Sign here, please! The die-hard fans who'll do anything for an autograph

It's £45 for a Gillian Anderson – and that's before you factor in a photo. The true devotees tell Liam O'Brien why it's a bargain

When it was announced that the Great Expectations and Bleak House actress Gillian Anderson would be appearing at next month's London Film and Comic Con, fans "freaked". Anderson is not renowned for being too fond of signing X-Files memorabilia, and sci-fi fans eagerly snapped up tickets when it became clear that the Emmy winner would be happy to put her name on DVD box sets and collectibles from the cult 90s drama.

But Anderson's signature comes at a price: £45, in fact. And should fans want the full package of an autograph, a photo with the star and a seat at a Q&A session, it will set them back £110. Other cult guests will be in attendance, but they cost noticeably less. Among those familiar to the general public, The Breakfast Club's Anthony Michael Hall signs for £15, while Heroes' Hayden Panettiere would cost you £40 for an autograph and a professional photo.

Despite this, 40,000 people will attend the event at the Olympia Grand Hall in west London from6 to 8 July. Some enthusiasts on the conference's forums have argued that such prices are hardly a kindness to fans in the midst of a recession, but the vast majority seem to be overjoyed. "When she was announced, I completely freaked. It was incredible," 36-year-old Richard Bloomberg told The Independent. The X-Files superfan from Southend said: "I'm one of those people who is thinking about spending well over the odds and considering paying well over £200 to get five autographs off her. When Harrison Ford did an event like this, he charged about £400, so Gillian charging £45 is perfectly acceptable."

On eBay, Anderson's autograph can be had for as little as £19.99. But that hasn't put off Mr Bloomberg. "How do you know it's real?" he said. "It's about having the experience of them signing it in front of you. Last year I met Steven Spielberg and he had a nice chat with me and that makes it so much nicer. A few weeks back I went to the premiere of Dark Shadows and someone said, "Hi Richard", and it was Anthony Daniels [C-3PO in the Star Wars films]. That kind of recognition, that camaraderie with someone who's actually very well known..."

Tom Spilsbury, the editor of Doctor Who Magazine, also dismissed the idea of buying autographs online. "It's worth more to you personally if you've met the star," he said. "But I've never understood the idea of buying an autograph off eBay."

From the outside it might seem bizarre, but perhaps London Film and Comic Con's organisers are indeed charging the "fair price" they claim for access to Anderson. Certainly, the hardcore fans haven't been deterred.

A spokesman for Showmasters, the company behind the event, said: "We are selling something you normally could not buy, as a lot of our guests do not sign publicly very often, if at all. And you get to meet the guest and see it being signed in front of you, so it is real."

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