By TRICIA EATON
—Autograph February 2009
Images Courtesy of RRAuction.com
Having the privilege to work at an autograph auction house, one of my favorite things to hear from customers is, “You must love being able to not only see but touch a piece of history every day.” It’s precisely what I love about my job.
Recently, an unprecedented collection of Elizabeth Taylor material came across my desk—66 handwritten love letters by Taylor, a woman famous for her many love affairs and marriages.
What made these 1949 letters all the more enticing was that they were written to William Pawley Jr., the son of a wealthy American businessman who was ambassador to Peru and then Brazil from 1945-50. Although it lasted less than a year, her relationship with Pawley was important because it was her first engagement and perhaps the beginning of her love affair with jewelry, since he gave her her first white diamond ring.
A Diamond in the Rough
One of the last living actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Taylor is a legend, and the prices her autographs command attest to that. She remains one of the most sought after vintage entertainment autographs of all time.
The most desired autograph to possess is a signed photo of Taylor, which may bring from $300 to $3,000, mostly depending on the photo, size, condition and when it was signed. Younger vintage matte double-weight photos usually bring the most, and the larger the better. Overall, her signed photos average about $550.
The Feel of Elizabeth
While recently explaining to a collector how I knew when an item was forged, I expressed that it just doesn’t have the right feel to it. He said that I hadn’t stressed the importance of feel in my other two signature studies in Autograph. Instead, I focused on tips and authentic exemplars to aid the collector in purchasing autographs.
Seven Lessons to a Genuine Liz
- Taylor’s most common sentiment is “Best Wishes,” to which she sometimes adds “Always” at the end.
- The y and l in Taylor are almost always connected, the exceptions being in earlier examples of her signature.
connects the or in Taylor uniquely. They are looped together and the top of the r is slightly tilted as it connects to the o.
- The majority of the time, the t in Elizabeth is under-formed (especially as time went by). It’s almost always shorter than the following h.
- She concludes her first name by looping a line back through the h to cross her preceding t, but it often barely touches the top or narrowly misses.
- Taylor is always on a lower line than Elizabeth.
- Her connection of her first and last name is truly unique. The concluding h of Elizabeth and the beginning T in Taylor are connected so fluidly that it’s nearly impossible for a forger to properly replicate.
She may be famous for her outlandish behavior, extravagant spending and many husbands, but underneath it all, Elizabeth Taylor is still that same sweetheart who wrote these beautifully endearing letters to her first true love, 60 years ago.