The autograph memorabilia industry is a billion-dollar business, and for good reason. People are willing to pay a premium for autographs of their favorite celebrities and historical figures for a variety of reasons, but for many, it's about having a piece of history personally autographed by that famous person in question. But some "autographs" are not autographed by the actual person, but by something called an "autopen machine." These autopen autographs are a source of controversy for collectors, with many considering an autopen autograph not to be worth as much as an autograph signed by the actual person. Enter Donald Trump and the controversy surrounding autographed items he offered on his website during his campaign.
Over the course of President-elect Trump's campaign, a massive amount of money was raised through "donations" in which autographed hats and autographed copies of Trump's book The Art Of The Deal, were made available on the website for purchase. Many people purchased the items, which were heavily advertised by Donald Trump himself on social media during his campaign, with the belief that Donald Trump himself signed them. But now, it appears that Trump didn't sign any of the items made available for sale on the site, and that the signatures were done by an autopen machine.
When a customer was prompted to the checkout portion of the site to buy their Donald Trump "signed" hat, there was a disclosure made in fine print that read. "Limited supply of hats which include an autopenned Donald J. Trump signature." The disclosure portion for the books contained a similar statement during checkout. But many people who purchased the items with the intent to sell admit that they didn't read the fine print, and have changed their mind on reselling the items as a result of what they know about the use of the autopen.
The fine print disclosure on the website was the only indication that any person buying the "autographed" items were given that the item's signature was done by autopen. When the person received the item, the packaging that was included with the hats when they were shipped described the items as an "official signed hat."
On the website, the hats ranged in price from $125 to $243, and some were resold on eBay for over $500 prior to the news of the use of the autopen. Now, some buyers and sellers are looking for their money back.
A lawyer for Donald Trump, and the company who manufactured the hats, Ace Specialties, located in Louisiana, have not released a statement regarding the autopen situation.