Autograph HoundIf you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’re probably aware that I’m big fan of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
I recently had the opportunity to purchase (what was purported to be) Dashiell Hammett’s signature, taken from the autograph album of a collector interested in entertainment celebrities. The signature is undated, but was filed in the collection under "Early 1940s." Here’s a scan:
An official “certificate of authenticity” came with the signature, but it provides no information on provenance (i.e., where and when the signature was obtained). It merely certifies that the Hammett autograph is original and authentic.
I know from Richard Layman’s biography Shadow Man that Hammett joined the army in the fall of 1942, so—assuming he refrained from signing autographs during his tour of duty in the Aleutian islands—it is still possible for it to have been produced in the period from 1940-1942.
Furthermore, it does look like other Hammett signatures I’ve seen, and was clearly written with a fountain pen—presumably the writing instrument of choice in the 40s.
Because there’s no provenance, and because I paid such a reasonable price ($99) for the autograph, my wife is convinced it’s a fake. I can sort of see her point. This eBay auction wherein the seller wants nearly $4,000 for a similar signature could give one pause.
But I’m not going to let it. I’m going to frame the autograph and put it up in my office and continue to be very pleased in thinking that I own a small memento from one of my heroes (and also be secretly relieved that I didn’t pay any more than $99 in case I am wrong!)