Collecting Advice

On this page:
General Information
SRV Guitar Picks
SRV Autographs
Other Scams
“Stevie’s” Guitars
Framing and Preserving You Collection

It is “buyer beware” in the collectible market. The value of memorabilia, and the ease of moving merchandise in internet auctions has turned fans into victims of criminal forgers and mass merchandisers of shoddy and illegal material. You should be careful with autographs in particular (see below) and concert posters, many of which have been reproduced in large quantities. Use some common sense – if something should be rare, and there are a lot of them on the market, you may be looking at a reproduction rather than an original. As for other memorabilia, if it isn’t a licensed (authorized) product, don’t count on quality. I’m not even going to get into the morass which is the bootleg market. If you shell out money for bootlegs, be prepared to be disappointed or flat ripped off. I do not offer bootleg audio or video for sale, nor do I tell people where to get them, so please don’t ask.

For a few pointers on caring for and preserving your collectibles, scroll to the bottom of this page. The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan includes a chapter of my tips on collecting memorabilia, information on known counterfeits and forgeries, and hundreds of color photos of SRV collectibles. 


By “fake” I mean picks which were not ordered by Stevie between 1983-1990. Internet sellers may simply describe their merchandise as a “Stevie Ray Vaughan pick,” but that could mean any number of things. In mid-2000, fake SRV picks began flooding the market. It is not my intention to accuse, but merely to report my experience in researching SRV picks for over 25 years. Beware of the following fake picks which may be deceptively advertised, leading you to believe they were Stevie’s picks:

Solid white, blue, red, black or green picks with his full name in gold print. These fake picks have been common in internet auctions. Stevie had solid white, blue and red picks, so this area of SRV collecting is now very treacherous. Stevie did not have black or green picks.

White picks with black letters reading “STEVIE RAY” (no last name) are fake. 

Picks with a picture or graphic printed on them are definitely recent “novelty” picks. These include any picks with a photo, silhouette, dates, “tribute” picks with various caricatures of Stevie and slogans such as “soul to soul” etc. Some are allegedly printed in 24k gold lettering.

Picks where the “i” in “STEViE” is a lowercase or dotted “i” while all the other letters are uppercase. The picks I have seen are solid blue and solid red, but there may be other colors. 

Any picks bearing only “SRV” initials. A tribute band in Florida in the early 1990’s had some “SRV” picks made. Stevie did not have picks with his initials.

Yellow picks with gold lettering and red picks with silver lettering are apparently being made now. The yellows are bogus. How the new red picks differ from genuine red picks, I don’t know because I’ve haven’t seen them up close.

If you have a Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar pick, tortoise shell color with full name in gold lettering on two lines, please contact me with details on where the pick came from. I am trying to determine whether these picks were made before or after Stevie died. Contact with an employee of Stevie’s suggests these picks are fake.

In late 2002, fake multi-color SRV picks started appearing on internet auctions. The gold lettering is thicker than on the originals. For many years the multi’s were among the safest bets for genuine picks, but now virtually all the styles have been bootlegged.

In 2003 I started seeing purple picks with white lettering that are fake. There are genuine purple and white picks, but they are easily distinguished.

In the Fall of 2003 yellow picks with “Stevie Ray Vaughan” appeared. They are fake.

In early 2004 dark purple picks with gold lettering started appearing, originally in England I think. They are fake.

In August 2006 another fake pick began circulating on internet auctions. The one I saw was white with gold lettering, and the lettering is not straight. It looks like it was hand-stamped or otherwise home-made. I am not aware of any of Stevie’s picks having lettering that was so severely crooked. 

December 2006 – red picks with huge silver, off-center letters. “Vaughan” barely fits on the pick the letters are so big.


Forged autographs are so prevalent that I need to recreate the page I had on the old website regarding forgeries. Fans ask if I can recommend a reputable seller of SRV autographs. Other than me, no. There is not a single autograph retail store in the country that I would trust outright. Why? Because most of them are not experts. They buy from suppliers who may be forgers, work with forgers or don’t know what they have is fake. I am not suggesting any particular dealer sells forged autographs. I am saying what is well known — the autograph market is a cesspool.


Other known fakes which have been on the market:
 – at least two black hats, one signed in gold paint pen, each sold for $5,000 through major auction houses; each proved fake and money refunded.
 – the pickguard from Number One, allegedly signed by Stevie and Jimmie on the back – fake. The last I heard, a dealer in England was trying to sell this even after I informed them that it was fake and where the real one is.
 – two-page setlist from Stevie’s last show at Alpine Valley, each page sold separately in major auctions – fake.
 – guitars allegedly in photos of Stevie – at least two instances of a guitar being digitally inserted into a photo of Stevie and then the guitar being passed off as one of Stevie’s guitars. Fake. Analyze even photographic proof very carefully.
 – and of course fake guitar picks which now litter the internet.
 – illegal and unauthorized merchandise also litters the internet: ash trays, mugs, flasks, photographs, bootlegs, etc.
 – posters, particularly Syria Mosque, Fitzgeralds, Tipitina’s, w/ Stray Cats, basically 99% of the concert (distinguish promotional) posters on eBay are all copies or fictional.
 – almost all the backstage passes in internet auctions are fake, and many are not even copies of real passes but are just “fictional” artwork made in the shape of a backstage pass.


