Best and Worst autograph deals you ever saw or got
I wanted to create a thread about all the really awesome (and awful) deals us collectors found (and missed out on or happy you didn’t get burned) or got (you were the lucky buyer or unfortunately ripped off). Do NOT include through the mail successes or gifts.
There was an authentic Ruth Bader Ginsburg signed Supreme Court photo that was listed on eBay for a starting bid of just $10. I put it on my watch list thinking I would bid on it closer to end time. The next day I noticed the listing was ended because a Buy It Now was added for $100 that someone had asked the seller to do. As a result of the seller being unaware of the true value (their other items for sale were various other household things, this was the only autograph they had) they agreed to list a Buy It Now for $100. I wish I had thought of doing that but it never occurred to me. Now I know this can sometimes be a tactic if I suspect seller doesn’t know what they have.
I was at a coin show where this dealer had a few non-coin items for sale including autographs of Martin Luther King Jr., Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. He told me he bought an estate and these were among the items in the large coin collection. He sent all three off to get authenticated from PSA. Fortunately this dealer knew to have the sticker placed on the Letter of Authenticity instead of on actual item. I had been in my in between collecting autographs phase so I had not really been back into collecting autographs for myself at that time. I knew however if they were cheap I could buy and resell them, especially because they had authentication. The guy wanted $100 each for Truman and Ford, and originally $2000 for Martin Luther King Jr. The Truman and Ford were both signed letters and MLK Jr. was on a program for an event pertaining to his right for Civil Rights in the early 1960s (8.5 x 11 in size with like 15 pages). It was surprisingly not personalized and just signed like “with very best wishes, Martin Luther King, Jr.” A very nice full signature in blue ballpoint pen on the light blue cover of the program. I was thinking $2000 seemed like a good price for MLK Jr. but I couldn’t remember if that is what they typically sold for (being out of collecting autographs for a while) so I figured there was not much profit in it for me unless I could get it for much less than $2000 if I suspected I would be getting about $2000 for it. I figured the dealer didn’t know much about it given he was primarily a coin dealer so I tried to see if I could get it for like $1200. The dealer did come down to $1800. I actually had enough money to do that but I knew with fees and everything with reselling it probably wasn’t worth it. Little did I know that his autograph alone (not on any item, just a plain signature) was around $3000. This program AT THE TIME would likely have sold for at least $3500 on RRAuction (they are now bringing at least $6500). A few months later I see the same dealer again and he asks if I want to MLK Jr. signed program for $1600. I am shocked he hadn’t sold it yet but I offer $1200 because that was all the cash I had on me but he said that was too low. I can’t remember if he told me he paid $1200 for the MLK Jr. program and that was why he couldn’t sell it to me for $1200 or if he paid $1500 and just wanted to get rid of it for what he paid and me not having the cash available couldn’t do. I do remember almost kind of coming to a deal but because I was a few hundred short we didn’t make the deal. I saw him again a year or two later and he told me that he sold his MLK Jr. and told me he was glad I didn’t buy it because he ended up getting $5,000 for it from someone in Georgia. Not sure if he put it up for auction or someone just offered him that. I was really kicking myself at this point because I was now back into collecting autographs for myself and I MLK Jr. is actually one of the few autographs I want for my small historical autograph collection.
Times I got the deal:
- I was able to buy a signed edition of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land for $350. Those exact books are routinely selling for around $600. I got very lucky to find one on the shelf at a bookstore the day it was released. That bookstore only got three copies. I was the second one to buy one. It was one per person/member. It is my favorite autograph in my current collection.
Former collection (no longer own these autographs)
Madonna had issued a Children’s book set sometime in 2005/2006 that included an authentic hand signed letter in each set. Originally these book sets were to be sold at $120 each but one day Amazon was doing some kind of special sale for a very limited amount of time where you could buy these book sets for $20 each. I believe it was one per an account so I only bought one. Her autograph alone is usually worth $400-$500.
I found an authentic Henry Fonda signature for $5 off eBay. The listing was for a lot of “three mystery signatures” and I immediately recognized one as being Henry Fonda. The other two turned out to be local sports figures in the seller’s area which were very little known nationally. I did the Buy It Now for $5 and was pleased when I got the Henry Fonda. It was not personalized and a very nice signature on a 2x3 slip of paper. At the time his autograph was brining $100. Not sure if his signature cost less now due to many older Hollywood legends becoming less desirable to newer collectors.
I bought an authentic signed Cher 8x10 black and white photo at a flea market for $10. I wasn’t 100% sure when I bought it if it was autopen or not, but when I got home and researched it, it turned out it was authentic. Pretty neat find!
Years after Gerald Ford died, I found his autograph on a First Day Cover at a flea market for $10. Totally authentic. Today a Gerald Ford signed index card routinely brings at least $40.
I bought an authentic Alec Guinness signed photo (not Star Wars but a still vintage and neat photo) for $20. It was unfortunately personalized but for $20 it was a steal. At the time he was routinely selling for $100 personalized. Nowadays I heard his autograph (personalized) is going for over $300-$500 depending on photo, and over $1000 not personalized.
I purchased a Carrie Fisher signed photo from OfficalPix for $50. This was a sale they were doing at the time (usually they were $100-$150). I think I bought this in like 2011 right before I stopped collecting and did my big sell off. I ended up getting like $75 for it, but knowing they are now bringing over $500 I am so mad I didn’t just keep that one.
There were also times where I got burned because I thought I was getting a deal but it turned out autograph was fake (autopen, secretarial, printed etc.). I am a lot more careful now, but it still happens especially as fakes get more sophisticated.