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What's in a name? Fortunes

Shaun Smillie
The prominent pieces of the collection are the Lennon signature and the autographs The Beatles signed at their 1963 Royal Command performance. File photo

Image by: GETTY IMAGES

Christine got around. She hobnobbed with the stars of her day, if only briefly.

But in those brief encounters, she persuaded them to append their autographs - and she did it over and over.

The band The Searchers signed her book, as did Cliff Richard. John Lennon signed it twice.
Christine collected those autographs more than half a century ago and next week they are expected to fetch tens of thousands of rands at auction in Johannesburg.

The prominent pieces of the collection are the Lennon signature and the autographs The Beatles signed at their 1963 Royal Command performance. It was at this performance, in front of Princess Margaret, that Lennon famously remarked: "The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, just rattle your jewellery."

Two autograph books are to be auctioned on Wednesday and Thursday at Stephan Welz & Co auctioneers at Sandton City.

The second book contains the autographs of the likes of comedian Benny Hill, Kojak actor Telly Savalas and boxer Henry Cooper.

Some just gave their names, others signed off with a formal "yours sincerely" and one performer took the time to draw a cartoon duck.

Together, the books are expected to make between R35000 and R50000. "We haven't cottoned on to the autograph market like the rest of the world, autograph collecting here is more Mandela signatures and the 1995 Rugby World Cup team," said Savo Tufegdzic, head of the stamps and coins department at Stephan Welz & Co.

But there was a recent exception. Stephan Welz & Co auctioned the seven-volume visitors' register from Johannesburg's now defunct Gramadoelas restaurant.

The book, which contained messages from and the signatures of such dignitaries as Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth and David Bowie, was sold for R200000.

According to the PFC40 Autograph Index, which values autographs, The Beatles signatures have become hot property.

A signed photo of the band, valued at £5500 in 2000, is worth £27500 (about R514855) today, it says. A Lennon autograph would have increased in value by 900% over the same period.

One other interesting signature is up for auction in Sandton: US football star OJ Simpson wrote on a visit to South Africa: "To Dorette, Peace and Love!"

It was signed in 1980, 15 years before his acquittal for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. It is not clear who Dorette was.

As for Christine, the autograph books reveal little about her besides her name.

The seller apparently is not connected to Christine.


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