Out of sight, out of mind goes the old saying. It’s definitely true when it comes to autographs according to SigPrices.com. The autograph price tracking website has been accumulating data since just prior to its launch last year and has discovered some trends that might prove valuable to collectors, dealers and others who buy, sell and trade signed items.
While the most iconic retired Hall of Famers may sell at roughly the same level year round, that’s not the case for others.
“Absolutely,” said Ben Milch of SigPrices. “Sports that are in season will have higher price points because of the interest and hype surrounding the sport at that time.”
Milch provided a chart showing Tom Brady autographed footballs certified by one authenticator that fluctuated greatly in price depending whether the season was in play. Prices realized for Brady signed balls on eBay included an $89 sale in July of 2009.
That changed in mid-season.
By late October of Brady’s first season back in the Patriots’ lineup, a Brady signed ball had sold for as much as $250, a 277% increase. In the middle of the summer of 2010, at least one signed Brady ball went for as low as $100. Prices then rocketed up to nearly $300 by October of last year, with the Patriots pushing toward the playoffs and Brady destined for another MVP.
“This see-saw effect was a direct result of when the NFL season was in play,” Milch said.
Of all sports, football autographs tend to have the greatest fluctuations because the emergence of star players is often more sudden.
“An unheralded player or rookie could breakout in a single game, and then fans have a week to think about whether to purchase his autographs before the next game comes to determine if that breakout was for real,” said Milch. “Because baseball, hockey, and basketball have more games, the breakout from players is more gradual and the fluctuations are not as volatile.”
If you’re looking for bargains, data indicates that avoiding the holiday buying season is often wise.
“Other than rookies and prospects, the best bargains are found in superstar players in January,” Milch revealed. “During Christmas time, autographs for perennial superstars invariably increase because of the demand around that time for autographs as presents. This includes players such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Sidney Crosby. After Christmas time is over, the prices for autographs for these stars tend to regress back toward their normal level.”
The best time to purchase autographs for “up and comers” or prospects is in the off-season when interest and hype are at their lowest point.
“The best bet is to diversify among the top ten players you think will break out that season. Out of those, there will be about two or three who will get injured or lose their starting job and lose value, two or three others that will burst out and become superstars, and three or four who will remain steady. In most situations, those that burst out will escalate in value by so much that it will more than pay for the remaining seven or eight autographs. Once those prospects break out, that is when hype is at the highest point and most likely the best time to sell. The rare exception are prospects that you think are likely to become franchise players, like Albert Pujols, Derrick Rose, Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning and the like. But that group is very small, the remaining 80-90% of players who break out rarely maintain their value and regress to the norm after the hype has died down.”
“It’s always surprising to see the values of autographs for rookies who have never even played a single game eclipse the value of bona fide Hall of Famers. For example, the Bryce Harper autographs (available online) are now selling for thousands more than Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, and Whitey Ford combined. The chances of Harper’s career eclipsing those players is extremely slim, but Harper’s career holds so much promise that collectors are paying a fortune for his autograph.”