Avoiding Counterfeit Elvis Memorabilia
By Sean O'Neal

I am pleased to be able to contribute to Elvis CD Collector's. As many of you are aware, while I love Elvis' music, my passion is collecting memorabilia relating to him.

I had the good fortune some years ago to find The second Memphis Recording Service acetate. That brought a notoriety to me that has allowed me to write, and have published four books about Elvis. The most recent of those is an Elvis Memorabilia Collector's Guide. This non-record, pre-August 17, 1977 Elvis field that I cover in the book is what I plan on featuring in my columns here.

I have a web site www.elvispresleyblvd.com on which I buy and sell Elvis memorabilia. A portion of my web site is devoted to educating my fellow collector's. Unfortunately a necessary part of any Elvis collector's education is learning about the rampant counterfeiting and reproducing of vintage Elvis memorabilia that goes on today.

The high value of most vintage Elvis items makes them an attractive target for the counterfeiter. Items in the following categories should be examined with great care before purchasing them.

1. Concert Posters:
I rarely see an authentic Elvis concert poster. Many of them are clever reproductions, however a few are very sloppy. For example: I was offered a Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, Indiana poster dated June 1976! They couldn't even get the year right. Beware of any poster from one of Elvis' landmark performances such as Madison Square Garden or Aloha From Hawaii. Big name shows are the counterfeiters favorite because they know that these are in great demand. Also pay close attention to the paper the poster is printed on. Forty-year-old paper should show its age. Anything that looks brand new almost certainly is.

2. Promo Photos, Picture Sleeves and Other Paper Items:
Paper items are a favorite of the counterfeiter. Todays scanning and printing technology makes credible copies of a valuable original easy and inexpensive to create. There are reproductions being sold of every valuable Elvis record, sleeve, and bonus photo. This includes the Elvis/Jaye P. Morgan E.P, the Good Luck Charm Compact 33, the Blue Suede Shoes temporary sleeve, the Chicken of the Sea sticker for Aloha from Hawaii album, the King Creole bonus photo, and many more. Again examine the condition before purchasing. Like new probably means it is. Always be cautious when buying any ticket or stub from a famous Elvis concert. Beware of concerts such as Aloha From Hawaii, 1968 Comeback Special, Hayride Concerts, and the Ed Sullivan Show. There are originals of these out there, but 99% of the ones I have seen have been phoneys. Recently I have seen several counterfeit tickets for Elvis' last Louisiana Hayride performance being offered for sale. I have seen asking prices on these of as much as $1,000. These are the same reproductions that can be bought in Memphis for $10.

3. Sun Records and Acetates:
The biggest area of concern I have seen in the Sun Record market is the representation of 1973 reprints of the Sun 45s as being vintage. Fortunately these are fairly easy to identify. On close examination you will see that "1973" is etched in the trail off for the vinyl. One of the most blatant attempts at deception to arrive in the last couple of years is the creation of Sun acetates. I had a dealer offer me as authentic two My Happiness acetates, one with a Sun label and one with a Memphis Recording Service label. I hate to use the word never, but I have never seen an authentic Elvis acetate with a Sun label. The usual story that goes along with these fake acetates is that they came out of a radio station library.

4. Autographs:
Probably the most common counterfeit Elvis item that I am offered is the autograph. Authenticating Elvis autographs is a more involved topic than we can cover here. Part of the difficulty is that there are so many variations in the way that Elvis signed his name. His autograph signature is different than his signature on a legal document. His signature also changed dramatically as his health worsened. Compounding the problem is the expertise and frequency with which the Memphis Mafia and Elvis' secretaries signed his name. Beware of Elvis autographs signed with gold or silver paint pens. Although I have had people argue with me, I have yet to see one of these that in my opinion are authentic.

5. Elvis' Personal Belongings:
Record prices at the first Butterfield/Jimmy Velvet auction inspired the dishonest to drag old items out of their attics and claim that they belonged to Elvis. Letters of Authenticity Are No Guarantee. Just because an item supposedly belonging to Elvis comes with a letter of authenticity does not mean it should be blindly accepted as authentic. Letters have been written by former associates of Elvis vouching for items that they had no idea of the authenticity. This was done in return for a cash payment. Some of these items have appeared in major auctions. There are also numerous incidents of counterfeit letters of authenticity. Beware when you are presented with a letter of authenticity from an associate of Elvis who is deceased. The fact that the item is being offered by a major auction house is also no guarantee that it is authentic. I have seen items sell in each of the major memorabilia auction houses that unquestionably never belonged to Elvis. One major house devoted a large part of one of their auctions to the collection of the most notorious Elvis dealer in the world. I personally have sold Elvis items through three different auction houses and never have been asked for proof of authenticity of the items I was selling. Please do what you can to end this plague on the Elvis world. When you find a bad dealer share that information with everyone you know. Likewise share positive experiences. When you learn of a new item that is being reproduced spread the word. I welcome contributions to my web site in this area.

If you have a story to share or a question about a suspicious item e-mail me at colonelsnow@yahoo.com