I am starting to feel that collecting autographs may be somewhat of like throwing my cash into a $ Pit! Is it the poor economy nowadays ir what.I do enjoy it,but as an investment I wonder if I will ever get my $ back on them or even make any kind of profit @ a later time?Does anyone else have the same mindset or am I just being a "bummer"? Wondering

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joe and DP,  boy did you guys hit the nail on the head with these postings....great stuff.   where you mention missing an opportunity DP i agree....i remember barely missing out on a jim croce autograph  some years ago and well we all know it was a rare chance to own a beauty.....thanks guys.....

Wonderful posts.  I've been in the hobby less than three years and moved through most of these learning experiences.  For me personally, the growth process advanced further.  It involves how each person defines for themselves what a "collector" is and starting to realize that not all signed music memorabilia is "collectible".  My initial purchases included a signed Journey Escape, signed REO Speedwagon High Infidelity, signed Hall & Oates Rock and Soul Part I, signed James Taylor Greatest Hits, signed Def Leppard, etc.  This was, as our friend Paul H would say, my "A Stock". Then I came to realized that that none of it is "collectible" really. While this was some of the music of my youth, and I could enjoy them for this reason, they are not investments, are unlikely to appreciate in value, and if I wanted or needed to sell them, I would be lucky to get my money back.  And all that is great, perfectly fine.  But after spending what felt to me like quite a bit of money, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't continue devoting financial resources to things that were not "collectible" and started to feel like the money spent was a large sunk cost.  Turning this corner, I started trying to figure out what is both "collectible" and desirable to me personally.  Collectible now defined as there being a market for it all the time and a strong likelihood of value appreciation over time - and if you find a good deal, the chance for value appreciation immediately or soon, which is about learning what to pay and how to avoid overpaying for something.  My modest collection now includes Pink Floyd, The Eagles, U2, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney etc. I still have some stuff that is not particularly collectible by this new definition, simply because I really like it.  Dave Matthews Band is probably the best example.  I have two pieces and a third at the frame shop right now. But with these, I have realistic expectations about value appreciation, which is to say I don't expect much and don't care.  Finally, there's always room to learn and grow, no matter what stage of the process you're in.  I have collector friends now, some of whom I met on this website, who have vastly larger and more important collections than mine. I'm not envious.  I'm happy for them.  They are the model for what my collection may become some day, and I selfishly learn all I can from them.  Anyway....sorry for the brain dump.  I hope this adds something to the discussion.  

it certainly does add to the discussion christopher and for myself this is what this forum is all about.  i know i learn more from these type of discussions and hope to see more people such as yourself and rich  and the others add their postings....

Those are great points. One of the bands I liked growing up was the Outfield but you are right when you compare them to some of the classics from a collectiblility standpoint like Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, U2, The Eagles, The Beatles, etc.

But having the Outfield Play Deep signed LP is something I really am glad to have.

James Taylor may not be as valuable, for instance, as Pink Floyd signatures but that does not worth owning. He still has millions of fans and people still will purchase his autograph. Just know what the market value of his signature helps you find what is a good buy. If you are just looking at this as investment potential based on the current environment then that is too narrow. Don't forget patience. Someday a $50 investment will double and that's a great return. If you are a fan of James, it's a win-win situation. Don't be short sighted.

I completely agree Joe.  I used DMB in my earlier post, but James Taylor is a national treasure.  I favor photos and have 3 James Taylor.  Owning these is because I'm a fan and not about buying as investment.  Here's my favorite of the three.

Very nice, Christopher. James Taylor is one of my favorite singers. And this signed photo is awesome! What James Taylor fan wouldn't want this one hung on their wall?

First, you guys are awesome. To spend the time to write out such long replies, and with terrific advice. I wish the world were filled with more people like you folks.

Now, this was already said in one of Rich's points. DO NOT collect for financial gain. DO NOT buy, because you think something is a good investment. I did that a few times (example: Richard Nixon book, and J Edgar Hoover). A library was selling them...half price. I paid $250 for each of them. I was new to the hobby and thought that was a terrific price. It wasn't (and I've had many other examples of that).

So do this. Collect IN PERSON, and ONLY people you like. It could be the third string quarterback on the Cleveland Browns (damn, I might not be able to name the starting QB). But if you like him, get it. Save it. Enjoy it. It might be worth 50 cents in 50 years, but so what.

DO NOT DO THIS....as a money making venture.

Do it for fun.

I have to agree with Josh. I have worked in a collectibles shop for over a decade, and the first thing I say to a new customer is always "This is a fantastic hobby, but it is never, ever an investment."   

