Your Charlton Heston autograph? It's probably fake.

As much as it pains me to write this, it needs to be done.

The Charlton Heston autograph in your collection was probably signed by a secretary.

I know the first step is denial... I've been through it myself. But let's put aside wishful thinking and look at the evidence.

For several years some collectors have speculated that Charlton Heston used a secretary for through-the-mail requests. This has been met with some doubt. The analysis I saw was less than convincing because it primarily compared old signatures to new, and it focused on differences in "Heston," which were very difficult to clearly discern. The doubt was also fueled by Mr. Heston himself who claimed on several occasions to personally respond to mail requests.

But, these suspicious collectors were on to something. And, I believe I have found the definitive "tell." It is in the first name. And once you see it, it is as clear as a bell.

The Theory
Photographs and other memorabilia sent to Mr. Heston's office were signed by a secretary. However, Mr. Heston did authentically sign books through-the-mail.

Real vs. Secretary
In authentic signatures, the R in "Charlton" is distinctly a lowercase "r" and less than half the height of the L. The first four letters are clearly "Char."

In secretarial signatures, the R looks much more like a lowercase "l" and is about the same height as the L. So, the first four letters appear to be "Chall."

The evidence

Authentic autographs

We'll start with books that were signed in-person. Note the distinct lowercase "r" and the R is much smaller in height than the L.

Portrait of Charlton Heston
Mr. Heston at a book signing. Note the distinct R.
Image by Mr & Mrs Scruples

Easton Press edition of Beijing Diary

Easton Press edition of In the Arena

Now, we'll move on to some signed checks with various dates. Note that the "r" is distinct in all time periods.




Next, here are signed Planet of the Apes trading cards (2001) from a supervised signing with Topps. Once again, the R is clear and no more than half the height of the L.

2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 1

2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 2
2001 Topps Authentic Autograph Trading Card exemplar 3

Obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
Obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
Note that the r is still distinct and smaller than the L, even on a rushed in-person example

The following example shows the stark contrast between secretarial and authentic. Presented like this, it's pretty clear that the same hand did not sign these two signatures.

Top - obtained through-the-mail by Mike Sibley
Bottom - obtained in-person by Mike Sibley, 1999
 The evidence shows that in every case where there was a known authentic exemplar, the R is distinct and much smaller than the L.

Here are some books that were obtained through-the-mail directly from Mr. Heston's office. The through-the-mail books also show a distinct R.

Obtained through-the-mail, March 2000

Obtained through-the-mail, January 2001

Secretarial Autographs

Here are examples of signed photographs obtained through-the-mail. Note the clear difference in the R formation and the R is almost as high as the L.

Through-the-mail, 1998

Through-the-mail, late 90s
Through-the-mail, late 90s

Through-the-mail, circa 2000

I could go on and list thousands of examples with the "Chall" formation. Just look at the signed photos on eBay or do a Google image search. About 95% of the photos have the earmarks of a secretarial signature. The books are almost always consistent with my theory as well.

Here is one signed photo I found that I believe to be authentic. Note the stark difference in the signature as opposed to the secretarial examples above. In addition to the distinct "r," the signature exhibits much less pressure.

Authentically signed photo? Note the contrast to the secretarial signatures above.

I reviewed hundreds of Charlton Heston autographs from various sources -- my personal collection, friends' collections and on online sites such as eBay.

I will note that, out a hundreds of exemplars, I found a handful of books that did not have a distinct "r" formation. My theory is these books may have been through-the-mail exemplars signed by a secretary. The reason for this could be that Mr. Heston's schedule did not allow for signing at that time or, once his illness took hold, secretaries began signing books through the mail as well as photos.

Dealers and Authenticators
I understand there will be resistance to these findings. There are thousands of signed Charlton Heston photos sitting in dealer inventories and probably tens of thousands more in collections -- the overwhelming majority of which are fakes. Some of these have been authenticated by reputable third party authenticators.

Don't trust third party authenticators with Heston -- they all got it wrong!

Upper Deck card - appears to be secretarial.

Until someone can produce proof otherwise, we must conclude we were all wrong.

For years Mr. Heston stated that he signed mail requests. Well, he was telling a half-truth. He was signing books sent to him, but his secretary was signing the photos and everything else.

Note all images are copyright their respective copyright owners.