The Beatles Autographs: History, Rarity, and Value

August 25th, 2023

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1964. (Alexander Bitar History)

In terms of autographs, nothing is more sought-after and collectible than autographs by The Beatles. However, the amount of forgeries is enormous. Read this guide to learn more about how to authenticate Beatles autographs and how to value them.


Originally formed in 1960 with the line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and the less-known Stuart Sutcliffe, and later Pete Best; The Beatles as we know them today were completed in August 1962 when Ringo Starr joined the band as their drummer. After some tough early years in their hometown of Liverpool, and later domestically in England and abroad in Germany, the band released their debut studio album in 1963. Although the so-called Beatlemania began in that same year, it wasn’t until their first Ed Sullivan appearance in February 1964 that the worldwide superstardom began. The Fab Four became hotter than Elvis and was, throughout the ’60s, the world’s biggest pop sensation. Due to their massive fame, the request for their autographs was huge.

Notably, this was before selfies and such nonsense. Everyone wanted the signatures of the four Liverpudlians. During the ’60s up to the early ’90s, the value of Beatles autographs wasn’t notably high. The interest in collecting increased in the ’90s, and the value has grown ever since. Alongside with the value increasing, so have also the number of forgeries. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of all “Beatles autographs” for sale are indeed forgeries. Let’s face it, all you need to forge an autograph is a pen and paper. For an untried eye, everything can pass as “authentic” as long as you can read the words “John Lennon” and especially if the seller tells a good story, or if the autographs are accompanied by a so-called “certification”.

The Beatles signig autographs for a young fan, 1963. (Daily Mirror//Mirrorpix, Getty Images)

This guide on Beatles autographs will give you knowledge of how to tell real apart from fake, as well as what to look for when buying Beatles autographs. You’ll also get a good indication of the value of Beatles autographs and why a signed album can be 50 times as expensive as a signed paper cut.

Where To Buy Authentic The Beatles Autographs

Let’s begin with answering the most vital question. Regarding autographs and all kinds of collectibles such as coins, art, and watches, the most important thing is to make sure you’re buying something authentic. Wherever money is involved, there are forgeries involved. Simple as that! Autographs are, as stated above, one of the easiest collectibles to forge since you technically only need a pen and paper. So how can you be sure that you buy authentic autographs?

I’ve been buying and selling autographs for many years. I’d definitely consider myself an expert in the field. Beatles autographs, in particular, have always been of high interest to me. Therefore, I’m very knowledgeable of Beatles autographs, and within a few seconds, I could tell if it’s a guaranteed forgery or if it’s very likely authentic. Then, of course, some additional time would always be needed to really investigate the handwriting to verify that it’s indeed authentic – or to confirm that it’s not authentic.

I don’t have the same expertise regarding other autographs like the ones of The Rolling Stones, John F. Kennedy, or Marilyn Monroe. In those cases, I’d rely heavily on other factors. The best way to ensure you’re buying authentic autographs is to buy from a well-respected dealer or auction house. Some examples where you can buy Beatles autographs and be sure about the authenticity are the UK-based dealer Tracks, US-based dealers Frank Caiazzo and Perry Cox, and US-based auction house RR Auction. Other great sources are Recordmecca, Fab 4 Collectibles, Rockaway Records, and big auction houses like Bonhams, Heritage Auctions, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and medium-sized auction houses like Goldin, Gotta Have Rock & Roll, Julien’s Auctions, and Iconic Auctions.

The Beatles with a copy of Sgt. Pepper, 1967. (John Downing, Getty Images)

A serious dealer or auction house will stand by the items they sell. Meaning that if you’d buy Beatles autographs that later turn out to be forgeries, then you should get a refund from the seller. That’s not the case with private persons. If you’d buy something directly from a collector, then the chances of them giving you a refund (if the item later establishes as a forgery) are extremely low. Why should they? They aren’t as keen on their reputation as serious dealers and auction houses are.

With this written, we could sum it up by saying that if you aren’t an expert, you should buy from risk-free sources such as established dealers and auction houses. But if you’re an expert, you can take higher risks by buying from an unknown source. The upside is, of course, that the price is lower if you buy directly from a private person. By purchasing from a known dealer or an auction house, you pay a premium to ensure the authenticity, which I highly recommend.

