I travel the country and do several public speaking engagements each year on vintage baseball cards and sports memorabilia. One question that is always asked is, “What are some of the more affordable autographs?”
Generally speaking, an autograph on a piece of paper is worth less than the same autograph on a jersey, football, or other premium item. Paper items could be programs, ticket stubs, or even a napkin from a restaurant.
There are many desirable Hall of Fame signatures that are extremely inexpensive. The affordability relates directly to the amount of signatures the player has signed over the course of his lifetime. For example, when Bob Feller died in 2010, the value of his signature actually decreased. Feller was 92 years old and everybody who ever wanted a Feller autograph already had it. Immediately after his death, the market was flooded with Feller autographs. There was no demand so the values decreased. In 2009 I asked Feller how many autographs he signed over his lifetime. His reply, “Many millions.”
The affable Ernie Banks was a fixture at Wrigley Field after his retirement. He was also easily accessible to fans’ all over the city of Chicago. Although he never won a World Series ring, he was a 14-time All-Star and winner of numerous other significant awards. A signed Ernie Banks baseball today on eBay can be acquired for not much more than $100 without inscriptions.
Hank Aaron, Ed Mathews, and Warren Spahn are all World Series Champions from the 1957 season. The Milwaukee Braves beat the New York Yankees in seven games to win the World Series. The autographs of these championship winners are very cheap. Hank Aaron is still signing today and his John Hancock without any inscriptions on a baseball costs less than you think. Both Mathews and Spahn authentic autographed baseballs can be found online for around $50 each and cards are often less.
Signed baseballs from championship teams don’t always cost a fortune, even those from some of baseball history’s most memorable teams. In 1968, the Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the World Series. Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich, Eddie Mathews, and Denny McLain gave fans of Detroit their third world championship. With some patience, a team signed baseball from this fabled club can sometimes be found today for between $400-$500. Pretty good deal considering team signed baseballs usually have more than 20 signatures.
Baseball players in the 1960s and 1970s were fairly accessible either before a ballgame or after. I have seen many great programs/scorecards signed in this time period. The players were usually happy to sign and the fans always left the ballpark with a smile on their face. Today, you don’t see nearly as much signing for the fans. Vintage programs are one of the items I most enjoy collecting because of the advertising inside. The often clever ads from beer, soda, and food companies was very different decades ago. A signed program/scorecard from a non HOFer can often be had for under $10. The advertising alone is worth that price to me.
Purchasing autographs of deceased Hall of Famers can be very affordable and rewarding. It should always be fun and never break the bank. If your significant other gives you a hard time, it’s an opportunity to look like a smart shopper when you can say, “Don’t worry. It’s a Hall of Fame autograph and cost less than $100.”