According to research by memorabilia authenticators PSA/DNA, the most popular forged autographs, sold by scammers in 2012, were of the Fab Four and Elvis Presley.
Reportedly, less than half of their autographs for sale were certified as genuine. The last time this list was published two years ago, they also topped the list of forgeries.
Apparently next most popular on the list was the late American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, whose faked autographs have risen significantly in numbers since his death in July.
Joe Orlando, president of the Newport Beach-based PSA/DNA, told Reuters that one reason for this was that Armstrong rarely signed autographs for fans during his lifetime.
“Armstrong is someone who is very conscious of the value of his own autograph,” Orlando said. “Even before he passed away he was very tough to get…It really heightens the level of his market.”
Among other famous persons, popular in the forgery game, are former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and late prince of pop Michael Jackson.
Margaret Barrett, who is Heritage Auctions' director of entertainment and music memorabilia, said that assistants and secretaries of celebrities were responsible for a lot of the blame for the fake signatures doing the rounds. Barrett said that they had to answer so much fan mail for their celebrity bosses, and this was probably the only way to cope with the responses.
"There was absolutely no financial gain 50 years ago and secretaries and assistants just wanted to make them happy. A lot of times people stumble upon an old box of signed photographs in grandma's attic and don't know they're forged," she said.
“A good rule of thumb is to compare it a signed contract,” she said. “Sometimes (celebrities) would have secretaries or other sign photos and letters but they couldn’t have a contract signed by a proxy.”
Getting back to the Beatles, another case of forgery involved John Lennon's aunt, Mimi Smith. Christine Proctor, 61, received a forged autograph when she knocked on Lennon's door, at the age of 12, in 1964.
Apparently Aunt Mimi was alone in the house and invited the girl in, disappeared into the kitchen, and reappeared, presenting the schoolgirl with a photo signed not only by Lennon, but also by the other three Beatles, Paul, George and Ringo.
Proctor was, naturally, thrilled, until much later when she decided to get the autographed photo valued, only to find it was a forgery worth less than £20 instead of the £2,000 she was expecting.