Sure, if you stick with it long enough, you may see a change in value, but most often it is something silly like Dave Prowse (Darth Vader) signed these photos for me in 1997 for $5 or $10, but now he is charging $50 or $75. Yep, if I sell I made money, but if I had bought shares in Google instead of Dave Prowse autographs .....where would my profit level be 20 years later?

InPerson collecting is the way to go if you can, but lots of people find themselves out of the loop with no celebrities visiting their home town. If you feel that you have to buy an autograph, the other piece of advice I can give (and yes it seems quite against everything I have said above) "Spend the money."  

You can find a Harrison Ford autograph for $200, chances are that same autograph will be pretty ugly and be worth $200 or less in the years to come. If you find a real high quality Harrison Ford signature on the right piece (size & image) and it costs you $600 or $900 or $2000, chances are it will be the piece that gains in value over time.

Autographs or any collectible for that matter, as an investment, sure it can happen, but if you plan on making a profit, you had better be the most educated person in your field, the absolute best of the best in the hobby. Then maybe you will see an increase in the value of your collection.  

 

This kind of reminded me about a book I picked up maybe ten years ago - Kiplinger's Guide to Investing Success, a pretty good basic investing reference book. I liked it because it was pretty comprehensive for being an "investing for beginners" book. One of the chapters addressed precious metals and collectibles, with one section called "Why Collectibles Aren't Investments." It offered, without even addressing the specific issues (i.e. forgery) regarding autographs, several compelling arguments against viewing collectibles of any sort as investments.

Specific issues you don't have to worry about as much about with other financial assets that plague collectibles are:

* You're getting no income from tying up your money

* Costs of ownership: appraisals (authentication in this case), insurance, maintenance, storage, security - all things that are decidedly a non-concern if you were buying stocks or bonds.

* Cost, complexity of buying and selling.

I like how the author ended the section as well:

"Knowledgable collectors with a fine eye for quality have a reasonable chance of making a little money, too. The buy for love, not profit, which means they are guided in their purchases by their own tastes, not the fads of hot markets. If the things they love were shunned by their collectors at the time of purchase, they were able to buy low, giving them an opportunity to sell high s few years later - assuming that other collectors had come around  to their tastes in the meantime."

It the concludes with:

"Good luck, but don't include collectibles in your long range plans for financial security. That would be confusing a hobby with an investment strategy."

Amen!

I used to be an avid autograph collector.  I jumped around between different genres within the hobby, such as sports, hollywood, vintage television etc.  I spent years finding autographs that many consider to be the "essentials" of a sports collection- such as the Big 3 in baseball (Mickey Mantle, DiMaggio, Ted Williams) and the core 4 (since im in NY and a Yankee fan); added some players for investment such as Bryce Harper and Trout when they were first making their MLB debuts and other players both new and old.

After sports, I shifted towards Hollywood, where I wanted to complete autograph "sets" for my favorite movies- The Godfather, The Good the Bad the Ugly, just to name a few.  

Between sports and Hollywood, I estimate several thousand dollars spent- easily.

Then I did the same for my favorite classic TV shows (The Honeymooners, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Sanford & Son etc). I found this experience to be the most fun since you needed to essentially hunt for some of these autographs due to rarity. However, if you looked hard enough, you could get them for super cheap.  I managed to get an authentic Jackie Gleason autograph for $32!

Now I find myself occasionally searching for the autographs I need (still) to complete some TV Show sets and checking the forum from time to time, but I am definitely no longer the avid autograph collector I once was.

I also tend to collect "in person" when I can.  Going to baseball and soccer games and bringing along a ball, jersey or other piece of equipment to get signed.  It is the cheaper alternative in my opinion- a $100 jersey or $30 ball plus decent tickets to the local game.  It's interesting because many times I'd see a jersey for sale on eBay and remember seeing that getting signed for the person next to me- listed for $300-400 of course.

I shifted towards another money pit of a hobby that I originally put on the back-burner for autographs -- coins.  I enjoy it the same way as the TV show autograph collecting because of the "thrill of the hunt" so to speak.  Completing sets seems to be something that keeps me and some other collectors interested.

Anyways, with all this, I can say that autograph collecting will always be a hobby that involves lots of money.  However, if you do the right searching and be patient, you can get some great steals with potential for profit.  Unfortunately, celebrity death and controversy heavily influence the market, both for profits and losses- but it is something to be mindful of despite death of our favorite celebrities being a sad occurrence. Also, I'd say there is no doubt that autographs you purchase today will increase in value- either marginally or exponentially- in the future; it's just how it is.  

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