Guitars show up often on the internet with someone claiming it was Stevie’s. While it is true Stevie had a lot of guitars, evidence of him giving away guitars is exceptionally rare. Here is just one story of the lengths to which one criminal went. BEWARE because this guitar is still out there and shows up for sale every few years.
On April 1, 2003, someone listed a Fender Strat for auction on eBay, alleging that it was owned and used by Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was signed in gold paint pen, and had “COBRAS” in small mailbox letters on the pickguard. The starting price was $125,000. 
I purchased this same guitar from a major auction house in New York in 1995 (which later refunded my money). The guitar came with two pieces of documentation which purported to authenticate it: (1) a full page handwritten letter, supposedly in Stevie’s hand, describing the history of the guitar and the circumstances of it passing to a man in Essex Junction, Vermont. The letter stated that Stevie obtained the guitar from a member of the Cobras in the 1970’s, and that it had been used on stage the night the man got it in 1990, among other things. (2) A short handwritten note from Rene Martinez about the guitar, dated 1994.
I personally contacted that Cobras band member who stated that he never owned this guitar, and never transferred it to Stevie by sale or gift. He also stated that he and Stevie’s brother do not believe the handwriting is Stevie’s. Rene Martinez stated he did not believe this was Stevie’s guitar, he did not recall any transfer of a guitar from Stevie to anyone while on tour that night, and that he never marked guitars he worked on in the fashion this guitar was marked inside the neck cavity. I personally compared the note purported to be in Rene’s hand with a known genuine example of his handwriting, and it did not match.
On January 26, 1997, the man finally admitted to me on the phone that the guitar was not played on stage the night he got it “from Stevie” in 1990, despite “Stevie’s” handwriting saying he did. 
On January 29, 1997, the auction house stated, “As a result of the substantial issues which have been raised with regard to the authenticity of this guitar, [we] will rescind the sale.” My money was refunded in full.
I met the man who consigned the guitar, then from Vermont and now believed to be in the UK, and spoke with him on the phone on several occasions. It is my opinion that on at least one occasion between 1987 and 1990 he met Stevie and probably obtained at least one autograph from him. I have seen a photo of the man and Stevie together. It is possible that the autograph on this guitar is genuine, but due to other circumstances which I will not go into here, it is my opinion that it is not. 
I spoke with a subsequent owner of the guitar. He says he has no connection to the previous owners. After listening to what I had to say, he closed the auction. The guitar showed up again at a Guernsey’s auction some years later, and despite the evidence I provided them, and being told the guitar would be pulled, they reported it sold after the auction.

This is just one more reason why you need to be very careful buying collectibles. Apparently, I was not the only one who was ripped off regarding this guitar. The same forger is suspected of creating other handwritten letters supposedly in Stevie’s hand, a signed black hat from Texas Hatters, a pick guard alleged to be off Number One, another guitar purported to be Stevie’s, a two-page set list alleged to have been from Alpine Valley, and other items.


I am often asked whether a certain item or small collection should be “insured.” Many times the question is actually about value, not insurance. As stated elsewhere on this website, I do not make free appraisals unless the item was purchased from me. This section assumes you have some kind of insurance, because if you don’t, then obviously you need insurance.
I am not an expert on insurance. My advice is, talk to your agent, whether you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. If you don’t understand your policy, make them explain it until you do – it’s their job and responsibility to you.
My understanding, not to be substituted for professional advice from your agent, is that you need to make sure your collectibles are covered for market value, as opposed to replacement cost. Replacement cost coverage is for things like your clothes or TV or furniture. If you have a suit that is stolen, the replacement cost may be $300 for a new suit. If the suit you lost formerly belonged to Stevie Ray Vaughan or some other celebrity, getting a new $300 suit is not likely to make you feel adequately reimbursed for your loss.
Critical to your success in proving any claim if you suffer a loss of your property is proving what you had. You need clear photographs or scans of your collectibles which show condition and any other important factor affecting value. For example, if you have a book that is autographed on the title page, you better have a photo of the autograph, not just the book. It is important to keep your proof someplace other than where the insured items are. If you lose your collection in a fire, it won’t do you any good to have had great proof that burned, too. I suggest not keeping your proof in your computer either, as that is a prime target for thieves. Put your proof on a disc or other media, and keep it in a safe deposit box. Or, keep one copy at your office or relative’s house, and another copy someplace else safe.
The next thing you need to ascertain about your insurance is whether there are limitations or exclusions based on the type of collectible or its market value. For example, jewelry, coins and some other things are special categories. Make sure you understand the insurance company’s definition of “jewelry.” I have been told that “jewelry” only includes items which have gold or precious stones, and consequently, a necklace made of silver and turquoise is not “jewelry” for insurance exclusions. Your policy may differ. Also, some policies may limit coverage to a certain dollar amount either per item, per collection or per loss. If an item is over a certain value, you may have to “schedule” it, meaning you have to declare and describe it specifically and separately and pay an additional premium amount.
The final insurance topic I will attempt to sketch is specialized vs homeowner’s insurance. After talking at length with a collectibles insurance company and a homeowner’s insurance agent, I finally got them both to say the same thing: collectibles may be covered under a homeowner’s policy for market value, meaning I do not “need” another company to insure memorabilia. HOWEVER, in the event of a loss, a company which specializes in collectibles insurance will probably process the claim more quickly and easily than a standard homeowner’s insurance company because the specialists are used to dealing with market value of collectibles. Your standard insurance company is more likely to be more difficult to satisfy regarding market value of items they are not used to dealing with. In either case, it is a good idea to have a third-party expert prepare an appraisal for you if you have a significant collection. Who is an expert? Someone whose experience and knowledge qualifies him/her to provide convincing testimony about the market value of your collection – someone you would want to speak on your behalf to a claims adjuster or court.


