What is Provenance?
Most people start with the idea that an autograph is authentic and only look further if they are suspicious. This is backwards. You should begin with the premise that an autograph is not authentic and make it prove itself. In assessing this proof, it’s important to disregard representations of sellers and ignore the sales pitches. Only autographs that can prove themselves outside the seller claims should you be comfortable acquiring.
As for provenance: Look at the first six letters; they spell ‘PROVEN’. Provenance means just that – proving where the autograph came from. In fact, this is very often the most important factor in authenticating an autograph. Knowing that a letter came from a reliable collection or dealer, and that it has an identifiable history, can be crucial to establishing a level of comfort.