The Authentic Experience
I saw a story in the newspaper Sunday about a company called egraphs.com. It was about autographs going “digital.”
This company lets fans of NBA or MLB teams get a player to sign a picture electronically and have it sent to your computer (I have no clue if they’ll ever get NFL players).
Now the first thing I thought about was a company that released baseball cards a few years back that were merely a computer chip. You put it into your computer and the card showed up on the screen. Sure, you don’t have bubble gum ruining the picture and you have a lot more detailed stat sheets than the small section provided by a small card.
Anyway, I thought collectors might not like this, just as they didn’t care for those computer chips. Autograph collectors love to put that glossy 8 x 10 up on the wall.
I went to their website to look at the more than 300 athletes involved in this (a few of the big names had already sold out). I was immediately sold.
It wasn’t because of the signed picture, but the fact that they also come with a personalized recorded message.
I remember when I interviewed the Dream Team in the early 90s, an intern asked if she could borrow my tape recorder. She got Charles Barkley to leave an outgoing message on her phone (this was years before cell phones). We all loved calling her house just to hear him say “This is Charles Barkley, and Amy ain’t home right now, so leave a damn message!”
I’m not sure the athletes would say “damn,” or even how elaborate these personalized messages can be. I just thought about how cool it would be to send something to somebody in your fantasy baseball league. If it’s a player your friend has on their team, or a player they wished they drafted.
I thought about my friends grandfather who loved the Padres more than anything. When he was alive, he had a room in his house with every imaginable item. Something about the fact that you could get a Chase Headley photo with a message that says something like “Don, thanks for supporting us all these years, Chase Headley.”
The prices range from $25 to $125. I saw somebody I have a signed 8x10 from was $125 – that’s Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. I noticed another retired player (who isn’t in the Hall of Fame) was Cedric Maxwell of the Celtics. I immediately thought about my childhood friend, who’s now a professor at Berkley. He loves the Celtics. As kids we’d go back and forth, since I was a Lakers fan. I’d love to get him a message from Cedric Maxwell that says something snarky.
As a Lakers fan, I clicked their page. I think there was only one player, and that got me to thinking – an athlete like Kobe Bryant probably won’t do these. Obviously that NBA fanatic on your Christmas list would love a LeBron James picture. But think about this. You wouldn’t even get those players to sign anything after the game; and if you buy autographed photos of athletes online, the FBI has warned – many are forgeries. It’s something you’ll always wonder about, and often you don’t find out until you try selling them 10 years later to buy your first house. You’re told by an authenticator they’re all bogus.
These items aren’t for the investor, but the fan.
Instead of standing around the parking lot waiting for an autograph in the cold and rain…only to have them wave at you before jumping on the bus and not signing your program…you’re just a mouse click away.
A few of the prices I saw as I browsed -- $100 for David Ortiz/Red Sox or Miguel Cabrera/Tigers.
For $65, Chauncey Billups, Matt Barnes, or Jamal Crawford.
For $75, future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd or Stephen Curry.
The website states: It’s a shared moment between you and your favorite star…a high resolution photo, and personalized voice message. It’s one-of-a-kind.
They say that you can tweet back to the star and they might tweet you back, but I’m really not sure how that would work. I seriously doubt a star is going to keep in contact with you, but who knows. If that did happen, on top of getting a picture, a personalized voice message, and then communicating with them – this is the best money a sports fan would ever spend.
And for those of you that want that gift for a hardcore sports fan that “has everything,” well…they don’t have a picture that you can have written “Hey Bob, Happy Birthday. You’re turning 65, but can probably still teach me something on the court. Best Wishes, Robert Sacre.”