Whether you’ve started collecting autographs recently or have inherited one from a family member, collecting autographs can be a really enjoyable hobby. And of course, some autographs can be quite valuable!
But not all autographs are of value, and often times it’s hard to tell whether or not you’re collecting junk or a treasured item. There are a few crucial things to consider when trying to appraise the value of an autograph:
- Who signed it
The more famous or historically significant a person is, the more interest there will be in their autograph. It’s probably little surprise to learn that movie stars and world leaders have more valuable autographs then the average D-list reality star.
- Supply and demand
Like any collectible or commodity, the forces of supply and demand will influence the price of autographs. Some famous people only left a very small number of autographs.
For example, James Dean’s autographs are rare because he died so young. If an actor has recently had a successful film, demand for their autograph may rise, even if there is already a high supply of their autographs in the world.
- What is signed
Not all autographs, even from the same person, are going to be worth the same amount of money. A big part of this variability is the object that bears the autograph.
Small pieces of paper tend to be the cheapest. Autographed photos demand a little more money. Full hand-written and signed letters are even more valuable, especially if they discuss something relevant to their fame.
- Condition of the autograph
The better the condition, the better the value. Bold pen autographs tend to be worth more than faded or smudged pencil. The paper (or other object) should be in good condition without tears, stains, or wrinkles.
- Confirmed authenticity
An autograph has to be authentic in order to really claim its value. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet that easily proves authenticity every time. In most cases, certificates of authenticity are not helpful. Instead, it just takes old-fashioned research and due diligence. For high-value autographs sales, the dealer may employ a third party expert to validate the authenticity.
There are many celebrities and historical figures whose autographs regularly sell for high amounts. Here are some of the most valuable autographs as assessed by Paul Fraser Collectibles, a British memorabilia company:
- Albert Einstein – £8,950 (approximately C$16,246.75)
- Princes Diana – £8,950 (approximately C$16,246.75)
- Admiral Lord Nelson – £10,500 (approximately C$19,060.44)
- Bruce Lee – £11,000 (approximately C$19,968.08)
- James Dean – £18,000 – (approximately C$32675.03)
While the above names regularly sell for high prices, there have also been a number of extraordinarily valuable and rare one-of-a-kind autographed objects:
- A contract signed by Jimi Hendrix – $200,000
- A baseball signed by Babe Ruth – $388,375
- An LP signed by John Lennon to his murderer – $525,000
- The Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln – $3.7 Million
- The book, The Acts of Congress signed by George Washington – $9.8 Million