite enormous demand.

As a result copies of his folios, printed after his death, regularly break six figures – with one selling for $6.1m in 2001.


Origin story – just who was the world’s first superhero?

Origin story – just who was the world’s first superhero?

If you have a head for comics, you’ll know that the sale of a copy of Action Comics #1 has just been announced.

Without a doubt, Action Comics #1 is the most important comic book of all time, as reflected in its price

Without a doubt, Action Comics #1 is the most important comic book of all time, as reflected in its price

The comic is expected to be the first to make over the $3m mark, with another example – owned by the meme-mogul Nicholas Cage – selling for a staggering $2.1m back in 2011.

That’s the world record price for any comic book. So what’s so special about Action Comics #1?

Quite simply, Action Comics #1 is what started it all. Comic books captured the imaginations of the pre-war population, but until Action Comics arrived on the scene, it was all super sleuths and jungle-dwelling ape-men, not the laser-eyed, lycra-clad crime fighters we know today.

Then Superman appeared with his superhuman strength, invulnerability to harm, ability to fly, superspeed and x-ray vision, changing the game forever. He was the archetype for all others to come, the standard by which all others would be tested.

Yet there is an often overlooked hero that also lays claim to being the world’s first superhero. Devoid of any super powers, he instead gave rise to the classic superhero image – skin-tight suit, masked face and muscle bound.

The super camp superhero look is all down to The Phantom

The super camp superhero look is all down to The Phantom

The Phantom, real name Kit Walker, is the 21st in a line of crime fighters that originated in 1536, with his ancestor swore an oath to fight evil after his father was killed by a pirate.

While many believe he is immortal and his nicknames include, “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Cannot Die”, The Phantom relies on his strength, intelligence and reputation to kick butt in the fictional African country of Bangalla.

What’s more, he debuted in 1936 as part of a newspaper syndicate, meaning he arrived two full years before Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman.

The Phantom could be considered the start of the "Golden Age" of comic books

The Phantom could be considered the start of the “Golden Age” of comic books

And for those collectors out there fascinated with the history of comic books, The Phantom couldn’t be a better buy. Currently, works from the early days of the Phantom’s long career sell for around $10,000 – a steal compared to Superman and some of the other early stars.

Even better, as The Phantom made his way through the decades, his looks was penned by some of the industry’s top artists, including Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr.

And The Phantom set for his very own big-screen appearance, with the news announced in May 2014. Hopefully, Billy Zane (who starred in the awful 1996 movie effort) will stay well clear of this one.

The current hype surrounding any superhero blockbuster means prices are rising fast in the collecting market, and The Phantom could be a top-seller before long – you heard it here first!

Who’s next? Memorabilia from the most raucous rock ‘n’ roll act

The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. Led Zeppelin.

Who’s missing?

The Who, of course.

Formed in 1964, The Who were among the biggest British rock bands of their day, and have stood the test of time with over 100m records sold.

Nine studio albums. A historic appearance at Woodstock. Two rock operas. Some of the most incendiary live performances ever seen.

They inhabit the same pantheon as those rock gods that receive huge bids at auction today.

And yet the market for their memorabilia remains undervalued. How have collectors passed up the opportunity to own items from the band’s remarkable career?

Perhaps it’s due to rarity. The band are well known for their on-stage antics, smashing just about everything in sight as a form of “auto-destructive art”.

This hasn’t left many items for the collectors to fight over, yet rarity is often the fuelling factor behind some of the biggest prices at auction.

Townshend's guitar is up for sale at Lelands

Townshend’s guitar is up for sale at Lelands

Besides, I’d pay a fair sum for a Pete Townshend guitar in pieces – I might even fork out more than I would for a complete one.

The deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle have capped the market for memorabilia from the original line-up, though Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue to tour – refreshing interest in the band and bringing new collectors to the market.

So their memorabilia is both rare and in demand, yet remains at prices not befitting the band’s status as one of the greatest of the 20th century.

Yet recent auction results suggest that prices are creeping up.

A Pete Townshend guitar sold for $32,450 in 2008, yet in 2014 it made $63,717 – a 2.4% per annum increase in value.

However, that’s still far behind the prices seen by the likes of the Beatles, with a guitar from the Fab Four recently seeing $605,000 in a US sale.

Our signed photograph of The Who is priced at just £295. A fully-signed shot of The Beatles is worth around £27,000, according to the PFC40 Autograph Index.The-Who-signed-Photo

I don’t think prices for The Who will ever soar that high, but if you’re a fan of The Who, now is the time to buy – music memorabilia as a whole is on the rise, and it’s only so long before the boys behind Quadrophrenia get paid their dues from collectors.


A shadowy organisation…collecting the Knights Templar

A set of 13th century deeds granting lands in Yorkshire to the Knights Templar will appear at Dreweatts later this month – the largest archive of its kind to come to auction in 50 years.


The Knights Templar land deeds

The fascinating history of the order has been capturing imaginations for centuries (particularly those of conspiracy nuts) and the extreme rarity of memorabilia is likely to ensure a strong sale.

Legends and conspiracies abound.

But what do we know about the Templars?


For a start, we know that the order was formed to protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.

The name derives from their original moniker: The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (hence Templars for short).

When the order started out in 1120 it was reliant on donations of food, but within 10 years, it grew rich on charitable donations.

Its power continued to grow after the pope granted exemption from law in 1139.

