Authenticity | International Autograph Auctions


As is the case with any other reputable auction house or individual who specialise in the sale of autographs and manuscripts, IAA Ltd place the utmost importance on the authenticity of the items which we offer for sale.

IAA Ltd’s director Richard Davie is a recognised expert in the field and is a long standing member of the Manuscript Society and the UACC. The depth of his knowledge of autographs and manuscripts and ability to determine forgeries has been utilised on several occasions by government authorities such as Trading Standards, in each instance resulting in successful prosecutions.

IAA Ltd have a reputation for carefully researching all of the autograph letters and historical documents which pass through their hands and details of this research and the accompanying provenance are detailed in the catalogue descriptions. If, on the very seldom occasion that the authenticity of an autograph included in our auction is brought into question by a recognised expert, then it will be withdrawn pending further investigation.

Certificates of Authenticity

In recent years a certain culture seems to have developed amongst some autograph collectors who would appear to place more importance on certificates of authenticity (COAs) than the actual autographs they are acquiring. As a result, we are frequently asked if we provide COAs with auction lots.

The short answer to this is no. However, we will be more than happy to provide clients with a detailed receipt for their purchase (clearly stating the lot number, date of auction, and providing a description of the autograph) as well as a copy of the printed auction catalogue which includes a full description of the lot and illustration of the autograph. We believe this provides sufficient proof of the origin of your purchase.

In our experience, many misidentified or forged autographs are accompanied by COAs and such certificates are quite often issued by individuals who have little experience in authenticating autographs and are simply being used as a marketing tool. Indeed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in their 2000 investigation into forgeries known as Operation Bullpen, summarised that ‘the counterfeit market has been able to flourish because of the role played by authenticators who fraudulently (or mistakenly) certify forgeries as genuine signatures’ and further stated that ‘Certificates of authenticity are not guarantees of authenticity’.

IAA Ltd would prefer that collectors exercise common sense when considering the question of authenticity and place more emphasis on who is selling them an autograph, assess their reputation and experience in the market, rather than place trust in a COA.

We will be delighted to discuss the authenticity of individual autographs with potential bidders prior to any auction and welcome such enquiries.