Certification of Authenticity (COA)

A rookie mistake is to trust a seller just because they say the item is accompanied by a Certification of Authenticity (also known as Letter of Authenticity, LOA). First of all, in the same way as people can forge an autograph with just a pen and paper, people can also print their own certifications. There are plenty of examples of worthless certifications. Not only regarding autographs but all kinds of collectibles. The more “fancy”, “expensive” and “serious” the certification looks, the more reliable it seems for people that don’t understand the meaning of a certification.

A Letter of Authenticity by PSA/DNA.

A good and trustworthy Certification of Authenticity is provided and signed by a serious source. Just like dealers and auction houses need to be well-known and respected to charge a premium for their items, certifications also need to be renowned to bring value. If you submit your autographs to third-party authenticators such as PSA/DNA, JSA, or Beckett, then there’s an autograph expert that will analyze the submitted autograph and then give their verdict if the item is authentic or not. If it’s Beatles autographs, then a music autograph expert will analyze the autograph. If it’s an Albert Einstein autograph, then a historical autograph expert will do the work. And that’s entirely reasonable. The three mentioned third-party authenticators are known to have top experts working for them; that’s why their Certification of Authenticity brings value to collectors. An autographed item with a PSA/DNA COA brings value to the item since it ensures authenticity and hence also brings a monetary value. And that’s why COAs are never for free. If you want a JSA COA, then you have to pay for it. Once you get the COA, your item will be worth more. So it’s a win-win. On the other hand, there’s always a slight, although minimum, that an item isn’t authentic, although it’s authenticated. The reason is simply human error. Everyone can make mistakes, even experts.

A Letter of Authenticity by Frank Caiazzo.

Alongside third-party authenticators, there are dealers (and auction houses) who also include their own COA with the items they sell. Those types of COAs can normally not be bought as you’d need to buy the item and get the COA with the item; such is the case with Tracks and Frank Caiazzo. Beatles autographs that are accompanied by a COA from either of them are, by collectors, more valuable than a COA from PSA/DNA, JSA, or Beckett. That’s because Tracks and Frank Caiazzo are specifically experts on Beatles autographs only, not autographs in general. Other examples of reliable COAs from dealers are Perry Cox and Roger Epperson, who are both music autographs experts.

Authentic Examples of Autographs by The Beatles

By analyzing authentic autographs by The Beatles, you’ll notice that their signatures changed during the ’60s. For a trained eye, it’s easy to tell if the autographs are from 1963 or 1968. There are even differences between 1964 and 1965. It may sound strange for us “normal” people who’ve had the same autograph ever since we signed our first driving license. But for people like The Beatles, who were on top of the world, and who went through different musical phases throughout the ’60s, and who also signed autographs every day, then it’s more reasonable for their autograph to slightly change year-to-year, compared to people who only sign their name maybe once a week or once a month.

From 1962 to 1970, the active years of the band as we know them with Ringo Starr as drummer, it’s fair to state that the person with the most consistent signature was Ringo Starr. Although his autograph, like the rest of the three band members, became more sloppy and nonchalant over the years, Starr’s autograph didn’t change much. As the images below show, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison had different types of structures in their autographs over the years. However, many typical features remained.

The images below show typical autograph sets from each year, from 1962 to 1969. The majority of all fully-signed sets by The Beatles are from 1963 and 1964. From then, it’s rarer for each year. With the possible exception that 1967 is slightly more common than 1966. To find fully signed sets from 1968 to 1970 is extremely rare because they seldom were together. Therefore, sets from 1968 and forward are often complications from different years; one autograph can be from 1968, one from 1969, one from 1974, etc. The value is highly reflected in rarity, which I’ll present further in the guide

The Beatles autographs from 1962 with Pete Best. (RR Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1962 with Ringo Starr. (Iconic Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1963. (RR Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1964. (RR Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1965. (RR Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1966. (Christie’s)

The Beatles autographs from 1967. (RR Auctions)

The Beatles autographs from 1968. (Autograph Magazine)

The Beatles autographs from 1969. (Autograph Magazine)

Secretarial and Auto-Pen The Beatles Autographs

Due to the high demand for autographs by their fans, The Beatles’ official fan club and representatives began giving out secretarial and auto-pen signatures. Although The Beatles themselves didn’t sign these autographs, they were thought to be authentic at the time. Today, there’s still a value in these types of sets. They are not considered fakes or forgeries for the simple reason that they were not originally sold but rather given out for free.

