Autograph Value: How to Find It and Other Autograph Worth Questions May 07 2021
Have you wondered how to find the price of a celebrity autograph you found or want to buy, or are you just curious?
There are several methods to find values, some more accurate than others, some easy and fast, some complicated, some free, and others may cost you money.
Here we briefly summarize what you need to know as a collector to help you get the job done. Many of the same techniques can also be applied to other celebrity valuable collectibles, not just autographs.
WHERE CAN I FIND CELEBRITY AUTOGRAPH VALUES?
In the past, there were books listing prices and price ranges for autographs from many celebrities. However, they were not always complete and only had the most important celebrities, but they were cheap and helped a generation of collectors and non-collectors who wanted to know how much a particular autograph was worth.
Worth mentioning are the Sanders Guide (last published in 2009) and the Beckett Guide (for sport autographs, last published in 2014). These books are still available online, but they have obsolete information. Paper guides are no longer used, so those still available are usually significantly out of date.
Current Autograph Offers
Many people use Google to find answers to everything, including autograph values.
There are 2 big problems with this approach:
This method may give you a general idea, but it tends to be inaccurate with large disparity in values. Sometimes it will confuse you more than inform you since the disparity in pricing can be significant. You also need to understand that signed photos can not be compared with just a signature on a piece of paper (signature cut), letters and documents, or signed programs. They are all quite different and can´t be compared as the same.
Asking prices are exactly that, a wish by the seller, the final paid price may be very different. Sometimes the item has been for sale at the published price you see for many years, in which case it is saying that it is NOT the right price, and hence it is not something you can rely on.
Autograph dealers sites such as ours, Tamino Autographs, have a
certain percentage of visitors actually coming to see the price of autographs similar to what they have in hands and want to sell.
We are well-known for offering fair market prices but again, not necessarily realized prices, so pricing information has to be considered into that context.
Past or Realized Prices
This is a much better and more reliable method, provided you compare items of similar nature (photos of the same size, programs with programs, letters with similar importance in content between each other, etc.). See below for more on the factors to consider when establishing the value of autographs.
Realized Prices Databases: There are several options available; some are free. Worth mentioning is eBay past auction results, past prices on auction houses websites (Sotheby´s and Christie´s, for example, have their past realized prices available to anyone), and other auction platforms.
Some are paid or subscriptions (Worthpoint, invaluable.com database, among others). Paid resources tend to be more complete and accurate but are rarely used by collectors, who prefer free resources.
FOR SPORTS AUTOGRAPHS, for example, psacard.com offers a price guide section.
Past purchases: How much you paid for it if it is an item you bought yourself. This can be used as guidance, but you need to find the value today.
Past sales: If you sold something similar before or know someone who did. Dealers and auction houses have their own private databases of past prices of items they sold. These are not available to the collector or regular user who wants to sell, but they are available to the dealers and auction houses who own the private database. It is an essential resource for dealers to get to a price and is also used by auction houses that constantly sell autographed items.
Meghan Markle signing an autograph, next to Harry.
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT DETERMINE A CELEBRITY AUTOGRAPH VALUE?
Your cost is the most critical factor (how much you paid for it). If you are an autograph dealer, this is by far the number one thing used to determine price - although it is not the only factor to consider.
Now, let's say you are not an autograph dealer and you paid nothing or very little for a piece you have, so you can't use the cost as a guideline. So here are the 3 key factors that will determine your autograph value:
1) Rarity – This means how many authentic autographs there are signed by that person.
2) Condition - In a broad sense of the word, if the signed item has cracks, missing parts, smudges, good contrast or not are things that determine condition. If the picture represents the person doing something he or she is most famous about, whether it is a picture by a famous photographer and is stamped by a photographer can impact the value. Also included here is the nature of the item. Is it a signed photo, an object, a long handwritten letter with great, interesting content, or a short, uninteresting one? Is it a signed program or something else? Those things have different degrees of appeal to buyers and can significantly influence value.
3) Demand. A picture of yourself signed may be the only one in existence, it is authentic and rare, and it is also in great condition, but is it valuable because of that? With nobody willing to buy it except maybe your mother, you miss the demand factor for your autograph.
The stronger those 3 factors are, the higher the value of your autograph item.
There are two important extra things to remember if you want to reach the highest prices:
Your credibility as a seller or source for autographs. If you are a trustworthy seller, and/or have a certificate of authenticity from a reliable authentication company, it can help you maximize the price you will get for your autograph item.
If your item has a special glamour or coolness and uniqueness that some items have, that will add extra value to your collectible autograph. A photograph that is funny or entertaining or drives attention sells for more in an auction than one without it.
