Jeff Gravley

Can I have your autograph please?

Posted August 7, 2013
Updated August 8, 2013

The sport of autograph collecting has received a lot of attention lately. See Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater and Braxton Miller. They all had signed merchandise for sale on line.

How did it get there is a basic question, but more importantly, were they paid for their autographs? 

It can be as simple as a player signing an item for a person who decides to sell it. There's not much an athlete can do about that.

It can be as complex as a player signing MULTIPLE items that a person will sell after sharing a lump sum of money with the athlete who signed.  

Here's a very telling segment from an article in CBS Sports by Bruce Feldman, who interviewed Rob Rudolph, owner of a memorabilia company.

Rudolph says his company has paid many pro athletes for the signing of items, but says when it comes to college athletes, "it gets a little sketchy. ... we've had arrangements to sign memorabilia for us as soon as their bowl game ends. We have many bowl games down here in Florida. It may be two hours after the game ends, we're gonna meet at this hotel room. We'll buy their used game jerseys, their cleats. They'll sign stuff for us. That's a gray area because the moment they're signing and getting their money, their eligibility is done, but when the arrangement is made before their eligibility. ... that's what I can say. I have never had a paid signing with an eligible player, but I know that is going on all the time. All the time."

Note to athletes. If you are still eligible and someone asks you to sign multiple items, they are going to sell it. If they offer you money and you take it, you risk your eligibility. Go ahead if that's what you want. 

Professional athletes are a little more savvy when it comes to autograph seekers. 

I have seen autograph hounds with the intention to sell send a youngster to ask a player for an autograph. I specifically remember a Cleveland Indians player watch the whole thing unfold. He recognized the "Dad" from previous days of collecting autographs. He told the kid, 'I'll sign for you but tell that gentleman back there he has enough of my autographs.'

It's a tough call for an athlete. To sign or not to sign? When do they stop? There will always be the disappointed person in the group that didn't get one.  

I have collected autographs over the years to display in my "sports room" at home. Stand-alone signatures are quite often impossible to read. I prefer autographs on a picture or an item that quickly identifies the player or coach.

Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams are a few signatures that help decorate my room. I fondly remember the moment I got them, a brief connection while they signed. 

Please note: I didn't knock down a kid to get a player's autograph or send one to ask for me and they are NOT for sale. 

It's been a long time since I asked for an autograph, but in the right situation and setting, I would add to my collection. There's nothing wrong with getting an autograph.

It's the intention of what to do with it that carries many shades of gray.

9 Comments

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  • Objective Scientist Aug 9, 2:05 p.m.

    I am somewhat "conflicted" with regard to seeking autographs of athletes, politicians, and others possessing "celebrity status". On the one hand it seems an "innocent activity" that leaves one with a tangible "memento" of an encounter with someone... someone of notoriety. It can certainly be a "thrill" for a kid to have his favorite athlete "sign" something for him/her. However, having been in attendance at, and often with the opportunity to be "up close" to the action of the event and to witness the "autograph hounds" - both young and old - I truly have mixed feelings. Parents-- what message are you sending if you encourage your son/daughter to be part of an unruly mob going after an autograph - not all are that way, but some (perhaps many) definitely are and some seem even truly desperate to get that signature! Sometimes it seems the "kid" does not even know the athlete whose autograph they are seeking? Is that a case of the parent being the one who wants it and the kid is the mechanism to get it? Our society has within it a cohort that clearly puts athletes on a pedestal and gives athletes "superhero - God-like" status. Are we teaching our kids to do THAT!!! I don't believe any athlete deserves that status! Are we offering our kids any healthy and balanced perspective on sports? Again - autograph seeking/collection is an innocuous activity on the surface, but like anything - and many things are in today's society - it can be carried too far. I present those thoughts and raise those questions in a "Devil's Advocate" fashion, not in any judgmental way.

  • ForeAutumn Aug 9, 11:19 a.m.

    Interesting

  • Sauras69 Aug 8, 6:43 p.m.

    ^^^ Sorry. I meant to write Professional. Why we can't edit on some is not acceptable.

  • Sauras69 Aug 8, 6:41 p.m.

    Jeff. I'm glad to read that your autographs are not for sale. I have a few basketballs signed.... View More

    — Posted by Sauras69

    Could you give me your reply to the question I posed to jgunn?

    Just curious.

    — Posted by uBnice

    After he signs an autograph, there is no control then. Some will sell it. Some will keep it and pass it on to their child like I will.

    I have been offered some monies for the Gaylord Perry cards and a baseball. Totally original. I don't need the money. I can't speak for anyone on here, nor do I ever want to. I look at all of the stuff that I have in a trophy case everyday. I have college athletes autographs that are now in the Proffesional ranks. My son will get all of this one day. Being honest. Good question.

  • uBnice Aug 8, 4:16 p.m.

    Jeff. I'm glad to read that your autographs are not for sale. I have a few basketballs signed.... View More

    — Posted by Sauras69

    Could you give me your reply to the question I posed to jgunn?

    Just curious.

  • Sauras69 Aug 8, 3:43 p.m.

    Jeff. I'm glad to read that your autographs are not for sale. I have a few basketballs signed. One from Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Wilcox, and a Charlotte Bobcats basketball with all player signatures from 5 years ago. I have Gaylord Perry's complete set of cards signed + a baseball when I met him back in 84 in education. I have a bunch of PGA women's golfers from the US Open in 07. I have a few from some ACC coaches and former players from the ACC.

  • Gunnstigator Aug 8, 1:01 p.m.

    What you have, Jeff, is a room full of mementos that are very special to you, and each item has... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    The operative here is that it "used to be all about". Times have changed.

    Question: If you had a... View More

    — Posted by uBnice

    I'm old school, so I wouldn't feel good about it. What Jeff has is pure - his memorabilia means something to him - it has a sentimental value, not a dollar value to Jeff. And you're right: times have changed, and not for the better IMHO.

  • uBnice Aug 8, 9:53 a.m.

    What you have, Jeff, is a room full of mementos that are very special to you, and each item has... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    The operative here is that it "used to be all about". Times have changed.

    Question: If you had a son that was a star college athlete who gave autographs, what would you say to him if you saw their autographs being sold?

  • Gunnstigator Aug 8, 7:38 a.m.

    What you have, Jeff, is a room full of mementos that are very special to you, and each item has a story to go along with it. Your sports room is filled with things you can share with family and friends and eventually pass down to your children. That's what it's all about. Or used to be all about.

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