Just like other sports collectibles or memorabilia, sports autograph values are highly dependent on the demand and the amount sports collectors are willing to pay.
In online auctions, for example, a hand signed sports memorabilia worth a hundred dollars would not reach the value of more than a thousand dollars without a collector determined to bid for such amount.
But what are the factors that affect or influence the demand and consequently the value of a sports autograph?
1. The athlete who signed the sports collectible
First consideration when pricing sports autographs is the subject or the athlete who signed the sports memorabilia. The more popular the player is the more expensive will his signature be worth. For example, the most sought after and two of the most expensive sports autographs are signatures of baseball’s greatest players Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.
Mickey Mantle played for New York Yankees for eighteen years with three American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) titles. DiMaggio, on the other hand was also a three-time MVP titlist. Both are members of the baseball Hall of Fame.
2. The sports memorabilia signed by the athlete
The type of sporting collectible signed by the athlete is a factor that influences the value of autographed sports memorabilia. Items would vary from game worn jerseys, replica and game used sports equipment, photos, sports cards, among others.
Relevance of the signed sports item to the game of the athlete will give more value to the sports autograph. Furthermore, it is also important that the hand signed memorabilia is in collectible condition. Signs of wear or deterioration would discourage sports collectors to buy the sports item.
Here are more information about autographed sports memorabilia:
a. Autograph on game balls
A game ball would be more valuable if the athlete’s signature is found on the most visible part of the ball. When it comes to baseballs, many collectors would prefer sports autographs on the sweet spot (the thin space between the stitches) rather than on the side panel of the ball. Because of such preference by countless enthusiasts, sweet spot autographs can be more expensive. This, however, is just a matter of aesthetics for display purposes.
Sports autographs on uniforms and sports equipment are probably the most expensive because you would have to pay both for the athlete’s autograph and for the equipment which is in itself pricey.
Game worn jerseys and game used sports equipment can cost you even more because they are hard to find and some of them are significant to sports history. For example is Babe Ruth’s first Yankee Stadium home run bat that he used during the stadium’s opening day in 1923. The bat is one of the most valuable sports memorabilia, it was once valued at $1.265 million.
Most available signed sports merchandise in sporting memorabilia stores nowadays are replicas that are only signed by the athletes during sports autograph signings – events held for the purpose of signing sports items for fans.
c. Sports autographed photos
A hand signed photograph of an athlete can also vary in price. Pictures that are in good condition – no or less signs of deterioration like wear, tear, wrinkles, and curving of the corners – should be more high-priced than photos with low quality.
Relevance of the picture to the game also matters greatly. An athlete’s family photo (even with the autograph) could be cheaper than a signed photo of the player shooting hoops in the court.
d. Documents with athlete’s signature
Signatures on documents are also very valuable sports memorabilia. But their prices rely on their significance to the game that the athlete plays.
One of the most expensive sports memorabilia in the sports collecting market, worth $996,000 in 2005, is the Babe Ruth contract. The document stated the Boston Red Sox’s agreement to sell Ruth to the New York Yankees. This was a historical event to sports – after Ruth left and played for Yankees, the team won for the first time and their victory went on for many years. On the other hand, Red Sox never made it to the World Series again not until the year 2004 (the fate of Boston was called the Curse of the Bambino).
3. Rarity of the athlete signing
Rare sports autographs are generally more precious and expensive than sports autographs that you could easily find or acquire. For example, one reason why Tiger Woods autographed collectibles are expensive is the fact that he rarely signs autographs for his fans and only participates in exclusive sports autograph signings (which does not happen often as well). Because of this rarity, collectors would compete in the market (by means of auctions) as who could own a scarce Tiger Woods sports memorabilia. A rare hand signed sports card that featured Tiger was once priced $16,600.
4. Age of the sports autograph
Age matters when appraising sports autographs on collectibles. Vintage sports autographs are usually more expensive than autographs signed in the modern days. This is most likely because through time, some signed collectibles deteriorate in quality while some get lost. More so, sports memorabilia from the older era immortalize persons and events that make up the sports history.
Antique autographed sports memorabilia are also the ones most stable in terms of value because they do not rely on season or trend.
5. The type of sports or game played is a factor
Majority of the most expensive sports autographs in the sports memorabilia market are those belonging to or featuring baseball player legends. Baseball sports merchandise are also more widely collected by enthusiasts than football, basketball, or hockey memorabilia.
Aside for being a long-running popular sport, it is widely known that baseball started the entire sports collecting hobby back in 1800s in the form of baseball cards from tobacco packs. This importance of baseball sports memorabilia makes them valuable.
Events or circumstances that increase the value of sports autographs
A controversy can have two effects on sports autograph values and demand. Normally, if a player will be involved in scandals and other negative events, his signature’s value will decline. But this is not the case all the time.
Days after Mike Tyson bit off a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their rematch in 1997, the demand for his hand signed sports memorabilia heightened and consequently, the price of his sports autograph also went up.
b. Death of the player
The death of a famous player would also increase the price of his signed sports collectibles. The athlete’s death would make him be remembered again, it would also lead to the rarity of his signature since he could not anymore sign autographs.
c. Trend, season, or hype
At times, you may also notice a greater demand and increase sports autograph prices during the height of a team’s victory in championships. If Steve Nash becomes MVP for this season, then there will be more fans who would want his signature on collectibles. Such may not be the case for the next season if another basketball player becomes MVP.
d. Grade, certification and autograph sports memorabilia appraisal
It has been mentioned earlier that signed sports items must be in collectible state to maintain a high price. There is a need for sports autograph authentication to know its condition or grade and verify its authenticity.
The value of a sports autograph will increase when it is graded and certified by reputable third party sports authenticators like Beckett Grading or Global Authentication Incorporated.