The Most Undervalued Sports Autographs

Autograph values frequently don’t make sense. The autograph of today’s flavor of the month, in any sport or genre, often is temporarily “worth” many times that of established, even deceased superstars.

This post isn’t about that phenomenon. It’s about autographs of Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers that are significantly undervalued in my opinion. I’ll give you my pick in each of the four major team sports plus boxing, golf and tennis.

Baseball: Stan Musial. You think Albert Pujols is the greatest St. Louis Cardinals player ever? You’re wrong. It’s Stan (The Man) Musial. Stan put up Pujols-type numbers in the 1940s and 1950s when those gaudy hitting stats were harder to accumulate. Musial fell 25 home runs short of 500 and was overshadowed by American League superstars Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams, otherwise his autograph would be worth quite a bit more.

Basketball: Bob Cousy. If you read my post last year titled “Why Are Old Boston Celtics Autographs Hard to Sell?” you could have guessed this one. Cousy was the NBA’s first great point guard and still ranks among the top 5 at that position of all time. He helped the Celtics win 6 titles and also was the 1957 NBA MVP. Although not as notorious about refusing to sign as teammate Bill Russell, Cousy is only a little more cooperative and frequently personalizes. Yet no one wants to pay much for his autograph. My theory is that the heyday of Cousy, Russell and co. was when the NBA was almost a minor sport, and there is very little video footage to prove how great they really were.

Boxing: Larry Holmes. Clearly, Holmes ranks right up there with Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and the late Joe Frazier as the best heavyweight fighters of all time, and he was dominant in an era when boxing was truly a major sport. Yet Holmes is valued at a fraction of Ali and significantly less than Foreman and Frazier. Holmes kept fighting after his skills had declined, but so did countless champions including Ali (and the market obviously hasn’t punished him for that).

Football: Marshall Faulk. Who is the only running back in NFL history to amass 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving? Faulk. Who is the most reluctant signer of all modern superstar running backs? It’s Faulk again (Barry Sanders probably a close second). Yet Faulk doesn’t sell nearly as well or for as much as Sanders, Curtis Martin or LaDainian Tomlinson, and Faulk is the only one of the four who’s won a Super Bowl. Go figure.

Golf: Gary Player. Gary is one of only 5 men to have won the career Grand Slam along with Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Player’s 9 career majors is tied with Hogan for fourth behind only Jack, Tiger and Walter Hagen. Yes, Player has been a prolific signer for his entire career, but you could say the same about Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and even Nicklaus to a lesser extent, and Player’s autograph is worth less than any of those 3. Not only that, but Player has all but retired from competition so good luck getting his autograph anywhere besides The Masters. The main reason seems to be that Player hails from South Africa and not the United States or Europe.

Hockey: Mike Modano. You would think that the NHL’s most prolific American-born scorer of all time would be a highly sought-after autograph. Not really. It has to be because Modano played most of his career in Dallas, not one of the NHL’s traditional markets.

Tennis: Billie Jean King. She is one of the top 5 female tennis players ever, and was a groundbreaking figure who transcended sports. King was one of the first female superstars in ANY American sport. Maybe because she didn’t have the girl next door image of Chris Evert and wasn’t quite as good as Martina Navratilova, King is valued less.

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4 Responses

  1. I have an item signed by the entire 1957 Celtics team. Would today’s collectors be interested in something like that?

  2. My dad worked for the Celtics in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Among other Celtics collectibles, such as NBA Championship signed basketballs, I have a framed original and worn #14 Cousy away jersey along with an engraved watch that reads “In appreciation Bob and Marie Cousy”, a retirement gift given to close friends. He knew my dad and have thought about asking him to sign the jersey but multiple collectors have told me to leave it as is, as a player’s autograph changes over the years and could reduce its true value.

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