How much is my autograph worth? Do you buy autographs?
How much are my autographs worth? This is a question that we are asked on a daily basis, and it is not easy to answer, as it can depend so much on many different things.
• Whose signature is it?
• How rare is that signature?
• How good is the signature?
• What is the demand for that firm?
• What is it signed on?
• Are you dedicated?
• In what condition is it?
Let’s take a look at each of these separately starting with who’s signature.
Some people are well known and may have been great signers in their day, they may well have been household names, but what did they achieve and were known throughout the world? Many of the names we see in the old autograph books were certainly well known in their day, and they may well have been household names, but were they known all over the world? Max Bygraves and Tommy Trinder were undoubtedly household names here in the UK, but virtually unknown elsewhere, appearing mostly on television and radio, greatly diminishing their value, the current value being only a few pounds sterling.
Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne, on the other hand, were also household names, but they were known all over the world and made movies that are still shown today and are worth so much more as a consequence.
On the other hand, names like Jonas Salk and Nikola Tesla are not well known at all, but because they contributed to the world in a different way, they can be worth hundreds of pounds. If you don’t know either of these two names, then maybe you should check out Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as they surely do!
Which brings us to the value of rarity.. Max and Tommy were great signers, as they often appeared in theater across the country, so their signatures are common. Marilyn and John Wayne were just the opposite, appearing mostly in movies with far fewer public appearances. This makes their signatures much rarer, and due to their worldwide success and their films still shown today, their values are much higher.
How good is the signature? Some people have more than one signature, others have a signature that never varies at all. Many stars today will often scribble anything just to satisfy the demand, while others will take a little time to create something memorable by adding their autograph to their book or photo. The better the signature, the more it will be worth, and this is worth remembering when collecting in person and sometimes it may be worth asking the signer to add something, their world record time or the title of their favorite movie etc.
What is the signed autograph? For obvious reasons, a quality large format photograph taken by a famous photographer and signed by the star will cost much more than a quick signature scrawled on the back of a pack of cigarettes. But at the same time, the fact that a signature is on something unusual can make it rarer, but not always more valuable, which reminds me of a Tommy Cooper * sketch that says something like this … “I went up to the attic the other day and I found a Stradivarius and a Rembrandt. Unfortunately, Stradivarius was a terrible painter and Rembrandt made lousy violins “So do you really want a Rembrandt signed violin or a Stradivarius signed painting? The fact that he’s on something unusual can make it weird, but that doesn’t always make him more valuable, but swap those signatures and suddenly you’re a very rich man!
What is the demand? The signature may be rare, undivided, and in a pristine photo of the person who signed it, but unless you can find someone who collects autographs from monumental 19th century Freemasons, you won’t get much benefit from it!
Dedication? A dedication is when the item is signed for someone ‘To John, all my love Marilyn’ and in almost all cases this will be worth less than one that is not dedicated. Unless, of course, it’s in a Marilyn Monroe photo!
Condition? Well obviously the better the condition of the item, the more value it has. It is not uncommon to see signatures that have been faded due to the effects of the sun (ultraviolet light, and you can find more on this in my ‘storage guides’) or photographs that have been cropped to fit in a frame (never crop any! Article!).
Also, a man’s definition of perfect is that another man is not worth adding to the collection! However, many sellers will also use the word “rare” to describe the most common autographs and “valuable” to create the illusion that the item is worth much more than it actually is.
* For those of you outside the UKTommy Cooper was a well-known theater and television comedy magician. He was the kind of performer who just had to go on stage to laugh, and you really have to see his comedy to understand it, since just reading that line about the Stradivarius and the Rembrandt isn’t that much fun on its own, but put it in the hands of a natural and funny talent like Tommy and his comedy gold. You can find a lot about Tommy on the web, or just ask any Englishman over 45 to make a Tommy impression and it will instantly bring a smile to your face as Tommy was exceptional and could do just about anyone. laugh without even telling a joke.
Sadly, Tommy died onstage live on primetime television in 1984.