Posted in Baseball

Is anybody else feeling priced out of the autograph market?

When I started collecting autographs in the late 1980s, if a baseball player was hired to sign autographs at a card show, you could frequently get a signature for $10… sometimes less. A star or Hall of Famer might cost $20 or $25. Larger shows would often have a free signer with paid admission.

I give JP’s Sports & Rock Solid Promotions credit for keeping the free signer tradition going for most of the shows that they run. At their White Plains show later this month, perfect game pitchers Tom Browning and Len Barker will sign for free on Saturday, Jan. 14th.

But some of the guests seem out of my league.

Steve Matz 2009 Bowman Draft Picks autograph card 030/500
Steve Matz 2009 Bowman Draft Picks autograph card 030/500

  • Mets infielder Gavin Cecchini – lifetime MLB record: 2-for-6 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored – will cost $35 per autograph plus $10 per inscription. Good thing he signed something for me when he came through Trenton as a Bighamton Met a few years ago.
  • Mets pitcher Stephen Matz, who’s biggest claim to fame to date is starting a World Series game for the losing team, will cost $69 plus $19 per inscription. Matz has signed a bunch of stuff for Topps, so if you’re just looking for a signed baseball card (like I collect), you have plenty of more affordable options.
  • Mets backup catcher Rene Rivera‘s autograph will run $39, but at least you get one free inscription. Unfortunately, I do not have Rivera’s autograph… and at those rates, it’s going to have to stay that way.

I get it… inflation has made almost everything more expensive than it was when I was a kid. The rapidly climbing baseball salaries make this even more pronounced. When a ballplayer made a five- or low-six-figure salary, earning a little bit extra for spending a couple hours signing baseballs and photos was very attractive. Now that players are making high six-figure and seven-figure salaries, it’s harder for that “extra money” to seem important unless it’s a lot of “extra money.”

As long as the market will support the higher prices, promoters will continue to charge them. And if it doesn’t, odds are that players will just choose not to sign anymore. And that’s ok.

But if you’re wondering why I don’t keep track of current & former Mets players autograph show appearances like I used to… well, here’s your answer. The rising prices are keeping me away.

Does anyone else feel like they are getting priced out of the hobby?


3 thoughts on “Is anybody else feeling priced out of the autograph market?

  1. I feel a bit priced out of the Yankees shiny new toys, like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier. It’s odd to see prices still so high (in general) with the number of autos out there. At the same time, with the flood of autos, I have seen some retired players prices drop.


  2. While I don’t agree with the prices for current players, (really $39 for Rene Rivera), I understand why the prices are so high. I’ve been to a few of those shows where they’ve had the current players who aren’t stars like Cecchini and Rivera signing and their lines were empty. A few rabid Mets fans will pay to add them to their Mets collection, paying for the time saved of getting their signature without having to go to the ballpark with a clumsy item hoping they will sign.
    I rarely, if ever, pay for an autograph anymore, as the prices at the shows have become too expensive for it to be a hobby. Props to the promoters for continuing to provide a “free” guest with admission in keeping the hobby spirit of autograph collecting alive.

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  3. At the smaller shows in the late ’80s and early ’90s, $5 was about the most you would have to pay for an autograph; many were only $2 or $3. Bob Feller, Bobby Thomson, Don Larsen, Catfish Hunter, Enos Slaughter, Phil Rizzuto, and pretty much the entire ’69 Mets team (minus Seaver and Ryan) did tiny shows all over the place for peanuts. It was a great time to be a kid who knew nothing about any of those guys.

    The small shows have disappeared, but certified autograph cards and TTM have essentially taken their place. Autograph signings are now more about selling the experience and providing the opportunity to get bulky items signed. Experiences don’t come cheap, so 3x the common autograph price is typical. That forces you to downselect to just the players you really want to have sign in person and I’m fine with that.

    But $69 for Matz is not nice. Topps has completely devalued his autograph with massive overproduction (not performing like a superstar in 2016 didn’t help either), to the point where $6.90 could get you a very nice premium autograph card. $35 would still be a bit high, but I could see it. $35 for Cecchini is just crazy, especially when you see what his signature looks like; I would be shocked if his ticket sales hit double digits. Rivera would be a big draw for a lot of collectors because he has no certified autograph cards, but only the desperate ones will pay $39. At $20, most of these guys would have empty lines, so I don’t know what they’re thinking.

    These days, I get almost all of my in-person autographs at minor league games. I did pay $35 for Dwight Gooden a few years ago when he was randomly out this way (and got to see Pedro Martinez in passing as a bonus), but that’s about my limit. It’s too bad in-person signings aren’t more accessible to kids, they were my first real exposure to the history of the game. Is this a side effect of the union’s successes? Previous generations had the barnstormers, we had the cheap show signings, but has the players’ relative financial security taken away that sort of interaction with baseball’s past from today’s kids?

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