It seems most anyone who follows a sport or collects anything related to sports, a question that will eventually surface is “Do you have any autographs?” or some related variation. That leads me to the subject of this blog….Why do we get autographs, and why are we impressed by them?
Autographs mean different things to different people. Some don’t care if the autograph is obtained via purchase, trade, or inheritance…they are just as proud as if they had been there in person to get the autograph. Yet others give little value to an autograph unless they got it personally. Then there is the subject of whose autograph it is, some only like the superstars, heroes, and legends, while others will even make an attempt at getting the autograph of the bullpen catcher of a minor league baseball team, who doesn’t have a roster spot on the team, much less a card, jersey, or bat to sign.
The seemingly overwhelming reason most people consider when getting autographs is the value that the signature brings on the open market. The perception of anyone hanging outside a ballpark, arena, dugout, clubhouse, hotel lobby, trying to get an autograph is that they are doing it for the money they can get by selling that autograph. The collectibles industry has done a fabulous job of feeding that perception by flooding the market with high priced autographed items, either by inserts in baseball card sets, or as auctions, or even selling them on TV via the Home Shopping Network.
Speaking only for myself, I like to get autographs just simply for the experience of meeting a player, or celebrity in person if even for the two or three seconds it takes for them to sign their name. It is always interesting to me to see the personality of a person when they are asked for their autograph. Some make it a point to strike up a short conversation like “ How are you doing?”, or to look the person making the request directly in the eyes, almost as if to determine the intent in the request, while others barely even look up, or stop walking, or even stop a conversation with someone else to sign their name effortlessly on whatever is handed to them.
My very first autograph experience was when I was 5 years old, living in Ft. Worth, and a budding Dallas Cowboy fan. My dad took me to a local car dealership where Roger Staubach was making an appearance, and signing autographs. The highlight of my day was not only getting to see my favorite cowboy player in person, but him handing me his autographed picture while I was riding on my father’s shoulders. I was so proud of that autograph that as soon as I got home…I put my name on it, so everyone would know it belonged to me. Needless to say…the value of that autograph on the secondary market may have dropped considerably with the addition of my 5 year old signature, but the autograph attached to the memory is priceless to me.
Over the years, I have obtained a wide variety of autographs from a variety of people, from indy car racer Johnny Rutherford, to football players, baseball players, even former tonight show band director Doc Severinson. Not every autograph has a sentimental memory attached, but for most I can at least tell the story of how I got them.
Feel free to share with us what motivates you to get autographs, or some of your most memorable autograph experiences.