Monday, December 14, 2009

Card Companies & The Future Value of Autographs

It's a rare occurrence when I post something that may actually be of substance, and this just may be one such occurrence. Lately, I have been thinking about the perceived value of autographs and how that relates to their overpopulation when it comes to the secondary market. What got me to thinking about this was pondering whether or not to trade away a Pablo Sandoval autograph. The person I am trading with was offered a Red Schoendienst autograph instead, but opted for Kung-Fu Panda over a Hall of Famer.

What does this say about the value of living Hall of Famer autograph cards produced in the last 10 years? According to, there are 200 autographed cards bearing Schoendienst's signature, versus only 16 for Sandoval. Right now, there's a viable argument that the Sandoval is worth more than the Schoendienst, just based on it's scarcity. This was only Sandoval's second season, and the way things hae been going, I'm sure he'll have more than 100 autographed cards by the end of next year. This will obviously affect the value of his autographed cards, and probably average things out between him, and Hallof Famer Red Schoendienst.

My point is this: Are autographed cards of anyone going to be worth anything in the future? Seems like damn near everyone has an autographed card in every damned set out there. Nick Markakis already has 305 autographed cards, and has only played 4 full seasons of baseball. That's an average of 76 cards per season! Autographs are no longer a rarity, and that's a real shame. We're not just talking about living players either. I can't state this for a fact, but the market for deceased Hall of Fame autographs has to have suffered over the course of the last decade. How many Mickey Mantle autographs are there on eBay right now? DiMaggio? Even Babe Ruth has 124 certified autographs, according to

If autographs will soon be worthless, if they aren't already, then what is the next big thing that will take the industry by storm? It's already been established that relic cards are old news, and with products like Topps Unique out there, it won't be long before we collectively yawn at patch cards either.


  1. I believe that over population of autographs is and has driven away many card collectors. Why would anyone buy a 100 dollar box where you pull 3 worthless cards that you can separately buy for a dollar each. If companies would worry more about the base cards, collectors probably would to.

  2. Mickey Mantle autographs were never really rare - he signed a ton of them during his lifetime. DiMaggio and Ted Williams signed a lot too. There are plenty of autographs out there for any of the Hall of Famers that were living during the era of baseball card shows.

    That doesn't mean that they're worthless. People still want Mickey Mantle autographs, and if there's any price decline I would think it could be explained by the economy.

    Nick Markakis is a different story... outside of the Baltimore area, how many people really care about him? So yeah, 304 different autograph issues is probably a few too many.

    Autographs stopped being special pulls when you were guaranteed x number per box, because that meant that the card companies needed to include cards of rookie "prospects" who generally turned into middle relievers and utility infielders to meet their price points and still deliver the requisite number of autographs.

    You can rest assured that when the card companies find the next big thing, they will find a way to run that into the ground, too.

  3. I have 61 Kevin Kouzmanoff auto cards. That's a bit much for someone no one other than me and three people in San Diego care about.

  4. I've thought the same thing about base cards for a long time. The companies should make the base cards more quality and more worth while to collect. They should also, make the star players the short printed base cards rather than w.e. 50 or so cards they feel like. The star players are what everyone collects, so if they are short printed then people will have to buy more in order to find the players that they like.

    As for autographs, the card companies need to take a chill pill. autographs have become way to common. Rather than including autographs in every set, they should be limited to the middle to high end sets, leaving the basic sets with just inserts and memorabilia cards. This would work out fine because most people that collect the basic set each year are really just looking to collect the set and maybe a few insert sets; not an auto on a crummy designed card. I particularly like how heritage does the memorabilia cards and autos. Their per box ratio is very low and for the most part that design is quality.

    Too many autos flooding the market is definitely not a good thing. The market can never settle at a good value because there are so many products to distract people. So many times will a great ebay listing go for an amazingly low ball value because there are just simply soooo many listings for similar products that the buyers' attention is too divided.