There was once a day when collectors actually became upset when card show promoters began charging $10 if you wanted Joe DiMaggio’s autograph. The demand was there, though, and it became apparent fairly quickly that fans and memorabilia lovers would gladly fork over a few bucks for the chance to say they had a few seconds in front of a Hall of Famer. Mickey Mantle made a post-career living off appearance fees and exclusive autograph deals.
Players and agents quickly realized there was money to be made by agreeing to sit at a table for a couple of hours and write their name nicely.
Today, major shows attract current and retired—mostly retired—players who sign anything and everything.
At the recent East Coast National in New York, the autograph signers included Bo Jackson, Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken.
The cost to land the biggest names was not trivial but after spending some time observing the interaction between fans and players, David Seideman of Forbes tells us while long term value may be questionable, it’s getting the chance to meet the player and possibly get a nice photo out of the deal, that proves to be the best part of the deal.