I think there are a lot of variables that make any kind of collecting, autographs or otherwise, spotty modes of investment. It should primarily be for fun and enjoyment, because, as in the financial world, unless you're extremely savvy about what you buy and sell, it's hard to come away with a significant profit, if any at all.
There are many more things working against you when it comes to autographs. Think about other types of collectibles. While fakes and scams have found there way into virtually every area of collecting, from sports cards to antiques, are they nearly as rampant anywhere else as in the autograph field? Not only are people scammed on autographs all the time, it's pretty darned easy to do - far easier than fooling people with reprints or artwork or antique furniture. If I really wanted to start scamming with forged autographs, Ebay has shown us all how extremely easy it is - even for people of limited skill and intelligence.
Think about how difficult it is for the brand new or novice collector to distinguish reputable sources from scams. It's a minefield. When you're buying stocks, some will go up, some will go down. You can make a ton of cash or lose your shirt. But do you have to worry about anything being fake when you make a transaction on E-Trade, let alone there being up to an 80-90% chance there is?
rich, what an excellent answer....everthing you say is so true and i am sure beneficial to all. again thanks for taking the time to post....
It all comes down to your expertise. First and foremost, it's a hobby. If you are doing it just for the possible income there probably far better ways to earn a buck.
I'm finding out a lot about that recently, as I've begun selling a number of items. It's interesting to see how things even out. I was never really collecting for profit but more for fun, but I decided that there was plenty of stuff I could do without as I am transitioning careers at the moment.
There are plenty of things I've taken a loss on, and a few things where I've made a bit of money on. At the end of the day, it all kinda breaks even. It's actually taught me a bit about the hobby and the advantages of "budget shopping."
I've come up with a few principles of collecting, that I feel are good common sense. They're all debatable of course and are probably a matter of perspectives, but I feel they're good advice in general.
1) Focus on the aspect of enjoyment, not investment. Collect things from people you're a fan of, or things you get in person. These things have more value to you for a longer period of time.
2) If a celebrity signs an ugly scribble, don't buy it! Focus on things that can actually be authenticated by fans, collectors and pros on the basis of the signature alone. Set a high standard. I realize this eliminates an absolute ton of modern autographs, but it will pay dividends in the long run.
3) Avoid sports altogether, unless it's something vintage or genuinely rare. The sports market is an entirely different beast, with organized signings essentially dominating the market. Athletes significantly overcharge at the first measure of success, and the bonafide superstars and legends charge absolutely laughable amounts for assembly line signatures (most of which are non-effort scribbles). I've seen athletes at shows charging $80 - $150 at shows for autographs that are literally worth $5 - 10 within a year or two. Collect modern sports ONLY for enjoyment, and prepare to take a significant loss if you spend heavily on them.
4) Buy only from good sources, but in conjunction with rule #2. I'll use the in-person collectors on RACC for example. I have been close to making a purchase or two from the highly reputable collectors there, but realized that it was kind of like driving a new car off the lot. While they may be a bonafide, rock solid source, I realized that the signature's validity was based entirely on the source. That $125 scribble will be hard to sell in a couple years, when the interested parties have no idea who the collector is, what that means, and instead opt for the $25 forgery with a magic "COA" instead. A good source can enhance the desirability of an autograph, but it should be viewed as an "icing on the cake" type of thing.
5) Approach conventions with caution. A few years ago, these were more affordable and an extremely fun way to build a collection. Now, the prices for these mostly B and C list celebrities are just getting too high, the events getting a too crowded and many of them just aren't very low key and fun. You used to be able to pretty easily take pics and videos of these celebrities signing your items at events - good luck now. The end result is you end up paying lots of money for autographs that have no authentication and not much of an experience to go with them.
number 3 is absolutly so true rich, and one i agree with wholeheartedly as are the other 4 postings.... this is what this venue is all about and i thank you......
No problem. Again, there are some points here that are debatable. And I understand if your favorite actress is Emma Stone or your favorite singer is Demi Lovato, and you just have to have an authentic autographed photo from them, and an ugly scribble for a significant chunk of change is about the only way to go. But it is necessary the keep perspective on what this is - an item for enjoyment or fun.
There are certainly investment opportunities in autographs, most certainly. But, as is the case with investing in stocks or bonds or any financial instrument, you really do have to do your homework . . . and even then, prepare to be wrong.
Very interesting points Rich. I feel that when you buy an autograph you also have to consider that at some point you may have to sell it one day sometimes by choice and sometimes you may be forced to if life puts you in that situation. So I will try to do a lot of homework looking at what items sell for from a number of sources. At the same time, I know you can't always buy the exact cheapest item as there are differences in desirability - what has been signed, condition, placement of the signature. I'll give an example I have seen cases where someone bought a clipped signature of a Thomas Jefferson and for what they paid if they just had stretched slightly further you could have got got a document signed. I generally do not like signatures only as there is no context associated. The piece can never become more interesting. Another thing is I try to avoid framed items as they are more difficult to ship and pricey and I do not see any advantage to it from my perspective. If the item is framed, it is not that I will not consider it but I will consider it as a negative due to these issues.
First and foremost, though is I need to be confident that the piece is authentic.
I like to look for the hardest to find material that I can think of as I feel it is more unique. There are times where you have to pay up to get material and I have kicked myself for missing out on opportunities that don't come around very often or sometimes that I have never seen again offered to me.
It is also hard because the hobby does become addicting in some ways and takes up a lot of time and financial resources. At the same time I find it fun and I really enjoy the hunt and the friendships that i have made in looking for items. This is something I really enjoy about this board.
These are some of my thoughts...
These are all good points. I agree on the signature front, although some signatures alone can be pretty cool if there are unique variations - i.e. early examples before a star got famous. But, in general, yes - trying to get something unique is always an advantage.
I avoid items that have question marks by them. The closest thing to the exception to this is the promo CD preorders from the likes of Newbury, JB, Warner Ireland, etc., because the autographs are essentially a freebie. And, really, at this stage, they've more than proven themselves in the authenticity department. Overall, I've purchased virtually nothing the past several years that I have any doubts about whatsoever.
I stick to getting stuff myself when I can. I'm fortunate that my primary area of interest is music, which happens to be an especially easy area for signatures in general. Musicians, especially those on the rise, have a more direct fan connection than actors or athletes. The whole thing is more comfortable and honest. Whenever I'm waiting to meet someone post show, there really aren't many instances where I see collectors waiting. It is mostly fans.
Generally speaking the ones where I have missed have tended to be ones that are well above my pay grade and I really have no business even wanting and have tended to be historical where the person is a well known historical figure.
I agree with your point too Rich on looking for more interesting signature variations.
I look at my autograph collection as a living, ever evolving pursuit. As I learn more about the hobby my tastes change and I continually want to enhance my collection. Unless you have a hefty budget, there are times that selling some of your current holdings make sense to gain a superior item.
Selling some of your collection to reach new objectives is an eye opening experience that also improves your collecting skills.
It's an exciting part of the hobby although it can be extremely humbling as well.