A Rogues Gallery of Fake & Questionable Astronaut Autographs
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Presented below is a small but significant assortment of various and sundry astronaut forgeries that I've made copies of.
As most of us who collect astronaut autographs know, Neil Armstrong forgeries are certainly the most often encountered of all astronaut forgeries. They come in all shapes, sizes and styles, and from many different sources. Many believe that far more Armstrong forgeries reside in albums, framed & matted on walls, in auctions, etc., than any other astronaut forgery. With the popular Armstrong autographed Apollo white spacesuit portraits often selling far in excess of $1,000, it's no wonder that so many Armstrong forgeries exist and forgers have concentrated on them so much. So below will be found mostly Armstrong forgeries, but also included are some examples of other bogus signatures that can be expected to be encountered by collectors. But this is just a small sample and only scratches the surface of astronaut autograph forgeries.

Neil Armstrong WSS
Shown here is a scan of a color copy of an Armstrong WSS (white spacesuit) forgery I once owned. This was traded to me in 1998 by a new space dealer David Frohman of Peachstate Historical, who had recently relocated and set up shop in my area and visited my home several times to make trades. He's a dealer, but it's strange that he never offered to sell me anything or buy anything from me; he was only interested in trades: his Armstrong signed stuff for my Armstrong signed material that I had obtained directly from Armstrong TTM.

Not long after the trades, I began hearing collectors expressing concern and questioning his Armstrong material that was being distributed by this dealer. I was concerned, but soon my concern turned to worry, as I begin to realize how his Armstrong signatures differed and varied from those known to be authentic. I started to realize that I had lost two valuable authentic Armstrong signed items and had been left with two probable forgeries in their place.

This was a learning experience for me and opened my eyes to people and autographs. Because of this experience, I became more aware of astronaut autographs and studied and analyzed them carefully and became very familiar with the material I collected - things I had not done previously. The result is that now I know and understand astronaut autographs and forgeries quite well and feel very confident in my knowledge of them - unlike how I was before my ill advised trades.

Those who collect astronaut autographs should likewise study and become familiar with the autographs they collect, so as not to be susceptable to accepting fake and questionable signatures as genuine. Don't rely solely on sellers and dealers to authenticate astronaut autographs for you.
Apollo 11 crew signed crew lithograph
Shown here is a scan of a color copy of an Apollo 11 crew signed litho that was offered to me by David Frohman in Sept. 1998. I was told in a letter that the Armstrong signature was obtained in 1989 from Ohio (Armstrong did not sign this way in 1989 or ever); the Collins in 1988 from Florida; and the Aldrin in person in 1989. While the Aldrin signature is very typical and certainly authentic (Frohman made many trips to California to have Aldrin sign material for him), the Armstrong signature is of the same style that appears on numerous Armstrong WSS portraits sold by Frohman. And this style Collins signature from Peachstate has also been seriously questioned. Many Apollo 11 crew signed items with similar signatures have appeared on the market and typically, like this example, have a genuine Aldrin autograph and mission inscription added by Aldrin; the same style Armstrong forgery; and an atypical Collins signature. Frohman, under pressure, admitted that he had become "uncomfortable" with the Armstrong signatures he had been selling for years, but that he claimed came from another source (a now deceased collector), and asked that all he had sold be returned for a refund. However, these "Peachstate Armstrongs" still surface from time-to-time.

It's been estimated that 80% of the Armstrong signatures sold online, such as eBay, are forgeries or autopen facsimile machine generated signatures. Forgers know where the money is and certainly all the more valuable and more in demand astronaut signatures are the most commonly forged. Besides Armstrong, other often-forged signatures are: Gus Grissom, Mike Collins, Bill Anders, etc. Even though genuine John Glenn autographs are plentiful and he still signs free TTM, forgeries of even his signature are seen.

And it's advisable to be careful of the rarer autographs that complete crew signed items. For example, in the past Frank Borman and Jim Lovell have autographed large quantities of Apollo 8 material together and a decently applied Bill Anders forgery to an Apollo 8 item genuinely signed by the other two, increases its value from maybe $150 to 1,000+. And likewise, with Apollo 7 material, Wally Schirra and Walt Cunningham signed Apollo 7 material is easy to find and a passable Donn Eisele forgery will transform something with little value into a $1,000+ item. And Apollo 13 material genuinely signed by Lovell and Haise can be turned into a multi-thousand dollar bonanza by a skillful forger who is able to add an acceptable Jack Swigert forgery to the other two genuine autographs.

Am I being overly suspicious about astronaut autographs? Some may think so, but many will agree with me about the danger and prevelence of astronaut forgeries and their prevelence in collections and their availability from many sources.
An Assortment of WSS "Peachstate Armstrongs"
Here's a selection of copies of Armstrong fakes from Peachstate, the same source as the Armstrong WSS and Apollo 11 crew signed lithos above. They all show similar traits and all surely originated from the same hand. They have many things in common and one is that they are all unpersonalized or uninscribed (Armstrong often personalized his portraits, such as: "To John"). That's just one trademark of many of this particular type of forgery. Another trademark of this type of Armstrong forgery is that the signature almost always either touches or crosses the American flag patch on Armstrong's spacesuit (the examples to the left show that very well). This is very rarely seen with genuine Armstrong autographs on his Apollo WSS portraits, but normal and expected with these particular forgeries.

