For me, identifying an autograph is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting. I enjoy the detective work that comes with discerning a fake from the real deal, and subsequently valuing the item against other examples.
Autopen signatures can be the bane of many collectors' lives. An Autopen is a machine that copies a person's signature and then reproduces it at a rate many times faster than could normally be done - some top celebrities even have several Autopens with slightly altered autographs, making it even more difficult to tell which is the real thing.
However, follow my advice and you should be well on your way.
Warning sign #1 - same thickness and pressure
First off, Autopen signatures are usually the same thickness and pressure throughout, and resemble a signature in black marker pen. Uniformity is obviously something very hard to achieve when signing your own name, as you adjust the position of your hand.
Warning sign #2 - shaky signature
Many of the Autopen examples you see are shaky, which results from the movement of the machine. Unless the person whose autograph you desire is known for being particularly nervous, I would think twice before buying one of these.
Warning sign #3 - it looks identical to other signatures
Every time you write your name, it will have unique characteristics - if only small ones. However, with an Autopen signature, it's the same every time. Look at other signatures from the same year to see if there's a match.
Warning sign #4 - look for the dots
With an Autopen autopen, the pen is static when it hits the page rather than flowing like in a genuine signature.
They often start with a dot and end with another one. You don’t get that with a freehand signature.
Warning sign #5 - Post-1959 autographs from the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II got her first Autopen machine in 1959. And she hasn't looked back. Be very suspicious of anything signed by Elizabeth and Philip from 1959 onwards.
My Top Tip
My top tip would be to find an inscribed item, as these are almost never completed using an autopen. Obviously, those without a previous collector's name will look better in your collection, but it is a sure-fire way to tell that yours is genuine.
PS. Click here to see my full selection of autographs for sale.