Spot the Difference: Collecting Marilyn’s Signature

Joan Moore with her collection of vintage publicity stills, featuring Marilyn, Jane Russell and more (Photo by Jason Payne)

As a teenage movie fan in the 1950s, Joan Moore regularly wrote to the studios requesting signed photos of the stars, and built a remarkable collection. But as the Vancouver Sun reports, many of the autographs were not inscribed by the stars personally.

“‘To Joan, Warmest Regards, Marilyn Monroe,’ reads her most glamorous photo.

Moore said an appraiser on the PBS TV show Antiques Roadshow valued ‘the exact same picture’ and autograph of Monroe at US$4,000 to US$6,000 several years ago. So she contacted The Vancouver Sun to see if it was the real deal.

We emailed one of Antiques Roadshow’s top appraisers, Laura Woolley, to ask her what she thought. She phoned back within minutes.

‘I’m calling because this is actually one of my biggest pet peeves,’ she said over the phone from Los Angeles, where she has a company called The Collector’s Lab.

‘It’s always been a bone of contention of mine, (because) they said exactly the opposite of what’s the reality with those signed photos in that segment. They said the red ones are usually by her, and it’s actually green ink that’s more often signed by Marilyn. The red is almost always secretarial.’

Basically the studios would have people sign photos, rather than have stars themselves do it.

‘If you’re writing into the studios, 99 per cent of the time those are secretarial or built-into-the-image signatures,’ said Woolley.

This means the 8x10s and postcards Moore has of Burt Lancaster, Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, Farley Granger, Piper Laurie, Cyd Charisse, Jane Russell, Jane Wyman and Spencer Tracy, among others, have a collectable value as vintage photos, but not as autographed ones.”