Star Wars Autographs by the Numbers: Which are the Rarest?

Watching different Star Wars actors sign autographs for the last few decades, I started trying to figure out the numbers. How many pieces have been signed? How much value should be attached to each autograph? What are the prices that these actors charge vs. what the actual value should or could be?

So I started by using what I felt could be considered round average numbers for ease of understanding.

Using 20 weekend shows worldwide per year, with an average of 2,000 signatures per 2 or 3-day show in the last 25 years. If you feel the number of signed items per show is high, I can understand your concern, but it is realistic if the signer doesn't sign that much assume the remainders are easily filled out with private signings and trading cards for Topps etc. I believe these numbers are quite reasonable.

Sure at some events the guest may sign less, but there are certainly events where they will sign far more. Remember, even if you don't see lines for these guests at a show, that doesn't mean that the promoter doesn't have a mountain of stuff that the guest is contractually obligated to sign. 
These figures put our most common Star Wars signer at about 1,000,000 autographs. Dave Prowse is likely the best candidate for this number. Jeremy Bulloch and Peter Mayhew are probably really close.
Kenny Baker likely made as many appearances but was a much slower signer, while the number may seem low, I am putting Kenny at the 500,000 mark.
Anthony Daniels has limited his signing appearances sometimes to only 1 or 2  per year. I put Anthony at the 150,000 level.
Carrie Fisher didn't really start on the show circuit until 4 or 5 years after the other cast members, but her draw at shows has easily put her in the 150,000 range.
Mark Hamill has done a handful of shows but the fees he or his agents have charged for his signature have always been higher than the rest. I am putting Mark's numbers at about 50,000-75,000.
Harrison Ford for decades was the guy that you had to go out and try to meet in public. He still doesn't do autograph shows, but he has done some private signings and has signed some material for specialty products and trading cards. If we guesstimate the number of these private signings to maybe 10 events with an average of under 500 pieces signed. We can put Harrison in at under 5000 nice sit-down autographs. 
Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were both generous signers via their home addresses. My rough estimates place Alec's Star Wars signed items at about 2000 pieces. Peter likely signed maybe 200-300 with 90%+ of those items inscribed to the fan.
Speaking to a number of active TTM autograph hunters and dealers, if they attempted mailing requests to Mr. Cushing between 1977 and 1985, a large percentage of material sent was Hammer Horror film stills and Sherlock Holmes items. Star Wars images were not good sellers and only existed in press kit images and lobby cards. By 1986 Star Wars was forgotten by most, and it did not see a huge resurgence until 1995-1997 (a year or more after Peter passed).     
I know we don't live in a perfect world, but if you crunch the numbers:
  • Kenny should be twice as valuable as Dave, Jeremy or Peter Mayhew. (With Kenny's passing this is likely now skewed, and will likely even be higher today).
  • Anthony should be roughly 3 times as valuable as Kenny during his active signing years.
  • Anthony and Carrie should be pretty close in value.
  • Mark should be 2 to 3 times the value of Carrie.
  • Harrison's sit down clean autographs should be as much as 10 times the value of Mark.
  • Alec should be about twice as valuable as a nice Harrison.
  • Inscribed Peter items could be as much as 10 times the value of an Alec.
  • Uninscribed Peter Cushing Star Wars items should be worth a small mountain of Dave Prowse signed photos.
You can adjust the main numbers anyway you want.....cut down the number of shows a year, the number of years the signer appeared at shows, or even the average number of pieces signed at a weekend show.
The fact remains that some Star Wars related autographs are in such great supply, you should be very careful in what you choose as a good autograph to collect. That is, of course, if you are seeing your hobby as a possible future investment.

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Tags: alec guinness, autographs, harrison ford, peter cushing, rare, star wars


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Comment by Pete Chuka on January 18, 2017 at 5:28pm

Exactly, anything over say 7000 or 7500 would not be on the Rarity scale at all. Guys like Dave Prowse, Peter Mayhew or Kenny Baker can't under any circumstance be considered Rare. Jack Purvis was Kenny's partner in show buisness for decades, and of the 30-50 signatures known to exist, only 3 or 4 are on Star Wars items and 100% unquestionable, they would bump him right up to the R-8 or higher, while he is stuck at a different R-6 or R-7 level because of album pages and Mini-Tones images.

Comment by Steve Zarelli on January 18, 2017 at 5:19pm

Yes, I was mentally applying to some astronauts, which range from R10 and down. :-)

Any reason why R1 is 5,000-7,000 and not just >5,000? If R1 does end at 7,000, what comes after that? Simply a "common" rating? Just curious.

The interesting thing about astronauts is that some can be commons, but in certain other formats they could be R8. For instance, Jim Irwin who was an easy signer, but hated his official white space suit portrait and almost never signed it. Same signature... $50 on a common postal cover... $10,000 on a white space suit portrait.

Comment by Pete Chuka on January 18, 2017 at 5:05pm

There are numerous different rarity scales for all kinds of collectibles, my best answer is that I borrowed bits and pieces from some, and adjusted it to fit the subject matter at hand. Of course I had to make it "go to 11." The quantities are designed for Star Wars autographs, rarity levels and quantities can be set anywhere you choose. I am positive that the numbers for real life astronauts may be far different that pretend ones. 

Comment by Steve Zarelli on January 18, 2017 at 4:44pm

Is the rarity scale something that is used widely in collectibles or something you created Pete? I've seen them before, but not sure if the levels and quantities are universal. 

Comment by Pete Chuka on January 18, 2017 at 4:23pm
R9    Would be names like Morry Bush, Graham Ashley, Swee Lim, Roy Staite, Ted Burnett, Rob Bottin, Gilda Cohen, John Barry, Grant McCune, John Stears, Oliver Maguire, Reg Harding, Robin Scoby, Norwich Duff, Marcia Lucas, Carole Reade, Don Trumbull, Marcus Powell 
R10  Larry Ward
and then the no known Samples people.... 
R11  Des Webb, Laine Liska, Mahjoub, Mike Cottrell, plenty more of these if you go deeper into the extras   
Comment by Mike T on January 18, 2017 at 3:11pm

Who makes the list of R9-R11? I know Bush.. Larry Ward?

Comment by Mike T on January 12, 2017 at 9:53am

Cool thanks Pete!

Comment by Pete Chuka on January 12, 2017 at 9:15am

Declan never made it to the USA, but he did attend a number of UK shows and did sign a fair number of items at his first couple of appearances. If my memory serves he was taken from his last appearance ill, and didn't live long after that.

Using the numbers from an earlier post I would figure him at R-3 or R-4 with about 500+/- graphs out there. I can't tell you if it's 400 or 600, but I would definitely call it well below 1000 pieces out there.  

Comment by Mike T on January 12, 2017 at 7:46am

Pete do you have any numbers/guesses on Declan Mulholland signed photos?

Comment by Eric K Longo on January 2, 2017 at 10:26am

Excellent post! I was never a big ST  - well, yes, but the "other ST". But I always thought she was quite intelligent and as you say very witty and laser-like with some comments cutting through nonsense. I hope people find this post and those examples of preprints/secretarials.

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