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Judy Garland Database
Collecting Judy: Autographs
Judy Garland autographs
are usually quite expensive, and somewhat hard to find. Signed portraits generally sell for anywhere from $1000 to as much as $5000. Autographs on scraps of paper, letters or other documents generally sell for about $250 and up. Autographs which have been matted and framed with a photo will sell for much more. An autograph on an album page might sell for $300, but if it is matted and framed with a photo, it will often sell for $1000 or more. Be careful - you may be paying $700 or more for a $5 photo and a custom frame and mat. It is usually a much better deal to buy an autograph unframed if you can find one.
I have only one autograph in my collection. It was torn from an autograph album. It was common in the 1930s and 1940s for autograph collectors to tear pages out of their albums for trading. This one is an in-person, dated autograph from the preview of
Broadway Melody of 1938
, August 12, 1937 (the date is off to the side, not in Judy's handwriting). When I decided I wanted an autograph, I spent about a year researching the market before I found exactly what I wanted.
An "in-person" autograph is one that was obtained from the celebrity in person. In this case, the autograph collector met Judy at a movie preview and asked her to sign her name. In-person autographs are special because there is no doubt of authenticity. This is a very rare, early autograph from before Judy was a star, and could probably fetch about $700 in today's market. If it were matted and framed with a photo, it could probably fetch close to $1500.
This autograph is very typical of Judy's signature from the thirties and early forties. Note the large "J" with a small loop at the top and large loop at the bottom. Note the loops in the "G", and the loops in all other letters, too. And she had a distinctive way of making her "a" and "d" with a little backward loop in the round part. Look at signed portraits in magazines and books. Most (if not all) of those are real, and you will begin to see a pattern that is very typical and distinctive. Avoid autographs that look altogether different.
By 1939, Judy was receiving more mail than any other star in Hollywood. Though she tried hard to keep up with her mail, she finally had to get help from a personal secretary and from the MGM publicity department. There are, no doubt, many Judy autographs which were actually signed by a secretary. This was (and still is) common practice among some Hollywood stars. I highly recommend that if you're going to buy an autograph that you study the signature closely and learn the characteristics of the star's signature. Judy's "J" and "G" are very distinctive, though her signature style did (apparently) change several times over the years. It is also a good idea to buy your autograph from a certified, reputable dealer. Many dealers have a life-time guarantee policy which provides for full refund if you ever find out that the autograph is not authentic. Of course, whether the dealer will actually stand behind this guarantee is something you'll never know until it's too late. Shop around and study the material carefully before you buy!
From a signed publicity portrait in a 1944 magazine. The signature is considerably different than other examples, but it's said that Judy changed her signature style on a number of occasions. It is possible that this was signed by a secretary at MGM, but I doubt Judy would have approved of such a thing. I've seen other examples of this style at galleries and museums. Some of the basic characteristics of her signature are present in this example. I think it's probably authentic, but I'm not sure.
From another MGM publicity photo (signed negative), ca. 1948. This example is definitely very different from all the others. Is it authentic? I don't know!
An early, in-person autograph purchased from a fan who attended the preview of
Broadway Melody of 1938
on August 12, 1937. Judy signed her name in pencil on an envelope; the signature was then cut out and pasted into an autograph album. The photo was added several years later, and eventually the page was torn out for trading.
The most famous Judy Garland autograph of all - in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Many of the distinctive characteristics of Judy's signature can be seen, though it must be difficult to write in wet mortar!
From an original MGM publicity photo, ca. 1941. Judy signed the negative, as was common practice at the time. It is said that Judy was very insistent about signing her own publicity materials.
Another example from a signed portrait printed in a magazine. The "J" "G" and "r" are different than usual.
Signed portrait, ca. 1943, inscribed to the "Chicago M.G.M. Pep Club," from the Morella and Epstein book, 1969. I've seen several examples of signed portraits from this club. It is very unlikely that anyone but Judy would have signed this photo.