In the latest twist on the age-old practice of celebrity signatures, customers of Live Autographs get not just a signed photograph, book or napkin, but they also receive a customized video clip with a short personal message from the star.
Rough estimates place the value of autographs bought and sold in the United States at $2 billion a year, said Steven Cyrkin, editor and publisher of Autograph Magazine.
But with the incidence of fraudulent autographs on the rise, Live Autographs bills itself as a service that helps authenticate the celebrity signature.
The business launched last week with one of its investors, William Shatner, signing pictures, mugs and even a toy "communicator" from his 1960s TV hit, "Star Trek."
Other celebrities who have agreed to participate, as advertised on the company website, www.liveautographs.com, include auto racer Danica Patrick, actor Matthew Fox, tennis star Serena Williams and actress Carmen Electra.
At the website, customers can specify what merchandise they'd liked signed and type out the message they would like the celebrity to deliver.
Shatner, for example, recorded a wedding announcement for the parents of a couple who secretly got engaged at a "Star Trek" convention.
Many of the autographs were bought as gifts.
"Someone's going to wake up tomorrow morning and on the TV is going to have Shatner saying, 'Hey, Johnny, happy birthday.' And they're going to get the shock of their lives," said Live Autographs Chief Executive Rob Dwek.