If the signer is deceased or not will also affect prices. A deceased signer means no more authentic autographs can be created, and the sense of perennial limited quantities psychologically makes people appreciate something more.
A more detailed article with more information on this topic will be published on this blog soon, the link will be shown here.
HOW MUCH ARE CELEBRITY AUTOGRAPHS WORTH?
The short answer is it depends on the celebrity. Authentic autographs
can be found for as low as $10 and up to tens of thousands if the celebrity is deceased, was very famous, the high demand is there, and the autographs are scarce, or there are not enough to meet the demand.
Autographs of Steve Jobs, for example, are relatively scarce, and there is very high demand for them, so the prices are very high.
To give you an idea, we selected a few cases of popular autographs.
Six examples of celebrity autograph values: (realized prices, period 2018-2021, various sources)
Walt Disney autograph worth: Signed photos have sold for $3600 - $7500 largely depending on size, condition, and his pose, signed books $2,500-$5,000, signed documents and typed letters signed by him have prices over a wide range but mostly under $9,000, signatures on an album page have sold for $1,800 - $4000+ depending on size and condition, a signed animation cel sells for $2,500 up to $9,000, and a sketch (cartoon face) made by him by hand and signed has sold for almost $20,000.
Steve Jobs autograph worth: signed magazine cover sold for over $13,000 USD, documents signed by him have sold for $25000-40,000, signed Apple computer manual sold for over $12,000, signed floppy disk sold for over $84,000 USD.
Joe DiMaggio autograph worth: Signed photos have recently sold in the low hundreds, either 8 x 10 or even larger formats, $250 to $500 largely depending on photo size, condition, and pose, a baseball signed $400-$650, a baseball bat signed by him $1,200, a simple check with his signature $250
Rita Hayworth autograph worth: Just a signature has recently sold for between $200-$400, signed photos $250 to $700 most, with some reaching higher prices (over $1,000) when they are larger and have a unique charm, signed documents have sold for $500 to $800, letters signed by her are very rare, making them hard to value and largely depend on the quality of the content (how relevant to her life and career it is).
Marilyn Monroe autograph worth: Just a signature sells for $2,000 to 3,500, a similar range for a signed check, autograph letters sell above $10,000 always depending on the length and content, signed documents start at $3,000, and they can be much more depending on the importance of the document and clarity of the signature. Signed photos have a very wide range; we have seen some selling for $5,500, all the way up to almost $50,000 for large ones, with a sexy pose. Many in 8 x 10 inches have sold in the range of $7,000 to $12,000.
Muhammad Ali autograph worth: Just a signature sells for $100 to $250, signed photo for $350 to $550, depending on size, condition, and pose. A signed boxing glove for $300 to $750, signed magazine cover for similar prices as signed photos. A signed boxing bell sold for just over $2,000, most likely because it was a rare, unique signed item.
WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE AUTOGRAPH IN THE WORLD? WHAT IS THE RAREST AUTOGRAPH?
The most valuable autograph sold in the United States seems to be a George Washington annotated Acts of Congress, from 1789, which includes the US Constitution. It was sold in 2012 for 9.8 million dollars. Unfortunately, we don't have data for all the auctions or sales in history, or even for the last ten years, and nobody has those records or information.
We believe it is unlikely that the United States would have the world record on an autograph price, you will find that many websites claim this without verifying anything in other countries at all. The unfortunate truth is that the exact answer to this question remains unknown.
There is no single source of data for all auctions, which means we don´t know which is the rarest autograph in the world either. If you read British bloggers or talk to autograph dealers, they will say it is a local figure such as Shakespeare. Other countries will come up with a different answer. This is a tricky question that needs an accurate definition of "rare", totally unbiased in terms of culture and nationalism.
WHAT ARE AUTOGRAPH APPRAISALS?
An appraisal is a process of defining the financial value or price of something.
Suppose you need an appraisal for the IRS due to the execution of an estate, a donation with the need for a tax credit, or any other reason. In that case, you need to make sure the appraiser is a professional with the certifications to do the job so that the appraisal will be recognized by the IRS as valid. Many professionals can do appraisals, but not all of them are appropriately certified, and not all of them are even well qualified to do it. Choose someone who is both, someone you think is an excellent professional autograph dealer and is, at the same time, certified for appraisals by the IRS.
If your appraisal is for other purposes, such as satisfying your curiosity or putting your autographs up for sale without having to deal with taxes or an estate, you can either try to do it yourself or ask any good professional autograph dealer to do it for you. Always keep in mind that autograph values are educated opinions and that appraisals can differ significantly.
We hope this helped you in your quest to understand more about autograph values!
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