INSIGHTS: Agatha Christie Autographed Collectibles
Autographed items continue to be highly collectible and come in four main categories: A standalone signature, a signed typed letter, a signed autographed (hand-written) letter and signed books. While each one is unique, letters in particular can be highly desirable especially when they provide personal insights and opinions of Agatha Christie. Knowing recent sales prices realized will inform bidders as to where the market current is in these collectibles. In this article we focus on these non-book signed items. We discuss key terms to be familiar with as well as providing examples of recently sold signatures and signed letters. At the end of the article, we show two items coming up for sale at auction in the International Autograph Auction slated for 12 & 13 July 2022 are shown. Bidders should remember that the hammer price is often only 60-70% of the final price once the buyer’s premium and any regional taxes are added. Always read the auction house’s terms for a full understanding of what these extra costs may be.
The world of autograph collecting has a few acronyms and terms collectors should be familiar with. The most important ones are as follows:
ALS: Autograph Letter Signed (hand-written and signed by same individual)
APCS: Autograph Postcard Signed (hand-written and signed by same individual)
LS: Letter Signed (hand-written by someone else, but signed by the individual sought to be collected, frequently handwritten by secretaries before the advent of the typewriter)
PS or SP: Photograph Signed or Postcard Signed
TLS: Typed Letter Signed
Examples of Recently Sold Items:
All items below are quoted in Euros. To convert: £1 UK = €1.10 = $1.25 US = $1.75 AUST. Sales occured at the International Autograph Auctions Europe - the largest global specialist in this field.
TLS: Hammer Price: €1,050. A good T.L.S., Agatha Christie, one page, 8vo, Wallingford, Berkshire, 30th June 1971, to Mrs. Hastings-Wells. Christie states that she found her correspondent's letter 'very refreshing' and continues 'Maureen Summerhayes is one of my favourite characters. Everyone was maddened by her but everybody liked her!', further writing 'I think your luncheon at the Army & Navy Stores was a very original choice. Our usual one, as far as I can remember, was roast beef and cherry tart and 1/2lb of chocolate coffee creams accompanied us afterwards to a matinee!'. With blank integral leaf. Accompanied by the original envelope. VG.
CC Comments: A highly appealing letter, referencing a character from one of her books. Maureen Summerhayes was the landlady of the dilapidated guesthouse Long Meadows in Christie's Mrs. McGinty's Dead (1952). Having the envelope significantly adds to the provenance and authenticity.
TLS: Hammer Price: €850. An interesting T.L.S., Agatha Christie Mallowan, (the latter part of her signature repeated, seemingly in the interests of clarity as the initial Mallowan became somewhat cramped and illegible owing to available space on the page), two pages, 8vo, Churston Ferrers, South Devon, 18th September 1967, to Mrs. Benjamin Franklin in Kansas. Christie states 'I am much flattered that I am the only mystery writer you will read!', and continues, 'I am amused to hear that you bought a copy of ''They came to Baghdad'' in Baghdad, as I rather imagined it was the only place they did not stock it, because of references to beggars and someone spitting in the street!', further discussing their mutual interest in collecting Stevengraphs'.
CC Comments: This letter provides a quote from Christie we’ve now restated in numerous articles we’ve written - Collecting things is a great bond, isn't it?'.
Signature only with TL: Hammer Price: €320. Blue fountain pen ink signature ('Agatha Christie') on a card. Accompanied by a T.L.S. by a representative of the copyright agents Hughes Massie & Co. Ltd., one page, 8vo, Fleet Street, London, 27th March 1951, to Peter Wiener, stating that they are handling Christie's correspondence while she is abroad and sending the autograph. VG.
CC Comments: Assuming this was the signature that was sent, the letter provides excellent provenance and is appealing in its own right given it comes from her agent and references her travels abroad.
ALS: Hammer Price: €1,100. A good A.L.S., Agatha Christie, one page, 8vo, Wallingford, Berkshire, 2nd April n.y., to Michael Underwood. Christie writes a letter of praise to her correspondent, in full, 'I must just write and tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your book Reward for a Defector. Having waded through various library books sent me by Harrods library and being bored to death by them - yours came along - and it really was great fun. Don't bother to answer this - it's just a tribute'. One extremely minor, very small rust stain to the upper edge, VG.
CC Comments: This is a highly desirable letter with its connectin to the Detection Club (Michael Underwood served as President) and its personal insights.
ALS: Hammer Price: €1,200. An excellent A.L.S., Agatha Christie Mallowan, two pages, 8vo, Wallingford, Berkshire, 12th December n.y. (c.1964) to Richard Attenborough ('Dear Dickie'). Christie writes a letter of praise, announcing 'I've just got to write to say that I am bursting with admiration! You really are the TOPS as an actor', adding that the film was wonderful ('the best I've seen for ages and you were superb in it') and that she has also just seen The Third Secret and 'that wonderful character study of the little art dealer - half frightening, half pathetic' and further remarking on his superb portrayal of the husband of a medium in a film, the name of which escapes her, 'but it will be a long time before I forget you in it'. A letter of fine content and good association. One very small, extremely minor stain just affects a few letters of the conclusion of the signature, VG.
CC Comments: A wonderful letter given that Richard Attenborough was one of the original cast members in the West End stage production of Christie's The Mousetrap which opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1952.
Upcoming Items at Auction:
Lot 724: Vintage dark fountain pen ink signature ('Agatha Christie') on a small, slim oblong 12mo piece. Laid down and with some very slight, minor wrinkling. About VG. Estimate €150 - €200.
CC Comments: A simple signature is the basic entry point for signed items and is priced accordingly. At least it appears to have the right characteristics to be authentic.
Lot 725: A brief T.L.S., Agatha Christie, one page, 8vo, Wallingford, Berkshire, 8th May 1966, to the Rev. Dr. William Wray. Christie encloses two autographs (no longer present) as requested by her correspondent. Some light creasing and a very minor paperclip rust stain, about VG. Estimate €200 - €300.
CC Comments: A letter such as this provides no insights or commentary from Christie, and so while more collectible than a simple signature, items such as this will always be relatively affordable. However, the signed letter is certainly more valuable that the signatures it accompanied given the letterhead. Christie undoubtedly received many letters like this where people requested autographs. I always wonder if Christie realized she actually provided three autographs when she signed the letter too!
Provenance and Authenticity:
We recently wrote a detailed article to assist collectors in making their own judgement as to the validity of the item for sale. Signed books are the most commonly forged items, so Christie collectors need to be especially vigilant when buying one. Standalone forged signatures are also fairly common. It is unusual to find forged TLS and very uncommon to find a forged ALS because the significant amount of effort it would take. For our full article on this topic, click here.
As the examples show and the estimates illustrate, the current market value of signatures and signed letters appears to be as follows for authentic items. Clearly the content of the letter will have a substantial impact on value. Thus the larger estimated price range when present. Note, if buying at auction, the range below assumes all costs are factored in:
Standalone signature on a slip of paper: £150-250 ($200 - 325 US).
Typed Letter Signed (no unique content): £200 – 300 ($275 – 400 US).
Typed Letter Signed (with unique content): £500 – 1,000 ($650 – 1,300 US).
Autographed Letter Signed (no unique content): £300 – 500 ($400 – 650 US).
Autographed Letter Signed (with unique content): £700 – 1,500 ($900 – 2,000 US).