Collecting autographs can be a fun and exciting hobby. For some people, it is a way to connect with their favorite celebrities or historical figures. However, it is a way of making money for others. Some autographs fetch millions of dollars. The autograph market is massive, with many rare and valuable items. However, what are the most expensive autographs? This blog lists some of the highest-priced autographs in history.
20. James Dean – $21,600
James Dean appeared in a few films in the early 1950s, but he rose to fame after his starring role in the film Rebel Without a Cause. His rebellious image and tragic death at 24 made him an icon of teenage angst. Dean only appeared in three films, but his autograph is one of the most valuable in history. However, in 14 2015, an autograph dealer sold a James Dean signature for $21,600. It is signed on a copy of the film script for Rebel Without a Cause.
19. John. F.Kennedy – $40,000
In 1963, a few hours before John F Kennedy’s assassination, he gave his autograph to a chambermaid on newspaper she was holding. It was a copy of the Dallas Morning News. The President was a man of the people, so he gladly obliged. However, he wrote in the hallway: “To Jan White-John Kennedy.” Two hours later, JFK was murdered in cold blood. And the woman went on to sell the newspaper for $25,000 in 2003. The value of this autograph is now over $ $40,000.
18. David Bowie Handwritten – $42,000
David Bowie was a British singer, songwriter, and actor who was active in the music industry for over four decades. He was well-known for his distinctive voice and stage presence. Bowie released 27 studio albums during his career, and his hits include “Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Let’s Dance.”Bowie was a highly respected artist, and his autograph was precious. A handwritten and signed lyric sheet from Bowie’s song ” The Jean Genie” sold at an auction for £32,500 (approximately $42,000) in October of 2016. The lyric sheet features his signature in blue ink and dated December 1972.
17. Steve Jobs – $47,775
Steve Jobs co-founded Apple Inc., one of the technology industry’s most influential people. He was not the kind of person who liked to sign items for fans, but there are a few lucky people who have his autograph. One of those people is Mike Wilkins, who paid $47,775 for a signed Apple computer manual in 2011. According to AppleInsider, there is video evidence of Jobs signing the manual, making it one of the most valuable autographs in the world.
16. Jesse James – $51,240
Jesse James was a legendary outlaw who was raised born in Missouri. He was incredibly ill-tempered and violent. When Jesse was old enough, he started moving around with a gang of robbers. The most famous robbery they did was of a bank in Liberty, Missouri. They got away with over $60,000. A man named Robert Ford killed Jesse James in 1882, in his own home, for a $5,000 reward. Despite the circumstances of his death, Jesse had won over many hearts because of his heroics. He became famous for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In 2011, one of his portraits bearing his original signature was sold for $51,240
15. Neil Armstrong – $52,247
Ever since he landed on the Moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong has been revered as a national hero. He was the first man to walk on the Moon and is considered one of the most critical figures in space exploration. Today, authors continue to write his name in the books of history. His rich legacy shines on. And that is why his autograph is highly sought-after by collectors and is worth a lot of fortune. According to Finebooksmagazine, one of his highest-selling signed photographs scooped a staggering $52,247 at an Auction.
14. Jimmy Page – $73,000
Jimmy Page is one of the most revered guitarists in rock and roll history. He is best known for being a founding member of Led Zeppelin. The band formed in 1968 and went on to release some of the most influential rock albums of all time. They included songs like “Stairway to Heaven,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Kashmir.” He signed 25 guitars in 1963, which were given away as prizes by a raffle. The guitars were mass-produced, so the autographs are not worth very much. However, one of the lucky winners decided to sell his guitar at an auction in 2014 for $73,000. And this made it one of the most expensive autographs in history.
13. Albert Einstein – $74,324
If you search for Albert Einstein’s pictures on the internet, one of the first ones that come up is a picture of him sticking out his tongue. This picture was taken in 1951 by United Press International photographer Arthur Sasse. It was Einstein’s 72nd birthday, and Sasse was trying to make him laugh. He succeeded, and the picture became one of the most famous images of the 20th century. Einstein was very private and didn’t sign autographs very often. But he made an exception for Sasse and signed the negative of the tongue picture. In 2009, this autograph was sold at an auction for $74,324.
12. The Rolling Stones – $152,000
The Rolling Stones is an English band that rose to fame in the 1960s. The band has been together for over 50 years and is still touring. And it is known for hits such as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Paint It, Black,” and “Jumpin. In May 2015, a signed copy of the band’s 1964 debut album “The Rolling Stones” was auctioned off for $152,000. While that was their most expensive autograph, their signature still commands a high price.
