Most Valuable Autographs

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

Later on, you may think that autograph could become a collectible or quite valuable. The reality is, not all autographs 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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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 their 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? 

Not every signature from a notable or famous person will translate into a high-value autograph. However, some factors will help improve the value of an autograph.

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 recognizable 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 the Autograph 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 an autograph 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 collectibles, if the item is more rare, 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 for the Autograph

If a lot of collectors prize a particular autograph, it will be more valuable. Autographs that are very popular 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?

Prices for autographs vary widely. They ultimately depend on what someone is willing to pay for it. 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 $79.

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

Consider conducting research with companies that routinely sell autographed items, such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, which are both notable auction houses that deal with high-value objects. Appraisers who specialize in autographed 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 that 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 on 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 autographed items have commanded much more money than others. Valuable autographs have included signatures from presidents, athletes, and celebrities, among others. Examples include:

  • George Washington’s personal copy of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Acts of the First Congress: $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 $3.7 million in 2010. 
  • Albert Einstein letter: Einstein documented his religious beliefs in a 1954 letter that sold for nearly $2.9 million in 2018.
  • Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees contract: $2.3 million (2017)

What makes an autograph valuable?

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.

How much can I sell an autograph for?

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

How do I find out what my autograph is worth?

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

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 the autograph for depends on the demand for the autograph and how much someone is willing to pay for it. If you have an autograph that 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.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Heritage Auctions. “Autograph Value Guide—Research and Appraise Signatures.”

  2. eBay. “Chipper Jones Autographed 1991 Topps Rookie Card.”

  3. Christie’s. “George Washington’s Annotated Copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, 1789.”

  4. Sotheby’s. “Lincoln, Abraham, as Sixteenth President.”

  5. Sotheby’s. “The Kennedy-Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation.”

  6. Christie’s. “Albert Einstein: The God Letter.”

  7. Lelands. “Sale of Babe Ruth from Boston Red Sox to New York Yankees Contract.”

  8. PSA Authentication & Grading Services. “Autograph Authentication Service Pricing.”

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