The orders wealth was diversified through various channels (including fort building, manufacturing and farming) leading some to qualify it as the first multinational corporation.

The deeds offered in the sale date to this era at the height of the Templars’ power.

But all good things must come to an end.

In 1244, the Turks recaptured Jerusalem and by early 1300, the order was forced out of the Holy Land for good.

This left the people of Europe in a predicament. An enormously wealthy, powerful and lawless army without a purpose is a dangerous thing.

It was at this point, in around 1307 that the new pope decided enough was enough and ordered the leaders to be rounded up and burned at the stake.

The legends, including that of the Holy Grail, began circulating around this time and gestated over the preceding centuries – although no hard evidence for any of the conspiracies that dog the order have ever been found.



World’s largest video game collection teaches a valuable lesson

There’s a oft-repeated saying in collecting: “buy the best you can afford”.

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we’d generally agree that’s a good strategy, with the finest items often holding value far better than a collection of mid-level pieces.

Yet exactly the opposite was true for Michael Thomasson, owner of the world’s largest video game collection, who states that he never spent much more than $500 on any game, yet sold the entire collection for $750,000 this week.

Dedication is the name of the game with collecting

Dedication is the name of the game with collecting

In fact, he used his position as a game store manager to simply buy the games for retail price as they were released, proving that patience is indeed a virtue for collectors. He says he limits himself to just $3,000 a year, which affords him around 2 games a day.

Over 11,000 games, dozens of consoles, issued over three decades – that’s dedication for you.

The sale can teach us an important lesson about the merits of collecting, as well as giving great inspiration for actually completing your collection (something most of us have trouble achieving!).

Thomasson states that, several times over his collecting career, the game collection has bailed out him and his family, with a quick sale of a complete run of games for a particular console helping to pay off medical bills and the like.

Without the collection, he’d otherwise not have the money to pay off such costs, and this week’s sale has apparently helped in a family emergency.

He’s been using the collection as a great way to store wealth – an enjoyable investment that’s free from the complications of the stock market.

What’s more, he’s done this several times over the years, and has been able to rebuild his collection each time, still attracting the attention of the Guinness Book of Records.

Back in 1989, Thomasson sold off his collection to pay for a Sega Genesis and then again 1998, to help pay for his wedding.

“I simply have an immediate family and extended family that have needs that need to be addressed. While I do not wish to part with these games, I have responsibilities that I have made to others and this action is how I will help meet them,” he said in a statement.

“No worries, I’ve sold my collection many times in the past and still managed to capture Guinness’ attention, and it is entirely possible that I may again”

So collecting is not only an enjoyable way to store money for those family emergencies, it can also bring big profits. What’s more, it’s worth completing collection of low-value items, as the value of the entire lot with often outperform the individual pieces.

Thomasson - a smart-minded collector

Thomasson – a smart-minded collector

The world’s most fascinating collectible?

If I began talking at length about stamps, how quickly would your mind begin to wander?

Unless you’ve got the bug, I’d probably guess about 30 seconds.

While there are millions of avid collectors out there in the world, for the majority of people stamps are a byword for dull.

It’s a shame that the traditional, unfair image of the stamp collector as a boring obsessive is so rarely challenged.

The fact is, there’s a great deal more to the hobby than there appears to be.

Think for a moment about a world before the internet, before telephones, before telegrams.

Stamps were used to indicate colonial rule, as in this British stamp issued in Honduras

This is a time in which the only method of long distance communication was via letter.

These small pieces of history, some of which are the most valuable items by weight on the planet, exist as proof of nations that no longer exist – of perilous voyages across the globe.

Perhaps the biggest secret of stamp collecting is the way they reveal how the state sees itself.

Think about the idealised racial designs of the Third Reich, the images of national heroes and industrial scenes that adorn those examples issued during the Soviet era and the ubiquitous images of the monarch that essentially acted as territorial markers during the colonial era.

A Nazi era stamp

A Nazi-era stamp showing the birth of an Aryan


Stamps cross borders and are handled by people of all nationalities. They act as de-facto symbols of the state and the sheer variety on offer ensures that there is something out there for everyone, from design geeks to history nuts.

A Soviet-era stamp showing an oil refinery

While the value of the rarest stamps continues to grow, now might be the perfect time to get involved in this most maligned of hobbies.


X-Men costumes: movie memorabilia worth investing in?

This weekend (May 17-18), Sir Patrick Stewart – better known as Professor X – visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The British actor was there to donate a selection of costumes from the latest X-Men film to the museum’s archives, and to promote the (very exciting) forthcoming release of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Included in the selection were Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine costume, Ian McKellen’s Magneto ensemble and Halle Berry’s Storm outfit – but where were the rest?

What about Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue and other mutant mainstays?

Chances are, they’re safely nestled in a private collection somewhere, and Stewart’s donation is great news for whoever owns them…

With the first X-Men film released almost a decade ago, memorabilia from the movie has found popularity with collectors – a pair of Wolverine claws could set you back around $25,000 nowadays.

With at least half of the most important screen-worn costumes now firmly in the Smithsonian’s hands, demand for the remaining few is sure to rocket and so will their value.

Adding to the rarity is the fact that much of the new series has been completed in CGI (you won’t find any Beast or Mystique costumes outside of the digital world), making real-life props a rarity.

Will CGI eventually kill the market for modern memorabilia?


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