Don’t Fall for Them! Facsimile Churchill Holograph Letters

Don’t Fall for Them! Facsimile Churchill Holograph Letters

Some are still taken in…

…by those mul­ti­ple Churchill thank-you let­ters, each of which is a care­ful­ly made fac­sim­i­le. “The ulti­mate thrift shop haul,” head­lined the Dai­ly Mail on July 7th. “Bud­get shop­per is left STUNNED after buy­ing a ‘price­less’ hand­writ­ten let­ter signed by Win­ston Churchill for just $1—after find­ing it buried in a New York store.”

I kept wait­ing for the Mail to drop the shoe on the story—but they appar­ent­ly believe it’s true. The let­ter is a fac­sim­i­le, one of thou­sands, worth per­haps $50 if nice­ly framed. Appar­ent­ly some are still being tak­en in. (Updat­ed from 2019.)

“Signed Holograph Letter…

…by the British Prime Min­is­ter, on debossed House of Com­mons Notepa­per, thank­ing a well-wish­er for a kind mes­sage on his birth­day, 1947. Fold­ed once, slight­ly yel­lowed from age, oth­er­wise a fine copy. $1200.”

This was an actu­al offer on the Inter­net, but the hon­est sell­er, alert­ed by an observ­er, con­sci­en­tious­ly with­drew the item.

More than one col­lec­tor has been tak­en in by these remark­able fac­sim­i­le holo­graph notes, pro­duced by Churchill’s Pri­vate Office from 1945 through at least 1959—some of them so con­vinc­ing that casu­al observers swear they are originals.

Occa­sion­al­ly, espe­cial­ly after WW2, sec­re­taries would type the recipient’s name and address.

Facsimile Reproductions

From 1945, at least nine vari­a­tions of repli­ca holo­graph notes were repro­duced in quan­ti­ty to thank well-wish­ers, whose con­grat­u­la­tions poured in on Churchill’s birth­day and oth­er occa­sions. They are very well pro­duced and appear orig­i­nal. They were made by a “spir­it dupli­ca­tor,” com­mon­ly known as a Roneo machine—similar to, but pro­duc­ing bet­ter qual­i­ty than, a mimeo­graph. Ear­ly exam­ples actu­al­ly use Churchill’s blue-black ink, though they are not col­or sep­a­ra­tions, as I pre­vi­ous­ly sus­pect­ed. In any case, they are not orig­i­nals and were not signed by Churchill personally.

The most typ­i­cal style, on plain paper with no addressee.

The key to iden­ti­fy­ing a fac­sim­i­le is its lack of a salu­ta­tion (“My dear X”). Sec­re­taries would sim­ply place them in envelopes and post them by the hun­dreds to any­one who sent Churchill a token of respect. The val­ue of these fac­sim­i­les on the mar­ket is inci­den­tal. A true auto­graph let­ter by Churchill is, of course, worth much more.


The first-known fac­sim­i­le, dat­ed 1945, acknowl­edged con­grat­u­la­tions fol­low­ing V-E Day and sym­pa­thies after Churchill’s party’s defeat in the 1945 Gen­er­al Elec­tion. In Novem­ber that year, Churchill’s birth­day was the sig­nal for well-wish­ers to send cards, let­ters and gifts. But this was not the end, or even the begin­ning of the end.

From the time Churchill was thrown out of office in 1945 almost until the end of his days, let­ters, cards and gifts flowed in. They attest­ed to the esteem peo­ple all over the world held for him. So from time to time, his Pri­vate Office made him sit down with his big foun­tain pen and ink a note—sans salu­ta­tion, some­times dat­ed, some­times not. The orig­i­nal was repro­duced on the Reno­graph and then destroyed. Run off by the thou­sands, they were popped into the post. Write to Sir Win­ston, and chances were good you would get a “hand­writ­ten” reply!


A for­mer body­guard, Ronald Gold­ing, told me: “The del­uge would start in Novem­ber and con­tin­ue through New Year’s. It came in great sacks, deliv­ered dai­ly.” The boss sat down again and draft­ed a note for his 76th birth­day in 1950. After he became Prime Min­is­ter again, the birth­day greet­ings reached a crescen­do. By then the Pri­vate Office decid­ed not to date the thank-you note so that it could be used again the fol­low­ing year. The print on this and lat­er notes is plain black ink.

For his 80th birth­day in 1954, Sir Win­ston received many offi­cial gifts on behalf of Par­lia­ment and the Nation. This required a new fac­sim­i­le note. It used light air­mail paper, since many con­grat­u­la­tions came from abroad.

After Churchill retired in 1955, the Pri­vate Office adopt­ed Chartwell notepa­per. Sir Winston’s sig­na­ture was shaki­er by now, and 1959 may be the last time he penned one for repro­duc­tion. Some­times the notes accom­pa­nied unsigned books.

High quality

The spir­it dupli­ca­tor pro­duced con­vinc­ing fac­sim­i­les, espe­cial­ly in the ear­ly days. The inten­si­ty of the dark blue ink var­ied with nib pres­sure, as it does nor­mal­ly. Churchill’s sig­na­ture usu­al­ly bears his char­ac­ter­is­tic flour­ish, and looks gen­uine. Of course it was—in the orig­i­nal prototype.

In the begin­ning, sec­re­taries would often type the name and some­times the address of the recip­i­ent at the bot­tom of each fac­sim­i­le note. But soon the work­load pre­vent­ed this mod­est per­son­al­iza­tion. Through 1950, most notes bore an embossed House of Com­mons seal. When Churchill returned to office in 1951 they adopt­ed a print­ed 10 Down­ing Street let­ter­head. After he retired, the head­ing was Chartwell, West­er­ham, Kent. After his hand became shaky,  his pri­vate office reprint­ed pre­vi­ous notes, delet­ing the dates.


A note to an indi­vid­ual, with salu­ta­tion, entire­ly in Churchill’s own hand, is worth four fig­ures or more, depend­ing on the recip­i­ent. To some­one like Lloyd George or Neville Cham­ber­lain, the val­ue would be very high; one to Franklin Roo­sevelt, assum­ing any escaped the archives, would be priceless.

But the print­ed fac­sim­i­le notes should not com­mand more than $50 or so on todays mar­ket. They are nice lit­tle items, fun to frame, but by no means rare.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Fall for Them! Facsimile Churchill Holograph Letters

  1. When Churchill’s Daugh­ter, the now late Lady Soames, vis­it­ed Copen­hagen to open my Churchill Exi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the 50th anniver­sary of Sir Winston’s vis­it to Copen­hagen, she saw my huge Churchill col­lec­tion of Churchill mem­o­ra­bil­ia. Dur­ing our meet­ing I showed her one of those let­ters. “Yes,” she said, “it is of course a spir­it dupli­ca­tor let­ter. How on earth should he be able and have time to write thou­sands in his own hand­writ­ing?” So take it as gospel, and many thanks to RML for his bril­liant and inter­est­ing arti­cles. René Hojris, Denmark

    Good to hear from you René. KBO. -R

  2. Thank you Mr. Lang­worth! I’m reg­u­lar­ly asked advice on these items and have to be the bear­er of bad news. I hope many read your article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RML Books

Richard Langworth’s Most Popular Books & eBooks

Links on this page may earn commissions.