I have years of
experience buying, selling, and collecting Disney autographed memorabilia. My experience
is backed up by huge files on Disneys signature. I maintain a good,
information-sharing relationship with the Disney Studio Archives, frequently calling upon
their resources. At first glance it may seem hard to tell the difference between Walt
Disneys signature and one signed by an authorized employee. In fact a lot of
autograph dealers dont know the difference and even so-called autograph
"experts" have published books mis-identifying Walt Disneys
have compiled an enormous database documenting Walt Disneys true signature (both
cursive and block-printed) for every stage of Disneys life. This way I can actually
take an undated signature and narrow down the date to within a couple of years. I also
have files identifying employee-signed Walt Disney signatures; if the "Disney"
signature was signed by an employee, I can often tell you which employee. I am not an
autograph dealer who claims to know everything about every famous person who ever lived. In fact, I am constantly seeing bad Disney
signatures being offered in reputable
dealer catalogs and in major auctions. Every dealer offers a guarantee of authenticity-
but what good is that if you hang a bad signature on your wall with a fancy authenticity
certificate. If the dealer isnt an expert on Disney, the guarantee isn't too
meaningful. I specialize in Walt Disneys
signature and know it well. I have served as the
Walt Disney autograph consultant for Sothebys animation auctions in New York and
Christies South Kensington in London. I buy and sell more Disney material than
anyone else in the world.
Why do Authentic Walt Disney Signatures Often Look Different From Each
A lot depends on what year it was signed. Disney's signature from the
1920's does not resemble his signature from the 1950's or 60's. Walt consciously
re-designed his signature over the years, in much the same way he changed the appearance
of Mickey Mouse over time. Walt's signature will look different for every decade,
and then there are differences within each decade. The signature used as the logo
for the Walt Disney Classics Collection, for example, is based on Walt's
the end of the 1930's/beginning of the 1940's. The signatures with the big
horizontal flourishes above the "W" and "D" are mainly from the 1950's
and 1960's. Adding to the confusion, like most cartoonists (although this title
doesn't apply past the early 1920's!) Walt also had a printed, or Roman
signature which he
used occasionally throughout his life. This is the signature that looks similar to
(but is not the same as) the Disney Company logo. That famous Walt Disney lettering-
he invented his own font! You'll usually only see this signature associated with
artwork. Walt would often print his name the way the public is familiar with seeing
it on matted cels or prints. Printing his name was slower than handwriting it in a
cursive manner, so these signatures are not seen as often. What is seen often are
the Disney Studio artist's versions of Walt's Roman signature.
Is It True Other People at the Disney Studio Were Allowed To Sign Walt's Name?
At least a dozen Disney Studio staff members signed Walt Disney's
name to comics, fan items, promotional material, etc., over the years. The most
common proxy signatures are by Hank Porter in the 1930's & 1940's, and Bob Moore
beginning in the 1950's. Keep in mind that Walt NEVER drew a single Walt Disney
newspaper comic or comic book, but every one of those was "signed" with a Walt
Disney signature- by the artist, of course. Fortunately, Walt's own writing has
distinct characteristics that distinguish it from these copies. Even so,
"experts" have written books in which they mis-identify Walt's
those of his artists. I can't tell you anything about George Washington's
but I can usually pinpoint a Disney signature to within a few years of the date it was
signed, or- if an artist signed it- I can usually tell you which one. It's my silly
little niche, but I know it well. When you purchase Walt Disney's
signature from me,
WALT DISNEY signed it.
Why is Walt Disneys Signature So Expensive?
Authentic Disney autographs
are expensive for me to buy, so they are expensive to sell. Of the 43 U.S. Presidents, 38
of their signatures are less expensive than Walt Disney. Why? Its the old
supply-and-demand. Walt Disney is one of the most desired autographs in all history. He is
one of the few great men to actually get into our psyche in a wholly positive, emotional
way that no President or scientist or inventor could ever do. Emotion is what drives the
collectibles market. The price is driven by the thousands of others like you and me who
want to get just a little closer to the man who brought the world so much happiness.