The most common variants are the auto-pen sets. These were not signed by a human hand but were printed on different kinds of photographs and cards. Below are three examples of the Beatles’ auto-pen autographs.

#1 Auto-pen set of The Beatles autographs. (The Daily Beatles)

#2 Auto-pen set of The Beatles autographs. (The Daily Beatles)

#3 Auto-pen set of The Beatles autographs. (The Daily Beatles)

The other example is the so-called secretarial autographs. This was very common with American Presidents and Hollywood stars. Fans and admirers around the world sent letters asking for an autograph, and in reply, they got a signed letter or photograph from a secretary or a representative.

In regards to Beatles autographs, it’s common to see Beatles autographs signed by The Beatles’ road managers Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. These autograph sets are hand-signed with real ink (or pencil) by Aspinall and Evans and were given to fans who asked for Beatles autographs while the band was on tour. Below are two signed sets, one signed in the hand of Neil Aspinall and one signed in the hand of Mal Evans.

Neil Aspinall set of The Beatles autographs. (Beatles Auctions)

Mal Evans set of The Beatles autographs. (Gotta Have Rock & Roll)

Value Guide of The Beatles Autographs

When looking at auction results for Beatles autographs, you’ll see a massive price range. Although it’s the same four autographs, signed by the same four people, a signed autograph set on a piece of paper can be worth $5,000, while a signed document or album can be worth $500,000.

By looking at the lower end, the cheapest authentic Beatles autograph set could cost you as low as $1,000. That could, for example, be autographs on a paper napkin, with the autographs being very faded and in overall bad condition. A more “normal” set would be a signed page in an autograph book. If the autographs were very clear and if the condition was overall good, the value would be in the $5,000 to $6,000 range. That is, if the autographs were from 1963-1964. If they were from 1968 or 1969, the value would be doubled. That’s simply due to rarity.

If we’d have a beautifully signed paper cut from 1964 in good condition, with Harrison adding “The Beatles”, then the value could be in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. If Lennon had written “Love from The Beatles” instead of Harrison, the value could be $10,000. The reason is that it would be more desirable for collectors. Another minor feature is if the autographs were in the famous order “John, Paul, George, and Ringo”. One could summarize that many details can impact the value.

Another scenario would be if those same autographs, again from 1964, were signed on a photograph, then the value could be in the $15,000 to $20,000 range; that is, if all the autographs are on the front side, not the backside. The same could be said about signed concert programs that usually have the same value as signed photographs. It’s all about eye appeal. A perfectly signed 1964 photograph, with bold autographs on an attractive photograph in good condition, could sell for $75,000. One example is the item below, which I sold for $45,000 in 2016. Today the value lay in the $75,000 range.

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1964. (Alexander Bitar History)

To bring up the value once again, we could imagine that those four autographs were on an album instead of a photograph. That’s even more desirable, and the price would be higher. Looking at the earlier albums, a fine fully-signed copy of “Please Please Me” from 1963 can sell in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, while a fully signed “A Hard Day’s Night Copy” from 1964 can trade in the $50,000. Those prices could be much higher if the example is exceptionally beautiful.

As you’ve probably understood by now, it’s difficult to put a value without knowing exactly what item it is. There are many factors that play a part in appraising Beatles autographs. Besides the most obvious question – are the autographs authentic? – you need to examine the following factors:

1) Does any paperwork, such as a COA, come with the item?

2) Is there any particular provenance that could affect the value?

3) Are all autographs signed in full name or just first name?

4) Are there any inscriptions? If yes, is it a sought-after inscription or something that makes the item look bad?

5) How is the condition of the signatures? Are they boldly signed, or are they faded?

6) What type of item are the signatures on? A cigarette pack, a page in an autograph book, a music album, etc.

7) How is the condition of the item? Is it in top condition or is it damaged with paper loss, bad corners, miscoloring, etc.

8) When were the autographs signed? Early 1960’s or late 1960’s?

9) Any rare features? E.g. is the item also signed by Elvis Presley, is the signed item something that also was worn or used by any of the members, is the item one-of-a-kind, etc.

10) Eye appeal. By the end of the day, even if it’s a very typical 1964 set signed on a paper cut, it could be very attractive if, let’s say, all four members signed with different pens, which makes the item almost like an artwork. If someone finds something attractive, then that someone may be able to place a higher bid. Notably, eye appeal could be very subjective, whilst all other factors above are more objective.

