The Most Expensive Autographed Items in the World
When it comes to selling signatures of athletes, presidents, musicians and the greatest minds in the world, people are willing to pay a staggering amount of money. Especially if that signature is on the right item.
These are some of the most famous, quirky and expensive autographed items ever put up for sale at auction, from baseballs and trading cards to signed photos and ultra-rare historical documents. How much would you be willing to spend?
Anything Signed by Steve Jobs
Price: Around $50,000
According to the PFC40 Autograph Index, Steve Jobs’ signature is the most valuable modern signature on an 8 x 10-inch photo in the world. A signature from the late tech guru is worth around $50,600. A signed copy of Macworld fetched $47,775 at auction in December 2018, and a “Toy Story” poster signed by him sold for $31,250 in 2019.
Jobs’ signature is rare because he wasn’t big on autographs while he was alive, which means the buyer should be wary when looking for something authentic. For example, this $8,500 eBay listing for a signed Mac CD described as a “HIGH VALUE Product intended for VERY & GREAT COLLECTOR” that ships from Italy and is tucked away under eBay’s pro wrestling trading card category might not be authentic.
Albert Einstein’s Letter to the State of Israel
Two days after the formation of the State of Israel, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to the first President of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, congratulating him on the new Jewish state. But he also issued a warning:
“One still cannot say that the powerful men of this earth mean well with us. The game the English play with us is miserable, and the American attitude appears ambivalent. However, I am confident that our people will overcome this last scare and that you will live to experience the satisfaction of having created a happy Jewish community.”
The letter is typewritten and signed by Einstein. The Raab Collection has it up for sale at $90,000.
Signed Photo of ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson
A rare photograph of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, remembered mainly for his role in allegedly fixing the 1919 World Series, was found in a random scrapbook. The photo is from the early 1900s, and Jackson’s autograph is exceedingly rare because he was illiterate and rarely signed anything other than necessary documents. Experts believe fewer than 100 of his autographs exist. It sold for $179,000 in 2015 at auction.
‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ Record Signed by All Four Beatles
A U.K. Parlophone vinyl record of arguably the Beatles’ best album sold at auction for $290,500 in 2013, blasting past its original $30,000 pre-sale valuation. The album was signed by all four Beatles members in 1967, the same year it was issued.
Basketball Signed by Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson
In 2010, an auction in Macau, China, presented one of the most coveted items in all of pop culture history: the basketball from Michael Jackson’s music video, “Jam,” signed by both the King of Pop and Michael Jordan, who also made an appearance in the 1992 video.
The item was originally was estimated at a value of $600, but the fierce raising and lowering of paddles showed that the iconic item was worth far more. It sold to an American bidder for $304,000.
The American Recognition of Israel, Signed by Harry Truman
On May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel declared itself the State of Israel. President Harry Truman went to work writing up a press release in support of the new state. No signed copy of it exists, although there is an early draft secured in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.
In 1965, the chairman of the American-Israel committee said it was regrettable that there was no existing signed document which recognized the State of Israel and symbolized the two government’s alliance. So Truman had press release drafted, and he signed it. That item went up for sale by the Raab Collection and sold for around $300,000 in April 2019.
Mickey Mantle’s Signed 1968 Road Jersey
Mickey Mantle’s 535th home run wasn’t totally legit — Detroit Tigers pitcher Danny McLain served up a softball to the Commerce Comet, tipping the record books in his favor. It was a gift for the Mick, who would retire next season.
Sometime after that game he gave his jersey to his friend Tom Catal, curator of the Mickey Mantle Museum in Cooperstown, New York. He signed it, “To Tom, A great friend always, The Mick.”
The jersey went up for auction in 2012 at a starting bid of $50,000, and sold for a final price, including buyer’s premium, of $366,967 after 19 bids.
A Pristine, Signed Tom Brady Rookie Card
A simple Tom Brady autograph can fetch around $1,000 on average, but one signed item from the Patriots quarterback is astoundingly expensive. Just a few weeks after the Patriots beat the Rams at Super Bowl LIII, a signed Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship trading card with a 9.0 rating sold for $401,000. If the Pats win again, how much do you think it’ll be worth in 2020? And how is this card worth more than Mickey Mantle’s jersey?
James Joyce Autographed First Edition of ‘Ulysses’
Met with reviews such as “[‘Ulysses’] appears to have been written by a perverted lunatic who has made a specialty of the literature of the latrine,” James Joyce’s novel was banned in the U.S. and U.K. throughout the 1920s. But, of course, people still managed to smuggle the strange and confusing modernist masterpiece into their storefronts.
In 2009, a pristine first edition of “Ulysses” signed by Joyce sold for £275,000 at a London auction. You could build quite the bathroom for that price.
The Beatles’ Signed Managerial Contract
The first contract signed between the Beatles in their final lineup (with Ringo Starr, after Pete Best was cast out) and manager Brian Epstein dated October 1, 1962, sold for over $550,000 in 2015 at a Sotheby’s auction. The contract required the parents of both Paul and George to be present, since they were both under the age of 21, and stipulated a 25 percent fee if the band made more than £800 a week for five years.
Three months later, the band made $10,000 (about $83,000 today) for a single appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” prompting Beatlemania.
Babe Ruth’s Autographed 1933 All-Star Game Home Run Baseball
At the age of 38 in 1933, Babe Ruth belted the first home run ever in the All-Star game during the bottom of the third inning. Earl Brown caught the ball with his bare hands. He and his wife waited to get the ball signed that day, but Ruth had retired to his locker room; the couple waited two weeks until the Yankees returned to Comiskey Park in Chicago where Ruth finally signed the ball.
