The Most Valuable Signatures
If you’re fortunate to own memorabilia or an autographed photo signed by a celebrity, you likely understand its value. But did you know that some autographs are highly prized among collectors? The team at Americash Jewelry & Coin Buyers in Westmont, Illinois, has researched the following list of 10 most valuable autographs for you to explore.
1946 Lincoln University Albert Einstein Signed Photo
In 1946, Lincoln University near Oxford, Pennsylvania, bestowed an honorary degree to Nobel-Prize-winning researcher Albert Einstein. A freelance photographer captured Einstein at the event and received a request from Einstein’s daughter for copies of the photo, which he sent. Einstein’s daughter then sent the delighted photographer a copy that Einstein himself signed.
Given the rarity of an Einstein-signed photograph, the fact that one connected to this Lincoln University event exists makes the autographed image a treasure for collectors. An informal 2016 estimate put the value of this Einstein-autographed photo between $6,000 and $8,000.
Abraham Lincoln’s Signed Copies of the Emancipation Proclamation
Amid the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation pronounced that all individuals held in slavery in the Confederate States of America were free, an executive order that took effect on Jan. 1, 1863.
Lincoln signed 48 copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, but only half of them exist today, according to the African American Registry. In 2012, a rare signed copy of the document sold at auction in New York for $2.1 million.
Button Gwinnett’s Signature on the Declaration of Independence
Button Gwinnett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, lived in relative obscurity. Born in England in 1735, he moved to the British Colonies and became involved in politics and passionate about the Colonies’ quest for independence from Great Britain. In 1776, Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His signature is below and to the left of John Hancock’s famous signature.
Gwinnett’s relatively low-key status as a signer of the Declaration of Independence makes his signature particularly valuable. In 2010, an original Gwinnett signature on a 1770s-era document sold at auction for $722,500.
James Joyce’s Signed First Edition of “Ulysses”
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1882, James Joyce is a prominent figure in British literature. His most famous work, “Ulysses,” published in book form in 1922, was so controversial that several countries banned its distribution. A rare first edition of the work, one of only four copies of the book from the first edition print run that Joyce personally signed, sold at an antiquarian book fair in London in 2009 for close to $329,000.
Jimmy Page’s Signed Guitar
Classic rock fans practically worship Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. Collectors highly covet a 1963 Gibson EDS-1275 guitar that bears Page’s signature. This signed Gibson guitar, which remains functional and playable, is worth $73,000.
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe Signed Baseball
New York Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio and actress Marilyn Monroe were among the most recognized celebrity couples in the United States. In 1961, they attended a Yankees’ training camp in Florida and signed a 1947-1953 era Reach Official American League William Harridge stamped baseball.
Items that the couple signed together are extremely rare, making them highly desirable among collectors. According to Sotheby’s, the duo’s signed baseball carries an estimated value of $300,000 to $400,000.
John F. Kennedy’s Autograph on The Dallas Morning News
On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited Texas with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Shortly after 9 a.m. in Fort Worth, where the Kennedys were staying, the president signed the front page of a copy of the Nov. 22 edition of The Dallas Morning News for Jan White, a Hotel Texas staff member.
Later that day, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy while the president traveled in a motorcade through Dallas. This copy of The Dallas Morning News is likely the last item Kennedy autographed before his assassination. According to a 2009 Los Angeles Times report, historical document dealer Joe Maddalena purchased the signed newspaper for $39,000 and immediately insured it for $250,000.
Neil Armstrong’s Signed Lunar Landing Photo
Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon, one of the early pioneers of space exploration. In 2019, a rare, signed photograph of Armstrong taken just before he set foot on the moon’s surface sold at auction for $52,247. The signed photo had been in the family of the head of NASA’s photo department, Richard Windmiller Sr.
Steve Jobs’ 1983 Signed Letter
Apple founder Steve Jobs didn’t like signing autographs. In 1983, the technology pioneer responded to a letter writer who requested his signature: “Dear Mr. M. Varon, I’m honored that you’d write, but I’m afraid I don’t sign autographs.” The letter, printed on Apple’s 1983 letterhead, bears Jobs’ signature and his title as chairman of the board of directors for Apple.
When Jobs’ 1983 signed letter came up for auction in 2001, it fetched close to $500,000.
William Shakespeare’s Signature
Famous English playwright William Shakespeare remains a historical enigma. From an autograph perspective, Shakespeare scholars find his signature fascinating: Shakespeare appeared to spell his name several ways, from Shackper to Shackspere.
A 2013 London Metropolitan Archives exhibition featured a legal document containing Shakespeare’s signature, a true treasure in the world of valuable signatures. Principal archivist Laurence Ward said, “There are only six signatures that we know about from Shakespeare, so in that sense, to us, really, it’s priceless.”
How To Verify an Autograph To Determine Whether It’s Genuine
One way to verify the authenticity of an autograph on an object is to run your finger over the signature. If the autograph feels flat, it’s likely not authentic. Genuine ink will have a textured feel. Using a magnifying glass can also help. Signatures created with an autopen machine will have unusually straight lines appearing under magnification.
When you want to sell an autographed collectible or add a valuable autograph to your collection, Americash Jewelry & Coin Buyers is here to help. Please call, send us an email , or visit our showroom in Westmont, Illinois.