11. Jimi Hendrix’s Infamous Contract – $174,000
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most celebrated guitarists of the 20th century. He was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1942. Hendrix started playing the guitar at a young age, and by the time he was 18, he was already a seasoned performer. In 1966, he moved to England to pursue his music career, formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and released several hit albums. However, these included “Are You Experienced” and “Electric Ladyland.” He died at the age of 27 from an accidental drug overdose. During his short but eventful career, Hendrix signed a contract with his bandmate Noel Redding for $1 in 1967. At the time, it was just a standard contract. However, the agreement became a collector’s item after Hendrix’s death. In 1995, it was sold at an auction for $174,000. And it became the most expensive autograph ever sold at the time.
10. Joe DiMaggio and Marylin Monroe – $191,200
Joe DiMaggio and Marylin were married for about nine months in 1954. During this time, they were one of the most famous couples in the world. DiMaggio was a legendary baseball player, and Monroe was a Hollywood bombshell. They divorced after Monroe had an affair with baseball legend Mickey Mantle. However, during their short stint as a couple, they were photographed many times together. Both signed one of those photographs and sold it at an auction for $191,200 in 1999. And This made it the most expensive autograph at the time. However, today, it still ranks among the most valuable signatures of all time.
9. The Beatles – $290,000
The Beatles is arguably the most popular band of all time. The band originated in Liverpool, England, and quickly rose to fame in the 1960s. Furthermore, they have a large and loyal fan base all over the world. And while you could quickly get an autograph from one member, it was challenging to get the signature of all four members. According to BBC, a fan paid $290,000 for an autographed copy of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison authenticated this autograph.
8. James Joyce – $275,000
In 1882, James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a family of modest means. Despite this, Joyce always loved learning and went on to attend the best schools in Dublin. He eventually attended university and studied philosophy and modern languages. Joyce’s love for literature led him to become a writer. His first published work is a collection of short stories called Dubliners. This was followed by his most famous work, Ulysses. However, the book was so controversial that it was banned in several countries. But according to Theguardian, a rare first edition of Ulysses was sold for 275,000. It was signed by Joyce and is one of only a handful of signed copies.
7. Babe Ruth – $388,375
Babe Ruth is one of the most notable baseball players in American history. He hit 714 home runs during his career and was a part of the New York Yankees dynasty in the 1920s. Fortunately, he was also a larger-than-life figure, known for his drinking and carousing. As a result, his autograph is beloved by collectors. After he died in 1948, his widow Clara gave one of his prized baseballs to a family friend. Since then, it has changed hands several times. However, it was signed by Babe Ruth himself just a year before his death. And in 2012, it was sold at an auction for a record-breaking $388,375, making it the most expensive baseball ever sold.
6. John Lennon – $525,000
John Lennon was a singer, songwriter, and peace activist. He is a member of the Beatles, which is the most popular band in history. Furthermore, the band released many hit songs, including “Help!”, “Yesterday,” and “Let it Be.” Lennon was assassinated in 1980 at the age of 40 by Mark David Chapman in New York City. Hours before his death, Lennon had unknowingly signed an autograph for his would-be killer. The signature was on a copy of his album “Double Fantasy” and is now considered one of the most valuable in history. However, it was sold at an auction for $525,000 in 2016.
5. Winston Churchill – $662,500
Winston Churchill is undoubtedly one of the most respected British figures in history. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II and is considered one of the most outstanding wartime leaders. Besides that, most people know him for his famous quotes such as “Never, never, never give up.” Even though he passed on in 1965, his legacy remains ingrained in the minds of many.
4. Button Gwinnet – $722,500
Button Gwinnet was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a delegate to the Continental Congress. He is also known for his “Gwinnett Lemonade, ” a mixture of gin, water, and lemon. After his death, his signature became one of the most sought after. There were only 56 of his known signatures. However, most of them are in museums, leaving only a few of them to collectors. In 2006, a document signed by Button Gwinnet sold at auction for $722,500.
3. Abraham Lincoln – $3.8 Million
The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It freed all enslaved people in the rebel states of the American Civil War. However, the proclamation changed the war’s course and is one of the most crucial documents in American history. According to Aaregistry, Lincoln signed 48 copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, and only 26 are known to exist today still. One of those copies auctioned for $3.8 million in 2010.
2. William Shakespeare – $ 4.6 million
Even though Shakespeare wrote some of the most famous works in English literature, he didn’t like appending his signature on documents. One of the world’s most expensive autographs is a signature by William Shakespeare. It auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $ 4.6 million. The autograph is from the 1610 play “Macbeth”. However, there are only six known examples of Shakespeare’s signature; this is the only one still in private hands.
1. George Washington – $9.8 Million
George Washington is the first President of the United States and is one of the most influential figures in American history. He led the country through the Revolutionary War and is the “Father of his Country.” After his death, Washington’s copy of the Acts of Congress auctioned. However, he signed on the first page. And, according to CNN, the document was sold for $9.8 million in 2012, making it the most expensive autograph ever sold.
Although autographs are rare, the list above consists of expensive autographs acquired over the years. You could make a significant profit if you got a hand on some of these great people’s signatures. However, beware of forgeries, as many people try to scam others by selling fakes.