Collecting autographs can be fun. Whether you choose to obtain them in person from the celebrity, through the post, through a sales catalog from a dealer or through an auction, autographs not only have historical value but can sometimes turn out to be a sound and profitable investment.

If you are a fan of Lost in Space, the monetary side of collecting Lost in Space autographs is probably secondary to the appeal of having your favorite TV star write a personal dedication to you on a photograph, a book, or other piece of appropriate memorabilia. On the other hand, if it is long term investment you are thinking about then there are a number of issues to consider.

1. Like most collectibles, supply and demand determine the value of any autograph. Unfortunately while there is a lot of demand for Lost in Space autographs, there is also a lot of supply since the surviving LIS cast are much in demand for SF conventions and reunions. These events invariably have the obligatory signing sessions where often for less than $100 you can get all the signatures of the stars present at the event. So if you are planning to fund your retirement on the basis of Lost in Space autographs, think again!

2. The signature of Guy Williams is very hard to come by. After LIS was cancelled, Guy spent most of his life in Argentina and therefore didn't participate in the convention circuit like the other surviving cast members. If you come across a Guy Williams autograph be suspicious. Check it out. Be especially wary of photographs signed by all the cast members including Guy Williams. As Bill Mumy himself explains in an article in issue 17 of Innovation's LIS comic:

"The cast of Lost in Space is a tight knit group of friends who, over the past twenty nine years, have truly bonded into a family. We've signed thousands and thousands of autographed pictures as a unit sitting side be side at conventions, but sadly, none with the late Guy Williams' autograph alongside ours. The one time Guy was together with the TV cast, back in 1983, I was on location working on a film and couldn't be present.

Certainly, there are some, though not very many, authentic photos, that we all signed way back in the sixties when we were filming the show, but none since."

3. To enhance the value of your autographed photos, books or memorabilia, aim to get all of the signatures of the surviving cast members. This may require that you attend several conventions or reunions because not all cast members can make it to every event. Don't forget Bob May (the guy inside the Robot) and Dick Tufeld (the voice of the Robot). Many people do!

4. It is best to avoid signatures with dates. In general, the older the autograph the more valuable it is. But keep in mind that it still possible to date autographs. This is because signatures tend to change over time. The most obvious ones to consider here are the autographs of the two child actors Bill Mumy and Angela Cartwright. These will have changed considerably since the sixties. Moreover, in the case of Bill, he would have signed as "Billy" in the sixties but "Bill" now.

5. Avoid obtaining signatures with dedications as these will affect the resale value. An undedicated signature understandably is transferable to anyone and hence commands a higher price. But there are exceptions to this rule. If the dedicated autograph comes complete with an interesting or humorous slogan or lengthy comment then its value is normally enhanced regardless of whether it is dedicated or not. Also photos which have all the signatures of the cast tend to still be valuable whether dedicated or not.

Whatever you do, do not try and remove a dedication. If you try you'll end up destroying your photo, guaranteed.

6. Choose very carefully the item you wish to have autographed at conventions. Colorful large glossy photographs are much better than small black and white ones. The other thing, of course, is that black & white photos tend to yellow with time and that will certainly affect the resale value. Don't fall into the trap of always thinking in terms of photographs. Getting signatures on other objects such as model boxes and T-shirts can be very profitable. Sometimes a little imagination is called for.

7. The instrument used for signing the autograph is very important. Ink tends to fade with time. Black markers are probably best, but be careful that it doesn't smudge soon after the signature is obtained. A horrible smudgy autograph has close to no resale value at all.

8. "Condition, Condition, Condition." Those three words apply to autograph collecting as much as they do to any field of collecting. So don't waste your time getting something signed if it has dog ears and looks tattered or scribbled on. Don't consider purchasing something that is in really poor condition (unless, of course, it is extremely rare).

9. A lot of people like to display their treasured autographs. Be careful though or you could pay a heavy price. The worst thing you can do to a photo is expose it to direct light for long periods of time. If you have something really valuable which you want to show off, you might consider making a copy of it for display purposes. The real item can be put away, preferably stored in some archival acid-free material.

10. If buying from a dealer, make sure the dealer is a reputable one. Always demand a certificate of unconditional lifetime guarantee. If the dealer won't provide the guarantee, don't buy. Naturally the best way of avoiding "fakes" is to obtain the autograph in person because that way you know it's 100% genuine. Not only do you get to meet your favorite star in the flesh, the autograph won't cost you a fortune.

Just one last thing. If you plan to get your autograph in person, be polite to the celebrity. Remember it's not your god-given right to get an autograph. You are just one of hundreds, if not thousands seeking the same signature. They are doing you a favor, not the other way around. Finally, don't forget to thank them.

References/Further Reading
Mumy, Bill. "Lost in the Mail." Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul Innovation Issue 17

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