Tolkien Collector's Guide
Tolkien Signatures on eBay???
By Jlong

Tolkien Signatures on eBay???

Oct 30, 2009

I found these on eBay: ... tible?hash=item439b157213 ... tible?hash=item439b156322

Personally, I am REALLY skeptical about the Lewis book signed by Tolkien. It is a well known fact that Tolkien hated The Chronicles of Narnia. Why would he sign a book he didn't like? And the fact that Lewis signed it makes it even more suspicious in my mind. At this time (1958 or later), Tolkien and Lewis were not close at all. If these signatures are authentic, which I highly doubt, this book is indeed one of the rarest items I've ever seen. I've never seen a Lewis book signed by Tolkien, and I think I've seen only one item signed by both Lewis and Tolkien, but it was also signed by a number of the other Inklings as well. Moreover, this book is also an ex-library copy, which also seems odd to me given the signatures.

The Higgins letter is the 4th I've seen so far; I think all of them originally appeared on eBay at different times but are now being sold as a collection for a lot more money:

I am skeptical about these "Higgins" letters because they are all very similar in look, none of them have dates, and their content is extremely vague. Not to mention the fact that if this person was really as close to the Tolkiens as the other letters seem to suggest, someone should have heard of him before. He is not mentioned in the C & G Reader's Guide.

I would like to hear what Pieter, Wayne, Christina, or anyone else thinks about these rather strange eBay items.
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Nov 17, 2009
I don't really need to have Dr Higglns' existence to be confirmed - looking at the letter on ebay, and taking into account Wayne and Christina's excellent analysis, I don't believe Tolkien wrote it. That goes for the three letters at Allingtons, too.

As to whether it's a fake: I saw an interesting item on the Antiques Roadshow the other day. An expert was explaining the difference between a fake and a forgery. In his words, a fake is something which already exists and is altered to seem to be something it's not, whereas a forgery is something which is made to deceive.

To give an example of a fake in Tolkien terms, there was the case of a so-called 'signed copy' of TH which Christina Scull wrote of in her article 'Sophisticated Tolkien: Or, the Integrity of the Book'. (Tolkien Collector 23, p.23). The vendor described the book as having Tolkien's signed bookplate. In fact, the 'signature' looked as if it had been cut from one of the pamphlets from Tolkien's library. A Fake - something made up to look like something it's not.

On the other hand, the 'Higgins' letter which we're discussing seems to me to have been made in order to deceive; and I have no hesitation in believing it to be a forgery. Just my opinion.

As for the ones for sale at Allingtons: I've no doubt they're a reputable dealer, who bought the letters in good faith. But even the best of us make mistakes sometimes.
Nov 17, 2009
Hello Collector, and welcome to the forums!

Sorry to have been in lurk mode for the past few months (on my own website, no less!) but I am very happy that everyone has kept busy.

This has been a great conversation so far. I am hoping Collector can share some additional information or background on why you think these letters are real - have you seen the letters in person? Have you had a handwriting expert (Tolkien signature specialist) look at these particular letters?

A few of these specialist/experts have weighed in on these forums already, all on the "forgery" side of the fence. Anything helping to move the needle back towards "real" would be helpful if you can provide solid information.

Thanks all!
Nov 18, 2009
Also, we have seen other reputable auction houses selling "supposed" Tolkien letters before. I think we all remember the infamous "moon-lather" letter that was being sold by Bloomsbury Auctions:

If the collectors on this site wouldn't have identified that as a forgery, it would have almost certainly sold at auction.

Collector, I still have yet to see any evidence put forth about this Higgins fellow.
Nov 18, 2009
Perhaps, collector, you are unwilling to divulge your (secret) sources on a website; particularly one you are unfamiliar with. Fine.

However in your very first post on this forum you've rudely dismissed another's opinion (Jlong, the author of this thread) stating: "if you are sceptical about these "Higgins" you have not too much idea about Tolkien’s life." And later, seemingly at everyone who has posted, and who you do not agree with: "In order to know if a Tolkien signature is original you must do a very deep study on it, any other opinion are very frivolous."

There is a valid argument that some may be less concerned about provenance than others. Everyone and anyone are perfectly entitled to purchase or collect anything baring a Tolkien signature, in the absence of any provenance, purely on "gut instinct". However signature detail aside (something nobody here is really talking about; yourself included collector), there is (claimed) provenance in this case. This is what is under discussion here; this is what is suspect; and this is when you have to avoid looking like a complete buffoon by petulantly dismissing probably the most experienced & qualified experts/scholars in this regard alive today in the field of Tolkien Studies!

