Provenance is a fancy word that refers to an object's history, or who owned the object, when and where. Provenance is to an autograph what a deed trail is to a piece of land. The provenance of autographs often carries with it great importance. Documented evidence of provenance for an autograph can help to establish that it has not been altered and is not a forgery or a reproduction. The quality of provenance of an autograph can make a considerable difference to its selling price in the market; this is affected by the degree of certainty of the provenance, and the status of past owners as collectors. People want to know if something was autographed and touched by a great man or woman. People want some of the gilt from the past to rub off on them. That's why it matters so much. Provenance that leads back to not only the great names of the past but also to great collectors also has value. In most cases COA's are probably worthless. If a seller is consciously selling forgeries he will feel no shame also issuing bogus certificates. The key to the authenticity of any autograph if you did not actually obtain it yourself is traceable provenance. If traceable provenance has gone cold or been forgotten the buyer relies solely on the expertise of the seller. Holograms are useful to match an item with a certificate to ensure the autograph has not been tampered with. However they are no proof that the original autograph is authentic. In truth a COA is only as good as the issuer. It is NO guarantee in itself of authenticity. Its main purpose is to act as a reassurance to the buyer and a record of where purchase was made. Most COA’s would not stand much scrutiny. Indeed some of the worlds best known Dealers do not even issue them, preferring to simply reimburse the customer if at anytime they express any sort of dissatisfaction with their purchase. Reputation is far more important and litigation is always messy and confrontational.
Clark Gesner was a composer and lyricist whose defining success was the 1967 smash You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Mr. Gesner (1938-2002) began collecting in 1956 when he obtained the autograph of Clark Gable. From there, he built a collection of more than 10,000 autographs. He obtained the autographs in person, from autograph dealers , or by mail. Mr. Gesner was a well-known collector and shared his collection with Brooklyn Heights area churches, schools, senior citizen groups and other organizations. I have 20 more documents from his estate.