Saddest autograph story in history. It’s definitely got to be John Lennon. His killer, Mark David Chapman actually took his autograph on an LP, 5 hours before he shot him. This was recovered by the US Police who returned it to the original owner who sold it for 94000 pounds in 1999. At present its estimated value is 535000 pounds. The current owner is keeping his name a secret as he is having death threats . Ironically Chapman said his intention was to auction the LP and give the proceeds to a children’s charity. Thats wierd, isn’t it.
What are Autographs. They are signatures of famous persons. Most of us have collected or thought about collecting autographs from celebrities. The most common categories of persons of whom autographs are collected are filmstars, sportstars, and singers. In fact , autograph collection is a hobby in itself, known as philography. Some people devote their lives to celebrity autograph hunting. Think of it. Autograph collection can get you into the record books. Richard Warren of California has 2381 books , all signed by their original authors. He started his hobby at the age of 16 and became a lifelong passion for him. This record is certified by the Guinness Book of World Records
Where autographs are taken and stored. Sometimes in a stray piece of paper which one manages to find at that point of time. Sometimes, in notebooks or diaries. Super fans have celebrity autographs tattooed on their body parts. Serious autograph collectors have specific autograph books and keep on adding to their autograph collection in that specific book. It is also very sought after to take autographs of celebrities on memorabilia signifying the sport/activity for which they are famous. Say, Sachin Tendulkar’s autograph on a cricket bat, David Beckham’s autograph on a football, or as we saw in the sad example above, John Lennon’s autograph on an LP. Something unique which can be cherished can be a celebrity like Sachin TendulKar”s or Andre Agassi’s autograph on his own autobiography.
Professional Autograph hunters. Recognising the money-making potential of autographs, professional autograph hunters actually plan for getting autographs of celebrities, which they can later on sell. The value of an autograph can be immense. The value will also increase over time. Making money in autographs by George Sullivan in fact is a prescribed textbook in University of Hawaii.
Autographs on Photographs. Celebrity autographs gain more value when the autograph of a celebrity is on his/her photograph. In an article by the Telegraph, U.K, some of the most valuable celebrity autographs in pictures were listed and on top of the list was actor James Dean, whose signature is said to be worth 18000 Pounds. Other prominent celebrities on the top 10 list are Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Lady Diana.
Interesting habits of celebrities regarding autographs. George Foreman used to record the name and address of every person to whom he gave autograph to ensure they are not sold. Most avoid signing in public as fans frenzy can unnerve them but they don’t mind signing in more quiet environments. For instance Michael Jordan used to avoid signing autographs in public for security reasons but where less people were there, for instance in golf tournaments, he used to cheerfully do so.
My 1st memory of autograph hunting. I remember as a schoolboy rushing up and taking autographs of 2 of India’s best cricketers ever. One was the great Sunil Gavaskar, and i clearly remember putting my diary on top of several others. He did sign and said “Patience, young man, if you don’t have patience, how can you be an opening batsman.”? The second was Krish Sreekanth. He was busily smoking away inside the bar of Hotel Oberoi of Bhubaneswar. I rushed up to him and he said “ Out, you are below 18.”. I said “yes sir, immediately after you give me an autograph please”. He had a hearty laugh and did give an autograph. I remember having taken autographs of the entire Indian team and most of the visiting English and West Indian teams to Cuttack more than 30 years back. Unfortunately, the diary is misplaced, but the memories remain.
Now as the dad of a teen and a kid , i have not taken an autograph for several several years. However my interest in autograph hunting is revived in living the happiness of my daughters when they excitedly get an autograph of a celebrity. It takes me back to my childhood as well.
Is Autograph Hunting on way out. Well, it has survived around 100 years . Probably autograph hunting started around 1920 with rise of baseball, and shift in baseball from a pitching dominated game to a hitting dominated one. Babe Ruth was the 1st celebrity who was hunted by autograph hunters. Later Joe DiMaggio was too, and apparently he converted it into a money making oppurtunity as well. However, what has survived for 100 years has now a serious threat. That is the emergence of the modern fad called as “Selfie”, which is taking photo of a celebrity with the front camera, so that one captures photo of the celebrity and oneself.
If anything can hasten the end of autograph , it can be selfie. I certainly feel so. Do you ?