The Thrill of the Hunt: Collecting Valuable Autographs

Tim Morrison  | March 30, 2021

autograph baseball on bench

If you’ve kept up with our previous blog posts, one thing you’ve learned about me is that I am a huge fan of collecting and searching for random things such as Pez dispensers and lunchboxes. Today, we’re going to take a look at something we’ve all seen at estate sales and auctions...autographs!

Speaking of autographs found at auctions, I’m particularly fond of this Tony Danza signature I recently scored at an online auction on EstateSales.NET!

tony danza autograph

In the summer of 1994, my parents took me on a trip that sparked my love for a few different things: music and collecting autographs. We went to a concert in Paducah, Kentucky. After the show was over, we stood in line to get autographs and pictures with Mark Collie and Deborah Allen. As a kid, to be standing so close to the people I just saw on stage was incredible. Those autographs hung on my wall for several years, and from that point, I would get signatures any chance I got.

While I collect autographs for the sheer enjoyment of it and would never dream of selling them, if you’re willing to dig hard enough, there are signature collectors out there that are willing to pay a premium for the right autographs. There are a few things to watch for when searching for these pieces of history. We’re going to take a deep dive at what you should be on the lookout for and what to do after you have them. Let’s get hunting!

Take me out to the ballgame!

I was lucky enough to go to several St. Louis Cardinals baseball games when I was a kid. But one, in particular, stands out. On September 29, 1997, the Wizard himself, Ozzie Smith, made his last appearance at Busch Stadium, and I was there! Before the game, my dad took me field level to snag a few autographs before the players took the field, and it was a moment I will never forget.

I have amassed quite the collection of sports memorabilia and autographs over the years and have come to find that I don’t have any that could set me up for early retirement. However, if you’re lucky enough to find autographs by sports Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Johnny Unitas, or Michael Jordan, you’ll obviously want to pick it up.

When looking for sports autographs, signed pictures are great, but if you’re able to snag some game-used gear that’s also signed, that’s the good stuff.

Sports memorabilia is notorious for being replicated, so you’ll want to be careful before you start counting your money. You’ll want to get any autographs you come across certified. We’ll get into that shortly.

babe ruth autograph baseball

And the award goes to...

Being a musician, going to concerts, and seeking out autographs has been a lot of fun over the years. I also attended a horror movie convention in Dallas a few years ago and was face-to-face with some of the best in the genre. It’s no secret that movie, TV, and music memorabilia have become extremely popular over the past several years and autographs are no exception. These signatures are a little easier to come by since the genres are so broad, but you may have to do some digging to find the more sought-after ones.

Autographs from classic red carpet celebs like Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn can bring a big payday. But there is one leading lady in particular that you should keep an eye out for. Certified Marilyn Monroe autographs usually fetch between $5000.00-$10,000.00. If you’re lucky enough to find the double signature of her and baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, you have possibly struck ink to paper gold.

As you may have guessed, anything to do with The Beatles can bring in serious cash with collectors, and autographs are no exception to this rule.

While most of their autographs will be on plain paper, if you’re lucky enough to find an album signed by all four members, you’re potentially looking at a $200,000.00-$500,000.00 payday. Source:

cheap trick group picture

And the rest is history.

No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, presidential and historical autographs have always been scarce and sought after by collectors. From early historical documents to patent applications to casual fan autographs, anything having to do with significant times in history is extremely valuable.

To give you an idea about the values we’re looking at, George Washington’s copy of the Constitution sold at auction for nearly $10M. Do you know the famous picture of Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out? Well, if you’re lucky enough to find one of those with his signature on it, you could be looking at a collector value of well over $100,000.00. While you’re probably not going to find a copy of the Constitution, personalized presidential letters and commemorative items are easier to come by than you would think.

With some of these signatures being a few hundred years old, the risk of coming across as a forgery is pretty high, so you’ll want to consult with an expert to check its authenticity. Source: Cardboard Connection

Before you head to the it real?

If they’re real, most autographs will come with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). That will let you know that the document has been verified to be authentic. The certificate will come in the form of an actual document stating that the piece has been confirmed, or the item will have a holographic sticker on it also to denote verification.

Suppose your signature doesn’t come with a COA. In that case, you will want to have it verified by a reputable source, especially if you spent a significant amount of money on it. Beckett and JSA are just a few of the authentication companies that will let you know if you’ve found the real deal.

Collecting autographs is a great way to preserve special moments in history or honor your favorite movie or sports stars. Whether you’re looking to collect or resell them, adding “Autographs” to your Treasure Tracker or checking the EstateSales.NET Marketplace periodically will help you find those pen to paper gems.

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