The Beatles Autographs – Hall of Fame

Occasionally, we can find super rare and highly impressive items that appear on the market. Below is, what I call, the Hall of Fame of Beatles autographs. A selected group of items that are truly remarkable and historically important. Note that it’s only items that are signed by The Beatles. In other words, I’ve not included memorabilia, such as John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E guitar, etc.

Lastly, my best piece of advice from a collector to other collectors is that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research, and hopefully, you’ll make good deals!

Signed “Sgt. Pepper” album by The Beatles, 1967. Sold for $290,000 in 2013. (Heritage Auctions)

Signed “The Beatles” album (“White Album”) by The Beatles, c. 1973. Sold for $223,000 in 2013. (Tracks)

Signed “Please Please Me” album by The Beatles, 1963. (Frank Caiazzo)

Signed “Yesterday and Today” album by The Beatles, c. 1971. Sold for $125,000 in 2017, and later sold in 2019 for $225,000. (Heritage Auctions)

Signed “Sgt. Pepper” inner sleeve by The Beatles, 1967. (Frank Caiazzo)

Signed managemnt agreement by The Beatles and Brian Epstein, 1960. Sold for $350,000 in 2019. (Sotheby’s)

Signed managemnt agreement by The Beatles and Brian Epstein, 1962. This contract extended the earlier management agreement from 1960. (Sotheby’s)

Signed document by The Beatles (including Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best), 1961. (RR Auctions)

Signed dissolution agreement by The Beatles, 1974. Sold for $118,000 in 2018. (Sotheby’s)

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1963. (Frank Caiazzo)

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1965. (Iconic Auctions)

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1965. (Iconic Auctions)

Signed photograph by The Beatles, 1965. (Christie’s)

Signed photograph by The Beatles, including handwritten setlist by McCartney and Harrison, 1963. (Gotta Have Rock & Roll)

Signed baseball by The Beatles, 1966. Sold for $100,000 in 2015. (Julien’s Auctions)

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The article is written by Alexander Bitar, an internationally acclaimed dealer of high-end collectibles, owner of Alexander Bitar History. Based in Stockholm and Beverly Hills, some of Alexander Bitar’s specialties are entertainment and historical memorabilia, vintage luxury watches, autographs, and important manuscripts.

4 comments so far

  1. Mary Botha Says:

    I have a signed glossy photo of all four Beatles with all four autographs from when they came to America and played at the Hollywood Bowl 64-65.
    On the back is the Beatles Fan Club information with locations in London listed. My brother was a Hollywood PD security for them that night & got the autographs for me. I was 13 years old then.

  2. Charles Pulsford Says:

    I have cards the size of baseball cards of individual autographs one on each , I have 5 Paul McCartney, 3 John Lennon, 1 Ringo Starr, and 1 George Harrison ….the Harrison photo is a little wrinkled…and the other ones are all in great condition…..the Autographs are very vivid and very legible……

  3. Ruth Blun Says:

    My brother in law was a builder. During the late 60s or early 70s, he was ripping out a wall when he came across five signed photos of the Beatles. One is a group shot (signed only by John Lennon). The others are individual shots (all the size of a baseball card), all individually signed. On the backs of all the photos are the words “ 39/20/07/52 or 26__ in a series of 60 photos”. Would love to know if these are legitimate?

  4. Angela Marshall Says:

    When I was 13 yrs old I wrote to Maureen Starkey wife of my favorite Beatle Ringo t thinking I would have a better opportunity to receive a response. I even sent a stamped self addressed envelope ( recommendation from an article titled “ How To Get An Answer From Your Favorite Star” In a National Teen magazine)
    Maureen wrote me back, and I am sure the letter is authentic from her. I took my chance and wrote her again. The second time she sent me a post card size autograph picture which I wanted to believe was real, but now know it is signed by an autograph machine. My husband framed both pieces for me, and although the picture is a near autograph, I still have my letter from Mo and the memory. This was 1964. I was blessed to see a the Beatles perform on both their USA tours in 1964 and 1966, I have seen Sir Paul McCartney 8 times in concert and Ringo and his All Starr Band 3 times. Each time is like the best. Always waiting for their next tour in our town! I am 73 yrs old and the boys keep me young! 😀❤️

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