A professional framer, art conservator or restoration expert should be consulted. I am not an expert, though I have framing training and experience. The most important advice I can give you is to seek out a framer or other art professional who has some professional training in conservation. Unfortunately, your average framer down the street probably knows little more than mechanical basics, and virtually nothing about conservation or museum-quality work. I’ve had mechanically excellent, creative framers destroy the value of some of my rare collectibles by using improper mounting techniques which are hidden inside the frame. In one case, I instructed a framer not to use any type of adhesive or glue to mount a rare album cover in a museum quality frame (not a difficult project for a quality framer). Years later, when I started doing my own framing, I took the frame apart and discovered that he had used glue on the back of the cover. Instead of being worth $10,000 – $15,000, it was worth maybe $2500. The framer is long gone now, of course.
The bare minimum to conserve valuable paper items is to insist on the use of acid-free materials whether you are putting things in a scrapbook, a frame or a storage box or tube. This includes acid-free, removable tape, mats, backing materials and other mounting devices. If you are putting small items in a scrapbook, you can buy acid-free paper and a box of acid-free mounting corners so that there is no adhesive or glue applied to the item.
If you are going to hang something on the wall, you need to use UV glass which filters up to 98% of harmful ultraviolet light (“ultraviolent” light). These materials will cost you a little more, but if you want to preserve an item and its value, it’s the only way to go. You need to keep valuable items out of direct sunlight at all costs, and even the light from ordinary light bulbs will fade colors. (Today’s technology may offer safer lighting options.) The Dallas Hard Rock Cafe had Stevie’s handwritten lyrics to “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” in a frame, but over the years, we watched as the ink faded completely off the paper. By the time they finally took it off the wall you couldn’t really tell what the words were anymore. The manager said “We don’t have the money to do conservation framing on the thousands of items we buy.” Think about the Hard Rock destroying historic artifacts the next time you consider buying their food or souvenirs.
Another easy and inexpensive way to prevent some of the damage from sunlight is to put UV film on your windows. You can get UV film at places like Home Depot or on the internet if you can’t find them in your local stores. Note: a fan commented that UV film on your windows can have an adverse effect on house plants. UV rays are good for plants, bad for collectibles. Even with UV film on windows, your collectibles are still at risk of fading however. Black-out shades and proper lighting may help.
NEVER dry mount or laminate anything which is valuable or may be valuable in the future. Not only do these processes destroy at least 75% of the value of an item, but many dry mounters trim the edges of the item in the process, even further destroying the value. I once purchased a rare SRV poster which was framed; the seller assured me the poster was not mounted, but was loose in the frame. When I took the frame apart, sure enough it was mounted to cheap acidic cardboard, reducing the value from $300-400 down to about $50.
Never alter the original aspect of a piece. Qualified appraisers will tell you that even an autograph on a piece which was not originally autographed may actually decrease the value. For example, I have a copy of B.B. King’s first 78 rpm record from 1949. When I got him to autograph the label, it actually reduced the value to a segment of the market. Most would think the autograph increased the value, but not the most serious collectors. 
Placing photos and paper items in plastic sheet protectors may cause damage, particularly to the old thermal fax paper. I’m told the plastic will accelerate the disappearance of the ink on that type of paper. Of course, anytime you seal something in plastic (or have glass touching the item) you risk damage from condensation. Some sheet protectors are better than others – at a minimum make sure it is acid-free, and that it will not lift the ink off paper.
Textiles (clothing) should be stored folded (or better yet, rolled) and in acid-free boxes or other containers as opposed to on hangers. Over time, hanging the item or having it on a mannequin will stretch or deform the item because of its own weight.
Remember that light, adhesives and materials containing acid (ordinary cardboard and papers) are your artwork’s enemy.