Your Personal Collection: The Value of Autographs

Collectors have sought after autographs of notable people for hundreds of years. The desire to have a personal memento from a person of importance and fame fuels the autograph collecting field. This century old practice has now emerged into what we can call a marketplace for the exchange of autographs of the world. The first and most important aspect here is the person whose signature is being collected.

Those who take the crown, in terms of popularity, are actually a very small set of people. These are the icons that we respect and look up to. Their names stay in our hearts, and their images appear regularly in our culture. Not only are they admired, everything about them is passionately sought after, and be it their principles in life or their signed autographs. Some of the most prominent examples in the sports are Diego Maradona, Michael Schumacher, Pele, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth. In our political history, names like Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln fit the bill. When it comes to the world of entertainment, the list is simple endless. From movies to stand up comedy, TV shows to rock concerts, thousands of great artists like Leonardo Di Caprio, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe deserve the title.

Apart from the generic fan following, many of us have our own icons. They may not be global celebrities, but popular representatives from our own culture, the underdogs. Quite a lot of people may have role models in their own fields of specialisation, less known to the general world, but as important nonetheless. Their autographs are great personal tokens that are cherished greatly.

Specific to celebrities, autographs are nothing less than assets of value. Many one-of-a-kind autographed items are worth millions of dollars. In increasing order of value, the starting price of a person’s autograph typically is on a small piece of paper, from an autograph album, a card or a part obtained from a larger document. Next in the sequence is a document. It can either be a letter, a legal contract or agreement, a book or a journal, and even a check. Authentic signed photos come next in line. And finally, at the rung of the ladder are handwritten and signed letters – these being the costliest and rarest of all.

When it comes to a letter itself, a great deal of factors determines its price. The nature of the document and its content greatly contribute to the kind of price a given autograph will fetch. Take for example Stephen Hawking. An ordinary letter of him writing to an acquaintance might be worth a couple of thousands of dollars. But his letter to a colleague scientist concerning one of his great theories will definitely cost many, many times more. Similarly, Babe Ruth’s signature on a check would cost about five thousand dollars, but his signed contract to play baseball for the Yankees is worth many times this amount.

Finally, up and coming trends in the society can influence the value of autographs. For example, the hit movie “Alfred Hitchcock” created a spike in demand for the autograph of the legendary director of suspense movies like Psycho. The value of his autographs quickly skyrocketed in a very short frame of time.

After from building your nice collection of autographs, it is also very important that you make sure that each of the autographs are genuine. Of course, you might have yourself seen a person sign an autograph for you, and you know for sure that it is real. But having it authenticated by third party experts can greatly enhance its market value. Most importantly, if you are buying an autograph that you did not see being signed, it is highly advisable to use the judgment of a qualified and experienced authenticator. It is not simply to protect against fraud, but to make sure that the autograph was signed by the icon himself, and not just one of his staff (which happens to be a very common practice).

The determination of an autograph’s legitimacy is part science and part art. It not only requires a great deal of knowledge, but also great attention to the most intricate of details. Buying an autograph on your own, especially from an unknown source and without the essential documents from a reputed authenticator can be a dicey deal. For example, autographs purchased from Us (UpNorthMemorabilia) are thoroughly reviewed by experts and a COA (Certificate Of Authenticity) is provided with all Items of Memorabilia.

Before you make the purchase, it is important that you go through autograph pricing guides to help you make a more informed decision about your purchase. They give the reader a fair understanding of pricing, even though they cannot be taken for their face value. They may be making a cut fairly above or below the actual market value, and many important aspects may be missing. They might also be missing the right kind of responsiveness to time, given that they are not continually updated, but only once in a couple of years. The autograph market is dynamic and large changes in values can take place over a short span of time.

An experienced collector may not have to rely on price guides. With experience and time, collectors start to comprehend the forces behind the prices at a deeper level. Every new item added to their collection deepens their understanding of the factors that determine autograph prices.

For example, a very important pricing factor is the content of the photo (how closely the photo reflects what the celebrity is known for) and how hard it is to acquire the autograph. Prevailing market conditions and overall quality of the autograph are also important factors to be taken note of in the pricing. Sudden rise in demand for a particular celebrity autographs can also shoot up prices. This usually happens following an important event, such as the release of a blockbuster movie, the launch of a brand new album well-received by the public, the passing away of a great celebrity, etc.

When adding autographs to your personal collection, do ensure that you preserve them with adequate care. If the items are rare and/or expensive, they also deserve appropriate insurance to safeguard their future worth. Besides, they must be handled with utmost care, and stored or displayed with sufficient safety measures. And most importantly, your collection must hold the same kind of place in your office or house as it does in your heart. Invest in good quality holders and displays that will make your collection look nothing short of enviable!

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