The 1,000% Bonus: Churchill cheat knew the value of autographs

British Police yesterday arrested a 65-year-old man in Hampshire for fraud, namely forging the autograph of the great English politician and statesman, Winston Churchill.  The man had advertised or sold a variety of books and memorabilia, either through eBay or direct contact with buyers, claiming they had been signed by the former Prime Minister.

Such criminal activity highlights the very valuable and collectible nature of autographs, particularly of famous or historic figures.  Considering they can increase the value of a book, document or piece of memorabilia by up to 1,000%, they are also a very worthwhile investment

Factors like the age of the autograph and whether the author of the signature is living affect the value, inevitably meaning that autographs become more valuable over time.  The autograph of Winston Churchill has proven to be highly prized, no doubt because of his reputation as an instrumental figure in the defeat of the Nazis during the Second World War.

Born in 1874, Churchill became famous at a relatively young age for documenting his participation in various military campaigns, including the Boer War.  Churchill held several significant governmental positions prior to the Second World War, including Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary.  After Neville Chamberlain's resignation as Prime Minister in 1940, Churchill took the reins.


Churchill's autograph
Churchill's autographed letter to his former personal secretary

His inspiring leadership and steadfast refusal to surrender to the German threat earned him a reputation as a gallant leader and world-class statesman.  As such, Churchill's autograph is one of the most coveted prime ministerial signatures on the market.

This was proven at a Christie's auction in July 2010, where the Churchill collection of Steve Forbes was sold for a staggering $848,860.  Included was a unique example of Churchill's war time leadership - an autographed letter sent to his former personal secretary, telling him to burn a previous letter suggesting a truce with the Nazis.  It sold for a massive $51,264, nearly 7 times its estimate.

Another letter, dating from 1898, realised a grand price; addressed to Sir Ian Hamilton and signed by Churchill, it sold for $44,130.  Another letter to Pamela Plowden - later the Countess of Lytton - from the same era brought a fantastic $27,581.

These sorts of sales really underline the importance not only of Churchill - as we pointed out in November, memorabilia related to him is very collectible - but also autographs, and their value as an alternative investment.  But collectors beware - fraudsters clearly recognise this too, so ensure that any autographs are genuine before buying!


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