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Autograph Abbreviations

What do all those funny autograph abbreviations mean?

We autograph dealers are often asked, “What do all those funny autograph abbreviations, such as ALS and DS, mean?”  It is easy to understand if you picture yourself alive many years ago and good friends with a prominent person, say President Franklin D. Roosevelt…

Imagine you come home one day and find an envelope with “The White House” in the upper left corner.  You carefully open it, and inside you find a fully handwritten letter from President Roosevelt, signed at the bottom “Franklin D. Roosevelt.”  Congratulations – you own an example of an ALS or Autograph Letter Signed.  The “Autograph” means that the piece is completely written in Roosevelt’s hand, the “Letter” describes it as a letter (as opposed to a document or photograph), and the “Signed” means that he affixed his name to the conclusion.

Now, imagine you come home and find that same White House envelope with a communication signed by President Roosevelt.  If his secretary has handwritten the body of the letter and the President has just signed it, that would be an LS or Letter Signed.  If his secretary has typed the body of the letter and Roosevelt has signed it, you would own a TLS or Typed Letter Signed.

If you come home one day and find inside that White House envelope a signed check from President Roosevelt, you have in your hands a DS or Document Signed.  “Documents” can include checks, contracts, and legal or governmental forms.  If President Roosevelt had completely handwritten the check, including the date, the recipient and the amount, that would constitute an ADS or Autograph Document Signed.

If that Roosevelt check were accompanied with a short handwritten message from the President stating, “Here’s the money I owe you - Franklin D. Roosevelt,” that would constitute an ANS or Autograph Note Signed.  “Notes” are shorter than letters and often lack a formal greeting or conclusion. 

If you find in that White House envelope a handwritten page of Roosevelt’s famous “A date that will live in infamy” speech about Pearl Harbor, you would be holding an AM or Autograph Manuscript.  If the President also autographed the speech, then you would own an AMS or Autograph Manuscript Signed.

Imagine you find a large White House envelope with a “DO NOT BEND” sticker on it in your letterbox.  When you open it, you discover a beautiful image of the President signed on the bottom “Franklin D. Roosevelt.”  What you have in your hand is a PS or Photograph Signed.  If, however, the President wrote, “To [fill in your name] my best friend in the world and the person to whom I owe all my political success, Best wishes Franklin D. Roosevelt,” that would be an IPS or Inscribed Photograph Signed.

If you receive in the mail a heavy box from the White House and you find, when you open it, a tome signed by the President, that would be an SB or Signed Book.

Finally, if you open the White House envelope that you find in your letterbox and pull out a piece of paper with “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt” handwritten and signed by the President, that would constitute an AQS or Autograph Quotation Signed.

For a more detailed discussion of the terms used in autograph collecting, click here.

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