It remained in the Brown family for 73 years, until the couple’s children finally decided to put up for auction in 2006. Bidding reached $700,000, but including the 15 percent commission fee, the final cost came to $805,000.
The ‘Double Fantasy’ Record John Lennon Signed for His Murderer
Price: $850,000 - $1.5 million
Before being shot and killed outside of the Dakota in New York City, John Lennon signed a copy of his LP “Double Fantasy” for Mark David Chapman, who would murder him six hours later. The record was used in the Chapman’s murder trial as evidence and is one of the most macabre and alluring items in rock music memorabilia.
It was first found behind a planter outside the Dakota by a fan, who then sold it in 1999 $150,000. The record was sold again in 2010 for $850,000 and was most put up for sale for $1.5 million in 2017, according to media reports. The item is still up for sale from Moments in Time, although the current price is only available upon request.
Babe Ruth’s First New York Yankees Contract
In 1919, the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000. In 2005, nearly 90 years later, the contract that the deal was inked on sold for astounding $996,000 at a Sotheby’s auction. The contract stipulates that the Yankees would pay the Red Sox four installments over two seasons. It was perhaps the worst decision in baseball history and the beginning of The Curse of the Bambino, the 86-year-period where the Red Sox were unable to win a World Series until the Red Sox won the championship in 2004.
The winning bidder, Peter Siegel, who owns a collectible store in New York City, said he would have paid even more and that the contract “is not for sale.”
Babe Ruth’s Bat from His First Home Run at Yankee Stadium
Price: $1.265 million
When Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923, people packed into the newly built $2.5 million ballpark to watch the Yankees square off against the Red Sox. During the third inning, Babe Ruth cracked a home run; it was the first homer ever hit in Yankee Stadium.
A few months later, Ruth gave the bat away to a high schooler who won his school’s home run contest, writing “To the Boy Home Run King of Los Angeles,” and signing it “‘Babe Ruth’ N.Y. May 7, 1923” on the barrel. The bat went up for auction in 2004 and sold for $1.265 million, half of what it originally cost to build that original Yankee ballpark.
Fender Stratocaster Signed by Multiple Artists
Price: $2.7 million
The second most expensive guitar in the world has the signatures of some of the world’s most famed musicians. The Reach Out to Asia Stratocaster sold for $2.7 million in 2005 to raise money for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The white Fender Stratocaster has the signatures of over a dozen musicians, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Sting, Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. It was the most expensive guitar in the world for 14 years, until David Gilmour of Pink Floyd sold the famous Black Strat for $3.975 million in 2019.
Albert Einstein’s God Letter
Price: $2.9 million
A year before Einstein’s death, he wrote a private letter to the philosopher Eric Gutkind wherein he muses about the existence of God.
“The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends,” wrote the famed thinker in the 1954 letter.
According to Christie’s, the letter is Einstein’s “single most famous letter on the subject of God, his Jewish identity and man’s search for eternal meaning.” The letter sold for $2,892,500 in 2018.
George Washington’s Letter Arguing for the Ratification of the Constitution
Price: $3.2 million
In 1787, George Washington wrote an impassioned letter arguing for the ratification of the Constitution to his nephew Bushrod Washington, who would be a delegate in Virginia during the state’s ratifying convention. This letter was written two months after the Constitution was drafted.
“…I do not conceive that we are more inspired — have more wisdom — or possess more virtue than those who will come after us. The power under the Constitution will always be with the people,” Washington wrote. The four-page handwritten letter is signed G. Washington and it fetched $3,218,500 at auction in 2009.
The Emancipation Proclamation Signed by Lincoln and Formerly Owned by RFK
Price: $3.78 million
At least 24 signed copies of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 order to end slavery are known to exist. Most are in private hands, but the ones that are available to bid can fetch hundreds of thousands or millions at auction. For example, one copy of the Emancipation Proclamation bundled with a copy of the 13th Amendment sold for $2.17 million in 2016.
But the single highest amount paid for a copy of the historical document is one sold in 2010 for $3,778,500. This copy was owned by Robert F. Kennedy, who purchased it from Sotheby’s in 1964 for $9,500 (about $79,000 when adjusted for inflation).
The Rules of Basketball
Price: $4.3 million
In 1891, Dr. James Naismith typed up a brand new game for his students to keep them occupied in the cold Massachusetts winters. He came up with 13 rules spanning two pages and called it Basket Ball. He went on to be the University of Kansas’ first basketball coach and later, he autographed the rules in 1931. In 2010, investment banker and graduate of KU David Booth purchased Naismith’s rules for $4,338,500 and brought them home to KU, where they are on display at the college’s DeBruce Center.
The original rules are quite different than what we know today. For example, it took a few years for someone to invent dribbling. Previously, basketball holders had to stand still to look for a pass or a shot. Also, one of the rules was about not punching the ball.
George Washington’s Acts of Congress
Price: $9.8 million
George Washington’s personal copy of the Acts of Congress, a volume containing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, sold for $9,826,500 to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 2012. The copy is marked with the first president’s bold signature and his personal annotations.
“Without a predilection for my own judgment, I have weighed with attention every argument, which has at any time been brought into view. But the constitution is the guide, which I never will abandon,” Washington once wrote. And no one in their right mind would abandon this book.