Furthermore, who elses signature is actually a corporate logo? Technically, the logo
is an artists version of Walts block-printed signature, but it is loosely
based on the real thing. In a 1981 article, Disney Archive Director David R. Smith called
Walt Disneys autograph "the most recognizable signature in the world." The
supply is far, far smaller than the demand. Relatively few people asked Disney for his
autograph prior to 1954. He was a producer, not a movie star. It was in 1954, when Walt
first hosted a Disney TV show that he became truly famous and recognizable in public. Yet
just 13 years later he was dead at the age of 65. This drastically reduced the
potential number of signatures Walt could have signed. Because of the fame that came
with television, most of Disney material autographed for fans is from the 1950s and
1960s. Early material is rare and therefore usually more expensive. Walt never
lived to see retirement; his autograph-signing years were cut short. Its too
late to meet him in person; getting his signature is the next best thing.
Do Outright Forgeries Exist?
Yes. I see dozens in internet auctions and in dealer catalogs every
year. Some of these even come with "certificates of authenticity" from
"forensic experts" who don't have enough experience with Walt Disney to know a
good one from a bad one! And unfortunately the temptation of putting a few little
words on paper and selling it for a thousand dollars or more
is too much for criminals to pass
up. The good news is that most forgers aren't good at what they do (if they
were good at anything they wouldn't be forging for a living). The average forger
doesn't have the drawing skill (before starting his own company, Walt was a commercial
artist), and the knowledge of what signature is right for what year, the knowledge of what
medium is right for a particular piece (pencil, fountain pen, ballpoint, crayon),
knowledge of Walt's common inscriptions, Walt's A-Z alphabet, etc. Forgers haven't
handled enough authentic signatures to even know how big or small Walt would usually sign
his name on a photograph, or where on the photo Walt would usually sign. So you
can't judge authenticity simply by comparing signatures, and you can't forge convincingly
simply by copying a signature. This also points out why the average
may unwittingly offer forged material in his catalog- with Disney you have to specialize
to know all the intricacies! I turn down half of the material offered to me, and
some of that is from other dealers!
I Have a Walt Disney Signature or I Have Found One
For Sale Somewhere-
Will You Authenticate it for
Yes! I even have a no-cost option. Click
HERE for details.
Is Walt Disneys Autograph a Good Investment?
Firstly, I am passionate about Walt Disney, so I am biased. But in the
1970s you could buy Disneys signature for about $85. Today that same
might cost you $1,500. As I mentioned above, emotion fuels demand, and people love Walt
Disney. Will demand lessen- will people forget? Thirty years after Walts death,
every 4 year old child knows the name "Disney" means something good. When Walt
passed away there was only Disneyland. Today Disney parks stretch from Asia, across
America, to Europe. The Disney company is more vital than ever, producing wonderful new
animated films, putting Disney Stores in hundreds of malls across the continent (and
globe), owning sports teams, buying the ABC TV network... I could go on. Walt Disney is
influencing more people around the world today than ever before; ironically, his impact
is even greater in the 21st century than his own.
His persona has evolved from the
familiar face some of us grew up with on TV during our own lifetimes, to the deified
legend; many children today see him for the first time- not introducing a TV show- but
immortalized in bronze in front of the Disneyland castle. The demand to own something held
in the hand of creator of it all will grow and grow, but fewer and fewer
be on the market because the supply is just too limited. Its like Will Rogers
investment advice- "Buy real estate, theyve stopped making it." Let me
tell you, real estate is easier to find. Walt Disney said "it was all started by a
mouse." But we all know differently- it was started by a man named Walt Disney.
Holding something in our hands that he took a few moments of his life to sign reminds us
Phil, What's Your Favorite Piece in Your Collection?
For the answer to that one, click HERE.