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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.

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Louise’s favourite auction lot: James Dean’s signed yearbook

james-dean-yearbook-main

This innocuous looking page from a high school yearbook captures a moment in time from 1949. Ten average American students are pictured alongside daft little rhymes describing their ‘happy’ and ‘trustworthy’ personalities, and some of them have signed their names.

One of the faces in particular now stands out. This handsome young man, ‘our regular basketball guy’, was destined for a fame he could not have dreamt of when he signed his name, ‘Jim Dean’.

This great piece of history reminds me of the Elvis Presley library card, bearing his 13 year old signature, that sold at Heritage Auctions for $7,500 last August. These items carry a ‘before they were famous’ appeal. They date from a time when the signer had no idea the path their life would take, the tremendous effect they would have on the world. There is something charming about that.

Click here for the full lot description.

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