Somewhat crude by today's improved Armstrong forgery standards, these late 1990's-era forgeries distributed by Frohman/Peachstate proved good enough to fool many collectors - for a while. Many were sold and even still surface occasionally on eBay and elsewhere. Fortunately these type Armstrong forgeries are fairly easy to identify, but more talented and skillful forgers have entered our hobby, who have learned from others' mistakes, and many Armstrong forgeries are so close to appearing genuine that determining authenticity is either difficult or not possible.

An autograph's provenance can contribute greatly toward determining authenticity and it's very advisable to always ask for provenance from sellers or dealers before buying any rare or valuable astronaut autograph. Collectors should request that sellers and dealers give reasons and evidence to assure them that what they are offering is authentic. Those who sell autographs should have the burden of proof of authenticity on their shoulders and should be as concerned about selling only authentic autograph material as collectors should be in only buying authentic material.
More forgeries
There are many different types & styles of Armstrong forgeries and they come from many sources. Shown here are four more types that have been offered and probably sold. The three at top left are not particularily well-done and appear to have come from the same hand. Many standard, typical characteristics of authentic Armstrong autographs are lacking in these examples. Collectors need to realize that Armstrong typically applied his autograph carefully & consistantly (except in his later years of signing) and even though his styles did change as time went on, each separate style remained consistant & exhibited traits that one should look for when checking authenticity.

At top right is an older Armstrong forgery that was bought in an auction in 1990. This is an interesting forgery, as everything but the stamp appears to be bogus! In addition to the Armstrong forgery, the Dave Scott signature is bogus and it also appears that the cachet and hand stamp cancel are also fakes; this was the work of a very ambitious forger.

On the right below the bogus Armstrong/Scott signatures is a bogus Mike Collins signature. Such bogus MCollins signatures often accompany bogus Armstrong signatures on Apollo 11 crew signed items from the dealer above and this one was offered on eBay by him.

Next is a fake Christa McAuliffe signature from eBay. McAuliffe was very careful & consistant with her autographs and, consequently, it's relatively easy to authenticate her signature. This is a decent attempt, but fails in a number of ways.

And last, but certainly not least, is an example of the work of our hobby's first successful & active forger - for a while. Charles Riser was a successful, well-known and popular dealer in the early days of the space autograph hobby. In the late '60's and early '70's he published a space autograph newsletter and also created well-done cacheted event covers that marked important space events. But he wasn't content to stop there. He was also an autograph dealer who provided an amazing array of scarce covers and rare astronaut autographs. No one could understand how & where he could get so many rare signed covers (such as the example to the right below with forgeries of Grissom, Shepard & Wernher von Braun). The story goes that collectors would contact him asking about a rare astronaut signed cover they needed and he'd ask the collector to wait a while to see if he could find one and, lo and behold, he usually did. Even trusting & naive collectors of the 1970's weren't saps forever, and Riser was eventually caught, sentenced and sent to prison. His forgeries by today's standards aren't too good, but often trusting & inexperienced collectors don't look and don't see what they should be seeing and don't ask questions or learn and become familiar with the autographs they collect & pay big money for.
Soyuz 11 crew autographs: fact or fiction?
Of the 500+ people who have flown in space, it is generally agreed that the rarest autographs of all are those of two Russian Cosmonauts who were making their first spaceflights on the doomed Soyuz 11 mission in 1971: Georgi Dobrovolsky and Viktor Patsayev. Cosmonaut tradition & superstition prevented Cosmonauts from autographing anything before their first spaceflights, so it is believed that very little if anything was autographed by Dobrovolsky and Patsayev before their fatal spaceflight.

But numerous autograph material advertized as genuinely signed by them has appeared on the market beginning in the mid-1990's, with the examples on the left being a good sampling. Most scoff at and believe that such items cannot be genuine, while a minority cling to the belief that the crew must have signed some items and "maybe" some of the items available signed by them are real. The buyer of the signed cover at top right must have thought so, as he paid $5,290 for it in the Fall 1999 Superior auction. Perhaps Superior's impressive comments about the rarity of the cover may have influenced him: "...a (Soyuz 11) crew signed cover virtually doesn't exist. Probably unique." Numerous Soyuz 11 crew signed covers have been offered since then from many sources.

With extremely rare autographs such as these, iron-clad provenance must be required, but many of these Soyuz 11 crew signed items sell without any provenance at all. And one enterprising dealer decided that his Soyuz 11 crew signed photo was real, while admitting that most aren't, and convinced one trusting collector into paying $4,000 for his. This was after buying it himself for $1,000 from another dealer known as the main source of Soyuz 11's who often has a few on eBay.

Various types of material said to be signed by the Soyuz 11 crew appear on eBay occasionally and even in some prestigious national auctions. The most often seen Soyuz 11 signed item is the Soviet Cosmonaut monument postcard. These usually even have the date of the launch thoughtfully added by the doomed Cosmonauts. They are colorful and impressive and must be very tempting to many eager collectors. Two of them are shown at the left. Also signed photographs of the Soyuz 11 crew during training are very popular and are probably the second biggest seller.

Recently the price of these Soyuz 11 crew signed items has fallen, with some even selling for less than $1,000. So, because of the availability and affordability of these rarest-of-the-rare autographs, anyone with some spare hobby money can own autographs said to be of the two rarest of all astronauts-cosmonauts.