Autograph Hunting

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th June 2012.

As a pop culture fanatic, I love to collect memorabilia, in particular, signed items. I’m not really interested in trying to make money by hanging onto these autographs until they appreciate in value and then sell them off. I’d rather put them on my wall as a reminder of an encounter with an artist whose work I admire.

Of course, it is not always easy to get an autographed item. Famous actors don’t tend to wander the streets very often. Most of my prized possessions are photos signed at pop culture conventions, such as Supanova, which was held in Sydney last weekend. The celebrities that attend these events tend to be stars from cult TV shows or movies, and most charge $30 or so for an autographed photo.

There’s plenty of signed collectibles available on eBay, but you never truly know if the autograph is legitimate. In the US, it is estimated that 90% of autographed items sold on eBay are forged.

So how can you obtain authentic signed items without travelling around the world stalking your favourite artist? The good news is that some great signed collectibles are available directly from musicians and actors websites, and not all of it will cost you a fortune.

I’ve previously written about my admiration for The Beach Boys. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary Tour, you can purchase an uncut proof sheet of their new CD artwork signed by all 5 surviving members of the band, including Brian Wilson, for only $500, directly from their website. If you fancy a limited edition signed surfboard, it’s a bargain at $6000, and there are only five out of ten left.

One of my favourite albums ever is Paul Simon’s Graceland, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Currently available from Simon’s online shop is a deluxe bundle which includes the Graceland boxset, the album on vinyl and a limited edition poster personally signed by the master songwriter. This bundle is only $250 and great value for cashed up Paul Simon fans.

Geeks rejoice. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, sells an array of signed items on his website. My choice would be The Shat’s latest album, Seeking Major Tom, which will only set you back $95 for an autographed copy. I’d also recommend that you admire your signed CD and not actually listen to it.

Holy superannuation fund Batman! Everyone’s favourite Batman, Adam West, is still making a living from his iconic role from the sixties. Direct from the Adam West Store, you can grab a signed vintage art movie poster from the 1966 Batman film for $35.

If musicians float your boat and your budget is tight, then why not add a exclusive lithograph signed by Nelly Furtado to your wall? It will only set you back $25 directly from the artist herself. If you prefer your music and politics to the left, English singer songwriter Billy Bragg will put his pen to a copy of his Mermaid Avenue Complete Session CD boxset for $35. For the eighties tragics, pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany will sell you a genuine signed photo for only $20 and $15, respectively.

Proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to collect an autographed item, the cost of a cup of coffee is all it takes to get Guy Sabastian’s John Hancock. A signed copy of his latest single is available via JBHifi’s website for $4.

Whether it cost you a couple of bucks or a small fortune, or even a few hours hiding in the bushes in the Hollywood Hills, the true price of a signed collectible is its sentimental value to a fan.

Supanova: a day of geeky goodness

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd June 2010.

Ever wondered where former television and film actors go when their careers begin to slow down, or even come to a complete stop? They hit the convention circuit and this past weekend in Sydney, the Supanova pop culture expo exploded into Sydney’s Olympic Park.

An annual event, Supanova attracts fans of all ages and interests. Covering almost all aspects of geekdom, from television and movies to anime (Japanese animation), comics, wrestling and gaming, this convention is the perfect place to grab an autograph from your favourite actor, locate that elusive comic for your collection and spend, spend, spend at the numerous stores, laden with toys, t-shirts and collectibles.

Of course, if you fancy wandering around dressed up as a superhero, a Japanese cartoon character or a Stormtrooper, you certainly would not be out of place at Supanova. In fact, attending in costume is encouraged and hundreds of fans came out in their best costumes to participate in the National Cosplay (costume play) Championships. I’m still wondering how the guy in the homemade rubber Alien suit went to the bathroom or caught the train home.

This year’s special guests included Lou Ferrigno, Michael Winslow, Eliza Dushku and Charisma Carpenter. Who exactly are these celebrities, you may ask?

Mr Ferrigno came to fame in the seventies as the original Incredible Hulk. After 5 years painted green and running around in his trousers smashing things up on TV, Lou’s star fell and he now is a personal trainer and a regular on the international fan convention circuit. Despite being profoundly deaf, he is a fascinating speaker and still in great shape.

Remember the guy from the Police Academy movies that made all of the funny sounds? That’s Michael Winslow. Still highly amusing, his act hasn’t changed since his movie franchise ground to a halt in 1994.

Eliza Dushku and Charisma Carpenter are both alumni from the Whedonverse, a series of television shows created by Joss Whedon, which includes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse. Both actresses were extremely popular with the attendees, despite being “between jobs”.

All guest stars participated in Q & A sessions, where fans got to field questions about almost anything. I attended the majority of these sessions and found all of the celebrities to be most professional, despite the odd inappropriate question. Most interesting were the more aged guests, such as Lou Ferrigno, who had many entertaining stories from a lengthy career as a minor celebrity.

The majority of the celebrities’ time over the weekend was spent giving autographs. When I say, giving, I actually mean selling. Whilst resting “between jobs” or in the twilight of their careers, the convention circuit is a reliable source of income for all but the highest echelon of performers.

For the sum of $30 per autograph, fans can get the signature of their favourite guests on a headshot photograph or an item of their choice. For $40, you can have a professional photo with them too. For the mega fan who wants to skip the queues, a VIP ticket for $800 will get you in the front row of the talks and guaranteed photos and autographs.

The Supanova experience is certainly not a cheap day out but for those of us who like to bath in geeky goodness, it is an annual pilgrimage. Now if only I could get a minor role in a Star Wars movie or something, I could make a living with a permanent marker on the convention circuit.