When you meet your favourite singer, actor, or sports figure, it can be thrilling. Naturally, you might want to commemorate this occasion by getting this person’s signature or autograph.

Later on, you may think that an autograph could become a collectable or quite valuable. The reality is, not all signatures will convert into cash. Whether or not an autograph has value beyond sentimental value will depend on several factors, including what surface it’s written on.

  • Not every signature will translate into a high-value autograph.
  • A Hall of Fame baseball player’s autograph on a baseball or bat, or an actor’s autograph on the script for his Academy Award-winning movie will likely have significant value.
  • If a signature is blurry, hard to read or difficult to authenticate, it could have little to no value.
  • High demand drives up the value of the autograph.

What determines the value of an autograph?

most valuable autographs
Signature of J.K Rowling; Image Credit: White House (Pete Souza)/Wikimedia commons

Not every signature from a notable or famous person will translate into a high-value autograph. But there are some factors that will help improve its value.

Condition

A signature that is clear and easy to read is more valuable. Even if it’s not easy to read, a signature may still be recognisable as the person’s iconic autograph and have some value.

If there are stains on the paper that make the signature difficult to read, that could diminish the value. After all, a blurry or hard-to-read signature can be difficult to authenticate, resulting in little to no value.

What it is written on

The material or item that contains the autograph also has an impact on its value. Signatures on a piece of paper or in a book probably won’t garner much value as signatures on unique items related to the person.

For example, if you have a Hall of Fame baseball player’s autograph on a baseball or bat, the autograph is likely to be worth a lot more than if it were on paper. Similarly, the signature of an actor on the script for their Academy Award-winning movie would also fetch more than just a signature on paper.

Rarity

As with all collectables, if the item is rarer, it has more value. A rare signature will be in lower supply and higher demand, so it will yield a higher price tag. If there are many autographs of the person, say from someone generous with giving out their signature, their autograph can become less valuable.

Demand

If a lot of collectors prize a particular autograph, it will be more valuable. Very popular ones are in smaller supply compared to their demand. The markets change for which autographs are in high demand, depending on the celebrities or stars of the day.

Similarly, if someone is famous, but no one wants their autograph, their signature will become less valuable.

How much can you actually get for an autographed item?

most valuable autographs
Albert Einstein’s signature; Image Credit: Albert Einstein derivative work: Pbroks13/Wikimedia commons

Prices for autographs vary widely. They ultimately depend on what someone is willing to pay for them. If you have an autograph that you know others are willing to pay for, say an autographed rookie baseball card for Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones, you likely could demand a higher price. eBay lists one for USD 79.

However keep in mind that just because an autograph is listed for a certain price, it’s not necessarily worth that price. Again, its worth is what a buyer is willing to pay.

Consider conducting research with companies that routinely sell autographed items like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, with are both notable auction houses that deal with high-value objects. Appraisers who specialise in signed items also can give you an estimate of how much the autograph could be worth.

How do I sell a valuable autograph?

Where and how you sell an autograph depends on what you think it is worth. For instance, if you estimate the autograph has a high value, you may want to work with a notable auction house like Christie’s or Sotheby’s to sell your item.

If the item has some value, you may consider having a reputable dealer sell the item on your behalf. Or you can try to sell the item yourself through online auction sites like eBay or online marketplaces like Facebook. Most of these options will take a commission when selling your item for you, so be prepared to pay that fee once the sale is closed.

What are some of the most valuable autographs?

Through the years, some signed items have commanded much more money than others. Valuable autographs have included signatures from presidents, athletes, and celebrities, among others.

  • George Washington’s personal copy of the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Acts of the First Congress: USD 9.8 million (2012)
  • Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: Of the 26 copies of the original 48 signed copies of this historic document that remain today, one copy formerly owned by Bobby Kennedy sold for USD 3.7 million in 2010.
  • Albert Einstein Letter: Einstein documented his religious beliefs in a 1954 letter that sold for USD 2.9 million in 2018.
  • Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees contract: USD 2.3 million (2017)

The bottom line

The most valuable autographs are those in good condition, signed on something considered noteworthy, and signed by an individual considered noteworthy.

How much you can actually sell it for, depends on the demand for the signature and how much someone is willing to pay for it. If you have an autograph you think could be extremely valuable, it’s important to have it authenticated by a professional at a notable auction house or by a reputable appraiser.

This story first appeared on www.investopedia.com

(Credit for the hero and featured image: White House (Pete Souza)/Wikimedia commons)

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What makes an autograph valuable?

Answer: The condition of the autograph as well as what the autograph is written on are among the factors that determine an autograph’s value. However, the most important factor is who the autograph belongs to, and whether it is in high demand. Whether or not the autograph is rare also plays a role in its value.

Question: How much can I sell an autograph for?

Answer: You can sell an autograph for whatever price someone is willing to pay. However, to find a realistic price to list your autograph, you can check with auction houses, appraisers, or dealers, which can provide an estimate of the worth of your autograph. 

Question: How do I find out what my autograph is worth?

Answer: You can find out what your autograph is worth by having it appraised by a professional appraiser for a small fee, typically ranging from USD 30 to USD 40. They can give you an estimate of the autograph's value along with some information on its authenticity.