Findegil (Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull) state: "We too have significant doubts about the "Higgins" letters. We've seen no evidence of Higgins, as Tolkien's doctor, friend, or otherwise, outside of the letters offered on eBay." This remark alone carries great weight and should not be lightly dismissed, unless other evidence (which you are very certain of) is known to you to support your (implied) counter claim(s). (Which you have made no effort to explain or justify.)

To make clear collector: Hammond & Scull have published the most comprehensive biography of Tolkien (Companion & Guide) to date. Far more than merely a biography, it is a mine of information; much derived from unpublished material. In The Lord of the Rings 1954-2004, Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder, Hammond fleshes out at some length (in his excellent paper Special Collections in the Services of Tolkien Studies) the unique access he and Scull have had to unpublished Tolkien material. (Although this is not the purpose of the paper.)

To give you a flavour: "...Christina and I are among the few scholars ever to examine the whole of the backs of the Marquette Tolkien Papers..." Not only do Hammond & Scull have intimate knowledge of Tolkien Collections both in America (Marquette University Library) and the UK (Bodleian Library), but they have had access to archives at HarperCollins that few have.

Their studies have involved the minute and painstaking examination of Tolkien's handwriting (not properly under discussion here; but they state, in regard to the signatures "with these too, though, we have our doubts") & the mining of all conceivable sources for information about, and pertaining, to Tolkien's life. Add to this the fact that (collectively) they probably have one of the largest Tolkien collections in private hands (at least in the US; and probably excepting, only, the Swiss family who have been purportedly amassing a huge collection of rare Tolkien books; bankrolling it with large sums of money) & have been collecting for many years; and you have two people I'd (personally) listen carefully to.

If you do not feel that their comments (and the comments of other not inconsiderable contributors to this site) carry any weight -then so be it. You are unlikely to receive any friendly discussion tho'. (And, to add to this, you have discussed very little anyway.)

Nov 18, 2009
Hello All
I have just found a photo of the 'other' letter i was offered by the 'Higgins' letter seller to Hooper.

At first it looks ok and ties in well with letter 291 in Tolkiens letters. But i notice the D in Dear is in capital whereby i thought Tolkien used a lower case in such context. Also the writer writes as is Lewis is alive ?

Am i analysing too much ? Comments appreciated for guidance in future.


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Nov 18, 2009
Look like another wrong 'un to me.
Nov 18, 2009
Again, regardless of what anyone might say about the authenticity of the signature or content, this letter just seems too similar to the Higgins letters. All of these letters have similar paper, similar bold black signatures, and all contain rather similar signs of aging.

If the Hooper of this letter is, in fact, Walter Hooper, I imagine that he is probably the best authority on this letter, considering he is still alive. If it was never sent to him, as I imagine that is going to be the story, the provenance of the letter is certainly questionable.

It also seems noteworthy that although the Higgins letters look exactly like this Hooper one, at least one of the Higgins letters was not composed around the same time. This letter was purportedly written in 1966 and one of the Higgins letters mentions Edith's death, so at the earliest, it was written in 1971. This doesn't necessarily mean the letters aren't authentic, but it seems rather strange given the similar look of the letters.

Well, those are my initial thoughts.
Nov 19, 2009
I think that everyone (except for collector) is on the same page regarding the dubious authenticity of these Higgins/Hooper letters. Like others have posted, if Wayne and Christina have doubts, it's hard not to take those doubts very seriously indeed. I'm sure that they have forgotten more about Tolkien than I will ever know. That collector isn't aware of the high regard that their opinions are held in, suggests that he (or she) needs to do some study in the area.

However, other people's options aside, there is just no logic to the existence of these letters. It just makes no sense to me that Tolkien would write all these letters to different people at different times, using the same typewriter and paper, signed in the same pen and ink, and then not bother to post any of them (and have them all age in the same rather 'forced' way). It's definitely not impossible, but it is certainly highly improbable.

On a related subject, we often see certificates of authenticity from so-called "experts" coming along with these kinds of items. Am I the only person that considers these to be completely and utterly worthless? For me, the only thing that can really provide much confidence in an item, is if it (a) simply 'makes sense', (b) has a *verifiable* history and (c) matches other *verified* exemplars.

That said, I'm happy to provide a certificate of "Non-Authenticity" (for a fee, of course) for these letters, as they seem to fail horribly on all counts.

Nov 19, 2009
These are the letters that David Miller withdrew from sale last year after problems with the text and signature.

They are remarkably similiar to the "Higgins" and "Hooper" letters and I suspect all these "letters" could all be done by the same person, and I am sure that is not Tolkien.

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Dec 11, 2009
Not really sure now if these have already been posted (perhaps we should have a more systematic way of doing this?), but anyway, what do people think about these:

The Hobbit Signed J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings
JRR Tolkien Handwritten Letter Signed Autographed ALS

(I know that bidding has already ended for them, but I am still interested to know if they might be authentic)
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