Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dallin from Fremont. Dallin Wonders, “What are the chances of receiving an autograph?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dallin!
What would your first thought be upon seeing your favorite player in the flesh? If you're like many kids, you might immediately ask for an autograph. Is there a better souvenir from the big game than the signature of your favorite player scrawled on the back of a program or a jersey?
An autograph from your favorite player might be a priceless treasure to you. In reality, it most certainly does have a specific monetary value. Autographs are big business and can be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
How much a particular autograph is worth usually depends upon a couple of factors: the popularity or notoriety of the person in question and rarity. The more popular or notorious a person is, the more valuable the autograph. Likewise, rarity also increases value.
If you have an autograph from an extremely popular person who rarely signs autographs, then a signature could be worth big bucks. On the other hand, the signature of a minor celebrity who signs thousands of autographs every year might not be worth more than a few dollars.
People have been collecting autographs for longer than most people imagine. For example, ancient historian Pliny the Elder recorded that Roman dictator Sulla's son-in-law collected signet rings people used to sign and seal official documents, an ancient form of an autograph.
Likewise, ancient peoples often collected vases, mosaics, and other forms of artwork personally signed by the artists who created them. These items can be thought of as the precursors of the signed footballs and jerseys people collect today.
So whose autograph is the most valuable? Most experts would say that honor belongs to William Shakespeare. Not only is he one of the most famous authors in history, but he also signed very few documents.
After Shakespeare, the most valuable signature probably belongs to Button Gwinnett. Who? That's a great question! He's one of the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Some autograph collectors aspire to collect the signatures of all 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence. We wish them well, because that's a difficult and expensive feat.
More famous signers, such as Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or John Hancock, command high prices, but not nearly as high as Gwinnett. Gwinnett died at an early age and signed relatively-few documents in his lifetime.
There are only 51 Gwinnett signatures in existence, 41 of which are housed in libraries and museums. That leaves only 10 in circulation with high demand. A recent sale of a Gwinnett signature netted $722,500!
Perhaps the most expensive autograph ever sold was that of George Washington for $9.8 million. Washington's signature doesn't normally command that kind of money, but it did at an auction when it was attached to his personal leather-bound copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights with Washington's own handwritten notes.
Will your autograph be worth money some day? It depends! If you become a famous actor, musician, athlete, politician, author, or scientist, your signature could be in high demand one day.