Here’s a particularly nice signed John Coltrane album, that I found on Ebay tonight, minimum bid $1000. Looks great, eh ? Very similar to other authentic Coltrane signatures and inscriptions I’ve seen. Just as messy and dashed-off as the other Coltrane autographs out there, don’t you think ?
Only one problem. And it’s a big one. The signed album is a two-disc John Coltrane reissue on the Prestige label that was released in the early 1970’s. And John Coltrane died of liver cancer at Huntington Hospital in Long Island, NY on July 17, 1967, at the age of 40. Oops.
It’s another posthumous autograph–an autograph from beyond the grave ! Now John Coltrane was a true genius, and could do miraculous things with his instrument. But as far as we know, he never mastered time travel, and so we must conclude this autograph is a fake. It’s a particularly good forgery, and must have been done by a professional. Fortunately, though, his skills at copying autographs are obviously greater than his ability to research dates.
My friend Gary Johnson of Rockaway Records has a great posthumous autograph story. While at a radio station-sponsored collectibles show some years back, he saw a signed copy of Jimi Hendrix’s album “The Cry of Love.” He asked the seller about it’s history, and was told it came from the collection of a 60’s disc jockey. Most probably got it signed himself. Very rare, indeed. Expensive, but where are you gonna find another one–right ? When the dealer had finished explaining the album’s provenance, Gary delivered the punchline– that Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, a full year before “The Cry of Love” was released.
Of course there are still many unique and genuine autographs and artifacts out there. I still love collecting the real thing; I’m lucky enough to own some Coltrane musical manuscripts and a number of Hendrix items, and for me, the novelty never wears off. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to the “mojo” of these incredible artists. But I always do my research before buying.
If you’re thinking about buying an artist signed or artist owned item, I can’t stress enough the importance of following a few simple rules. These will protect you and help insure you only buy “the good stuff.”
First, do your research. Know exactly what you’re buying, and who you’re buying it from. Are they established and respected in the field ? Are they experts in what they are selling ? Does the deal seem too good to be true ? It might just be.
These things are rare–I’d be suspicious of someone with a huge inventory of items signed or owned by highly collectible artists . Google the seller and see what comes up. And most important, insist the seller guarantee the item’s authenticity with no time limit. If it’s an expensive item, I’d ask for that guarantee in writing, too. Most dealers out there do their best to represent things accurately, and a seller offering genuine items will have no problem doing this.
Below, you’ll find posts with some pretty special authentic items, and more advice on how to avoid being taken. I hope it’s helpful. And of course there’s a lot more to look at on my website, Recordmecca.
And do let us know if you have anything you’re thinking of selling–we’re always looking for special items and rare vinyl.
(I have notified the seller of the Coltrane album that it can’t possibly be real; I await their reply. It’s always possible they were taken themselves.)
UPDATE: 12 hours after I notified the seller, the auction has been taken down. I never heard back from them, but applaud them on ending the listing quickly.