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Why Some Athletes Autographs SUCK and What Can be Done About it?

October 25, 2022 5 min read 1 Comment

Why Some Athletes Autographs SUCK and What Can be Done About it?


Why do some athlete autographs suck? 

I've been trying to ignore it for a while, and give these guys some slack, but let's face it, many autographs these days are starting to look worse and worse,  Why is this and what can be done about it?

Collectors aren't asking for much.  They just want a nice, big, legible autograph. Like from the guys back in the day such as Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. They had great looking autographs, legible with some nice flare.  You knew what you were looking at the moment you saw it. There wasn't any weird second guessing about who signed that item.  With autograph prices going up nd up, we could at least get a proper autograph on our basketball, baseball, jerseys, or whatever it is that you send in.

First, let's talk about why autographs are suffering.

It's not all athletes. Plenty of guys sign great autographs, and we should thank them for that  However, plenty of athlete autographs need work.

#1 - Lack of pride in one's autograph:

When I was younger, and heck even when I was playing baseball in college, I was practicing my autograph all the time. I loved practicing it because I wanted that signature that was special to me. 

Pete Rose and Ozzie Smith for example. Those guys took pride in their autographs.  Did that mean every single letter was perfect? Definitely not, but you knew when you saw an Ozzie signature. It had that iconic double "zz", and that is part of what made it special. 

#2 - Penmanship isn't taught like it used to be:

For many of us penmanship used to be heavily taught in school. I remember my teacher sticking it to me because my "a" was done too quickly and it looked like a "u."  These days we use computers and text to communicate. They do all the writing for us.

#3 - These athletes sign A LOT:

Not to go easy on the athletes here, but signing is still physical work, and if you saw what these guys have to do sometimes, you might be pretty surprised.

We aren't in the days when an athlete showed up to sign 100 basketballs or helmets. Oh no. I've seen athletes have to sign 500, 1,000 items in a sitting, and maybe even more than that. Try to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you had to sign your name on 500 different items, and still be consistent. It would be pretty tough.

Then it even gets worse because the items change! First it's a bat, then a baseball, then a jersey. It's hard to even get into a pattern or flow because the items are always changing.

#4 - Athletes these days make WAY more money on the field:

Back in the earlier days of professional sports, athletes often had jobs during the off-season. It wasn't weird to see a baseball player stocking shelves in their local grocery store, and so it also makes sense that back then signing items helped with the income.  Those days are long gone.

Athletes don't really need to sign items to make money. Many of these guys are making millions of dollars a year.  An extra $10,000 to sign autographs, while great, just doesn't move the interest needle much for them. Think about it, to guys like that, it's basically a $100 to me and you. No wonder they don't feel super motivated to provide a top-notch autograph on every item. To them, I'm sure these events don't really feel worth their time. 

On to the big question then, what do we do about it?

It's not like we can hold them down or force them to do anything, but I do have some ideas of how we can improve the situation, and maybe lead these athletes down the road of improving their signatures.

#1 - Set proper expectations from the beginning:

Everyone can appreciate being given an example of what people expect them to do. Athletes routinely watch recordings to see how to improve on the field. We can ask and do the same for them with autographs. If you've got access to a photo or some item that they signed in the past that was really good, show it to them right away. "Mr. Athlete, if every item could look this way we would greatly appreciate it."   Let me know this is the kind of quality you are expecting from them. This doesn't have to come off mean or rude either, it's simply letting them know in a polite way what the expectations are. Some of these guys just don't know.  This might be their 1st ever autograph signing.  If instructed properly, they are very likely to do their best to meet those expectations.

#2 - Have an incentive program for the athlete:

Of course, this would still be chump change for them, but it can't hurt to give the athlete a little extra incentive to meet that expectation. Offer them up an extra little cash bonus, or dinner on you. Who doesn't like free food?   This kind of thing can be a great way of sweetening the deal a little bit, and giving the athlete more to strive for. 

#3 - As the dealer, have extra items on hand:

There are few things worse that can happen at a signing than to have some major mistake take place on an item, and now it is ruined. You don't want to send that back to the customer, and the customer doesn't want it either. So what do you do?

This is why you should have extra items on hand. Of course, you can't have copies of every item that is going to be sent in, but having a few baseballs, basketballs, and jerseys on hand to act as replacements will go along way in keeping customers happy should one of these items have a mistake.


#4 - Take ownership of the signing as a dealer:

This is pretty similar to #3 above, but you should be asking yourself as you see these items get signed, "Would I want this for collection?" If the answer is no, then you should probably do something to get that situation resolved.

At the end of the day this all really just comes down to a sort of partnership between the dealer and the athlete. The dealer has to keep that line so everyone knows what the expectations are, and if something goes wrong, they will either resolve it, or at least be honest and upfront with the customer. There are few things worse than dealers who try to just hide a mistake or pretend it didn't happen. 

The quality of autographs in the industry these days is frustrating. We can all understand and feel that.  Hopefully, these ideas and explanations help us to all better understand what is happening. On the one hand, much t is expected from athletes and we would probably all be a little shell shocked to find out what they have to do for these signings.  However, that doesn't mean we should give them a free pass either, collectors do pay a ton of money for these things. 

There is a happy medium out there, we should have to work together to find it and make it work!


1 Response

Charles Fracchia
Charles Fracchia

May 02, 2023

This is awesome 😎!! Just great!! Aside from being a promoter, I feel like you are a collector, too. You seem to have an awesome understanding of collectors. I remember pulling an autograph ✍️ out of a pack, and it was a check mark. Just dreadful!! I also wish that it wasn’t all about top tier athletes. I frequently do autograph projects, and need less than top tier athletes. I wish that these athletes had more autograph signings. I’m not sure about the demand for them other myself.

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