While sports cards and memorabilia have been on a major roll during the pandemic, there’s no denying it’s been a disruptive force, too. For collectors used to lining up at shows for a chance to get a photo and an autograph from a player, it’s been a long wait. Signings are still happening, though.
In the first of a series on autographs and private signing sessions with Matt Powers of Powers Sports Memorabilia, we cover the current landscape for autograph events, the impact of canceled shows, the challenges facing those conducting private signings and learn about some current and former players who are participating.
- Matt, you’ve been part of a number of private signings over the years but there has never been a year quite like this one. Take us through that part of the hobby as you’ve seen things unfold since March.
It did take a few months after March for private signings to start up again. Public signings have been very rare. The restrictions certain states have made private signings much more doable and easier to conduct. As we sit here in November, private signings seem to be flowing very well with minimal issues.
Big names have been conducing signings such as Peyton Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, and Mike Trout. That is a very good sign.
- A lot of larger shows have been forced to cancel, including the National, and we haven’t really had any public signing sessions for many months now. How has that impacted private autograph sessions?
MP: From a dealer perspective, private signings are the preferred method to have a signing in 2020. Too many restrictions and guidelines to follow, not to mention the liability that comes with a public event now.
Plus, some athletes just don’t want to do a public event right now to limit their exposure. I’ve heard of several athletes that agreed to do signings in February, then once COVID-19 started refuse to even do a private signing.
I have never been so busy with private signings. Seems like once public events were shut down, everyone started sending in some of their prized possessions to get signed as opposed to waiting for a public event to do it themselves. I have seen some awesome game-used items this year that I may have never had a chance to see.
- Has the pandemic impacted prices in the autograph market and for collectors who are turning to private signings?
MP: I haven’t seen pricing increase or decrease much in 2020. A few athletes such as Mike Trout were raised very minimally. Peyton Manning and Shaquille O’Neal have been right around the same pricing for a while. Dealers understand that for some collectors money can be tight during this time. I have had to be flexible with a few customers here and there.
- What are the major challenges you’ve faced while trying to get a schedule together?
MP: The biggest challenge I have seen in the industry when it comes to logistics is the lack of flying. With COVID-19 and liabilities that come with flying, driving seems to be a safer option for some.
One company has had their signing representatives drive to every signing. Of course, when driving, that slows down everything. Having a signing one day on the west coast and then another a few days later on the east coast just isn’t feasible.
Talked to one dealer recently who was driving to a signing 2,000 miles away, which is not very typical. Usually, the items would ship ground to the signing location and dealer would fly out to a signing that far away.
- Are there some notable athletes who just refuse to do any autograph sessions right now?
MP: Yes, without naming names I can think of a high-profile athlete who refused to do one and also a former player who apparently hasn’t left their house since February. Everyone has had a different response, while some athletes just don’t care and it is business as usual.
- Do you think that there will be any impact on public signing sessions even after we have a vaccine and life eventually returns to a more normal state?
MP: I personally think we are towards the tail end of this. People will only take so much restriction. I can see mask requirements staying around for a while for public signings. Business owners just don’t want to be held liable for someone getting sick at their venue.
I can also see social distancing rules in place where you won’t be able to get up close to the athlete. A representative will hand them your item behind plexiglass.
- Tell us a little about some of the signing sessions that you’ve been able schedule between now and the first of the year.
MP: A few big signings in November I am taking part in include Julius Erving, Shaquille O’Neal, Jorge Posada, and also Mike Trout.
I really strive to give every customer a personal experience when they buy from me. Communication is so paramount in this industry. Collectors just want to know that their item is going to be taken care of and done right. I’ve created a system on my end that allows that to happen so customers know exactly what’s going on and when to expect their item back.
An 18-year industry veteran, Matt Powers is the founder and sole owner of Powers Sports Memorabilia, based in the Kansas City area. You can connect with him through the company’s website and get insights on the hobby through his YouTube channel.