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EDITIONS
Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
The real autograph man
Miles with Rutger Hauer
On the autograph trail: Miles with Rutger Hauer
Jeffrey Archer flogs his signature to inmates, while Zadie Smith's new novel focuses on the life of an autograph trader. Real life autograph dealer Miles Edgar, 31, here tells of his strange and lucrative passion.

How much an autograph is worth depends on a few things - whether the celebrity is a prolific signer, how much leg work you've done to get the autograph and whether they are dead or alive.

It's simple really - the rarer an autograph is, the more I can sell it for.

Rutger Hauer photo
...and the fruits of his labour - a signed photo
Some people are quite happy signing more or less anything you put in front of them. John Travolta would almost sign until his pen ran dry. Elizabeth Hurley likes to sign, Pierce Brosnan, Elijah Wood. I'd sell Travolta for about 32; Liz Hurley for a bit more.

Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino don't sign as often but you can have a great laugh with them if you catch them on a good day.

It won't surprise you to hear that Russell Crowe's a reluctant signer. The same goes for Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Leonardo DiCaprio.

The first autograph I bought was a few years ago, at an autograph fair, of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man
Smith's new novel is already a best-seller
The X-Files thing had just got going. I'm a fan and I thought that here's two people I'm never going to meet at the same time. I think I paid about 55 for it.

I started work as a jeweller and then I went into IT, but I didn't like it much - so little room to progress.

So one day I quit and decided to give it a go as an autograph dealer and I set up Star Signs. That was four years ago and I've done well. I'm full-time and business is good.

Background work

I'm interested in celebrity life - it's different to the average person's. It's human nature that you want to have a look and see how these people operate.

Gillian Anderson
Prolific signer: Gillian Anderson
I keep up with what's happening on the circuit - read the tabloids, magazines, the net; see who's in and who's out and what films are coming out.

Film and TV are my speciality, and pop music - current stars, not the old names. It's an area I know and understand, so there's far less chance of anything slipping through the net.

Faking is a real problem. And even if you send away for a signed picture of your favourite pop star, the chances are the signature will be by their secretary or someone else.

Stake-outs

The only way to be 100% sure that the signature you've got is genuine is to see the person signing it. About a quarter of my stock, I've collected myself. The rest is from my contacts in America.

Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio's signing might pick up with his new movie release
This is a business that relies on strong contacts and you have to know you can trust them.

I do a fair few stake outs - usually the airports, or the hotels in London or movie premiers. I'm lucky enough to know a couple of people at Heathrow who'll tip me off if say Al Pacino, Jamie Lee Curtis or Michael Jackson is flying in.

It doesn't always come off - you need the patience of a saint and a good umbrella.

Soft approach

Minders aren't as much of a problem as you might think. You'd be very surprised how many [celebrities] tend to wander out of their hotel on their own. If you catch them on their own, the chances of getting a few signatures are better because they're not feeling pressured.

Paparazzi
Miles is just one of many to "greet" the stars
I never just barge in. I'll say, 'How are you? Had a good flight?' A bit of polite conversation and then ask if they'd mind signing something.

I've never been verbally abused or shouted at. If they refuse, I just say that's cool, see you again sometime.

My customers are just ordinary people - fans. People buy them as presents a lot so Christmas is a peak time, as is the Oscars. And there's the 'dead factor' as well.

It's quite morbid but if you've got something in stock and the person dies it will double in value immediately. I've had people come looking for Elvis Presley, which would cost them the best part of 800 or 900.

Harrison Ford
Put the pen away
The autograph I've worked hardest for is Harrison Ford on a Blade Runner photo. He goes in fits and starts, signs nothing for months and then maybe a couple one night if you're lucky.

He's never liked signing Blade Runner stuff because he had such a rough time making the movie. It's something I wanted quite badly and a couple of times he turned my collector down. But he got it in the end.

That's on my wall now. It's not for sale.


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02 Oct 02 | Entertainment
03 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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