A week or so back I was watching an antiques and collectible show on the TV. It was one of those where people bring along some item in the hope that one of the dealers on the show will buy it for cash. These programmes are quite interesting and one can learn a lot about antiques sitting in one’s armchair.
On this particular episode a woman brought in what purported to be all four of the Beatles’ signatures. These were on a torn-out diary page which had a couple of entries for November 1968. When asked where she got these signatures, the seller said her aunt had worked at the Liverpool Empire when the Beatles were just starting out.
The dealer and the show presenter said that the fact they were on a diary page and that the aunt had worked at the theatre gave the signatures provenance, yet to me they gave them quite the opposite and the alarm-bells started ringing.
Firstly, the Beatles were not just starting out in 1968. They made it big in 1963 and started out several years before then. Secondly, even without checking, I thought they had not performed live in 1968 anywhere, and certainly not in the UK. Having checked since, I think the last UK performance, apart from on the roof of Abbey Road Studios in 1969, was actually in 1966. As far as it is possible for me to check, the last performance at the Liverpool Empire was in December 1965; definitely not in 1968.
By 1968 the Beatles were not getting on as well. It would have been difficult to get their signatures all at once, and definitely not at the Liverpool Empire.
These are all simple clues to someone who even had some idea of their Sixties pop history.
Logically these signatures were fakes, yet the dealer bought them for a fair sum and sold them on via auction. Dare I suggest the woman who brought them in knew perfectly well they were not genuine?
I am not an expert on the Beatles. I am just quite old. I would not have touched the autographs with a bargepole and if anyone is liable to be sued for misrepresentation it might be the auction house, though I hope they were sold “as seen”.
The dealer on the show admitted he did not know much about autographs. In my view it would have been safer to pass up the opportunity to purchase them, although I think he was lucky to get away with buying and then selling them on.
In my line of business, I cannot take chances. If I do not think I have sufficient knowledge to advise a client, I will be honest. I will suggest someone who is much better in that particular area.
None of us can afford to get out of our depth. If we make mistakes, we could cost our clients a lot of money, and even if we are well insured, we can end up losing out as well as having much heartache and worry.
I would rather work in an area where I am comfortable and have good knowledge. I do not want projects in unfamiliar territory to come back and bite me. Would you?