Frank Sinatra Authograph Study


By Bill White & Al Wittnebert

Few entertainers have reached the status of icon. Icons are in the minority of performers that can never be duplicated and are timeless. Such is the talent of Frank Sinatra.

A poor kid from the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra started out singing in 1935 on Major Bowes Amateur Hour with the Hoboken Four. In 1939 he went on to sing with Harry James' new band and then went on to work with Tommy Dorsey with who he recorded over 90 songs.

His band singer days ended in September 1942 when he sang as a solo singer on radio's "Lucky Strike Hit Parade."

In 1943 he was booked as a supporting act to the Benny Goodman band at New York's Paramount Theatre. Goodman remarked that when he introduced Frank the theatre filled with screams of over 3000 female fans. A new type of celebrity was born. Sinatra crooned romantic ballads and produced the bobby-sox phenomena. During the 1940s he was as hot as any performer could be. By 1951, the energy ran out of Sinatra's boom and for a time he thought of himself as washed up.

In 1953 Sinatra reinvented himself with an Academy Award winning performance in the film "From Here to Eternity." He was also awarded a recording contract with Capitol Records for which he recorded some of his best singing work. He now had a lucrative film and singing career on the fast track.

In the 1960s he returned to singing live in Las Vegas appearing with his Rat Pack friends Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. He toured into the early 1990s when age and health started to slow him down.

Francis Albert Sinatra died on May 14th 1998 at the age of 82. His whole life he did it his way, and we are all glad he did.

Autographically, genuine Sinatra material is hot. And authentic material has proven itself to be a good investment.

Unfortunately there is not as much authentic material available. Many collectors who think they have a genuine example of Old Blue Eyes' signature may have one of the many secretarial signatures instead.

Needless to say there has been a lot of controversy over what
is and is not a genuine Sinatra autograph. We hope the enclosed
study sheds some light on this topic.
The material we are using as genuine examples are well
documented and come from legal documents and in-person
encounters during specific dates in his career. From these
genuine examples we will examine the others received in
the mail or from other sources. We think you will find the
conclusions startling.

CONTRACT SIGNATURES

As a man of many talents, Sinatra has signed many contracts and legal agreements, and while his contracts are not common on the autograph marketplace they do show up from time to time. Signatures (1) thru (6) were taken from contracts dated in the eleven-year span from 1943 to 1954. The differences between the signature in 1943 and 1954 are noticeable but not unexplainable…more on that in a moment.

IN-PERSON SIGNATURES

Unlike many entertainers, Sinatra's contract signatures and his less formal in-person signature are quite consistent with one another. The following are examples from vintage autograph album pages or dinner programs with dates of the signing (7) thru (16).
Take a few minutes and look over the signatures for common similarities.



OBSERVATIONS

(1) Start with the (F) in "Frank". The gently swirling "F" of the 1940s signatures changed substantially in the early 1950s….compare the differences in (10) and (12). From the early 1950s on, the initial "F" takes on the appearance of a capital "Y" which connects with the following "r".
(2) The "r" in "Frank" is sharp, often like an un-dotted "i". At the end of "Frank" the very evident "k" generally looks like a lower case "L" (especially in the post 1950s examples).
(3) Since the mid-1940s Sinatra seems to always write "Frank" and "Sinatra" without breaks of any kind within the individual words. Notice that in the early 1940s (the first five examples) "F" and "rank" are written separately. Furthermore, Sinatra occasionally connects his first and last names (as in example (10)) but this is far from being a rule.
(4) In many cases the "r" in "Frank" or the "i" in "Sinatra" end up to the left of their preceding letters, as in example (9). Again, this is not always the case.
(5) Traveling through "Sinatra" we find a very obvious "t", always with a loop in the body of it. The "i" is always dotted, although in later examples this is done while crossing the "t" with the tail of the final "a".
(6) Finally, although only two of the above examples have inscriptions, note the similarity between the "T" in "To" and the "F" in "Frank" of example (13). This same similarity is true in earlier inscribed signatures with their more looping "T" and "F" formations. Although at first glance the previous 16 examples may appear to be very different from each other, they progress with a definite, slowly evolving pattern. This pattern remained similar to those examples nearly a half a century apart !

SECRETARIES AND FORGERIES

Over the years several people have tried their hand at imitating Sinatra's signature (some with his consent, others without). Signatures (18) and (20) were taken from vintage album pages and all are very questionable. More than likely these signatures were signed by one of Sinatra's secretaries trying to capture the essence of his signature. What distinguishes them from authentic examples is the flat-topped "r" and the tiny "k" in "Frank".



Signatures (17) and (19) were taken from vintage signed photographs, an area where authentic Sinatra autographs are lacking! Both (18) and (19) are secretarial signatures. Signature (17) breaks down due to its overall flatness and the strange un-looped “k” in “Frank”. Signature (19) has a similar un-looped “k” along with a flat-topped “r”, both very unlike Sinatra’s authentic signature. At best they somewhat resemble his signature.

Signature (23) is from a typed letter from 1958, and is obviously a secretarial due to its strange and overall “spikey” look.

Examples (21) and (25) are examples from forged Sinatra signatures on autograph album pages. Signature (25) breaks down due to the illegibility of “Frank” (compared to authentic examples) and an unnatural break in the middle of Sinatra. Signature (21) does not even try to copy authentic examples of Sinatra’s authentic signature.

Example (22) is a 1950s stamped signature.

In the fifteen years preceding his death, Sinatra used several secretaries who did a remarkable job at imitating their boss’ signature. The following examples are of these secretarial signatures taken from signed photos and cards.

Illustrations (24) and (26) are very common secretarial signatures that have fooled many a collector yet they fail to fulfill the previously mentioned consistencies that genuine Sinatra signatures possess.

You will notice that the secretary uses an initial “F” similar to the “F” that Sinatra abandoned in the early 1950s. The “k” in “Frank” is well-defined, the “t” in Sinatra is not looped and not as obvious, and the “i” is also much rounder than Sinatra’s.

Signature (27) is a secretarial example sent out in the late 1970s. Notice the break in “Frank” after the “F’, the two piece “k” and the cramped “S” in Sinatra.

Secretarial signature (28) was issued in the early 1980s. While the “F” in “Frank” is more up-to-date and accurate, the following “r” and “k” look nothing like any of Sinatra’s own. There is a break between “Sinatr” and “a”. Finding the many other inconsistencies we will leave to the reader.

Sinatra was also known to send out photographs to fans with a facsimile stamped signature on the photo’s surface.
In the 1980s the stamp was either silver or gold with a dull finish. In the 1960s such stamps appeared on 5x7inch photos in blue ink as seen in (29).

As we have shown, Frank Sinatra’s signature remained as subtle as his fingerprint throughout his career. He employed many secretaries who tried and failed to imitate his autograph and forgers seem to be having mixed success.


This crude forgery was one of many offered on ebay.

During the month of July 2001, Sinatra autographs offered on the internet auction site ebay were almost exclusively forgeries or examples of secretarial signatures. Since Frank Sinatra is such a popular autograph, we suggest that you purchase one from a UACC Registered Dealer. All UACC Registered Dealers are bound to the UACC Code of Ethics and are in turn accountable for all items they sell.

Bill White works for R & R Enterprises UACC Registered Dealer in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Al Wittnebert is the UACC Treasurer.