Has the “sharpie” changed autograph collecting forever?

This post could potentially raise some eyebrows. So I’ll say the opinions here are mine. And in the big scheme of things don’t mean shit.

Ok here goes….

“Sharpie” was originally a name designating a permanent marker launched in 1964 by the Sanford Ink Company. The Sharpie also became the first pen-style permanent marker.

Hard to believe this has been around since the mid 60’s. You don’t see many autographs from this period in sharpie or permanent marker. The first recollection I have of any kind of marker, was probably the mid to late 70’s. The signing instrument of choice up until then was still the ball point pen or even a pencil.

Autographs were usually signed in autographs books the kids would carry to the show, and wait patiently outside stage doors in hopes of grabbing a band member. Sometimes passed through the door to a security guard to get to the band. Maybe a page from a teen magazine or in the rare case an album was signed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.27.51 AM

Signed set of signatures from the Stones, 1963  on a READY STEADY GO! ticket. Combination of both pencil and pen.


Clear, clean and pretty readable.

Another set from the 60’s from the Gloria Stavers files of 16 Magazine. My personal collection.

Picture 9 Picture 8 Picture 7 Picture 6 Picture 4

A beautifully signed tour program from 1965,

All in pen.

Screen shot 2011-12-01 at 11.02.54 AM

Screen shot 2011-12-01 at 11.03.11 AM Screen shot 2011-12-01 at 11.03.57 AM Screen shot 2011-12-01 at 11.04.09 AM IMG_3073


Enter “The Sharpie.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.40.20 PM

For me the introduction of the sharpie insists the signer to be less detailed when writing their name. Almost like holding a paintbrush. The fast/scribble approach. The tip is thick and once signed the signatures end up looking like a drawing. The sharpie has turned most signatures unreadable abstract art.

If you handed someone a ballpoint pen and ask for a signature, you’d get a different signature. One man’s opinion.

I also understand these days, it’s about time management. Artists have to sign quickly, and sometimes sign a lot of things under pressure, and therefore sign them fast.

Real fast. And of course you can’t help what a fan or collector shoves into your hand to sign with. Which these days is usually a sharpie.

Are we killing our own collections?

Now just so all of you know I own many, many sharpie signed pieces. I’ve chose them carefully. I’ve been there to see them get signed and many times the artist already has a sharpie in hand. Weapon of choice. Oh well.


Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.08.29 AM

This guitar was selling on ebay for $13,999.99. A bunch of scribbles if you ask me. While I know whose names they are, clearly still scribbles. For that money you could buy 4 vintage sets from the 60’s, all including Brian Jones. I’m confused.

I guess find it hard to understand some of the prices dealers put on these so called “signatures,” what I’d call, “scribbles.”  If I can’t read the name, I’m not sure I’m all that interested.

So….what does this all mean and why should anyone care? I believe it’s a lot harder these days to tell “real scribbles” from “fake scribbles.” Easier for forgers to fake a scribble than a real signature. So while I’d NEVER say ALL sharpie signatures are fakes, for me it increases the odds considerably.

By not taking the time to sign, have the artists devalued their signatures? Are they making it easier for fakes and forgeries to be created? Something to think about it.

Artists that have been signing for 50 some odd years, The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, as well as the other bands from that era and even bands from the 70’s and 80’s deserve a little slack. Hard to spend the time these days writing out your full name. A scribble may be all you have time for. Or frankly feel like doing after all these years.

Here’s is one artist who has managed to maintain a degree of integrity when it comes to signing.

Ringo Starr.

Ringo no longer signs. Only for charity and his foundation. So in many ways, he’s protecting the value of his signature.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 3.44.20 PM


The signature above is from the early 70’s. Looks exactly like his signature from the 60’s. It has always been recognizable and easy to read, and yes kinda fun. Much like his personality. He used to sign his full name with a star and an underline. As time progressed into the 80’s and 90’s he went from his full name to just Ringo with a star, no last name. Now just Ringo, no star or last name. It’s interesting how he chose to evolve it. Was it a conscious decision? If so, fucking brilliant. Makes it easy for collectors to determine the era of the signature. Gives each era a particular value based on the year and time period it was signed.


The poster above he was still signing with a star in 1992.

Here’s a pic from Donn Bennett Drums. Beautiful large signature on the most famous drum head in the world, 1998 and still with a star. By early 2000’s he began signing with no star. Ringo was fond of putting a date on whatever he signed. I don’t believe he does that anymore.

Ringo is also not afraid to sign big.

Or small.


Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 3.46.32 PM



Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.38.43 PM

It can even be read on a drum stick……

So yes, it can be done. IF you care. I suppose if you have the luxury of one identifiable name it does make it easier. Ringo, Slash, Bono, Madonna and Prince, consider yourselves lucky.

So…….are ALL vintage signatures worth more than ones obtained today in sharpie by the same artists? Does Older = More valuable? Does Clearer + Readable = More desirable? I guess we’ll have to wait another 50 years to see if all these sharpie autographs hold their value.

Peace and love,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: