It might seem like an odd phenomenon, but with a few exceptions, autographs from more recent decades tend to be worth a great deal less than older ones. In fact, there’s a very good reason for it. At this point you’re never going to be able to go out and obtain the signatures of all four Beatles, Elvis, or the five original members of the Rolling Stones. In some cases, people who did have those rare autographs have lost them or even discarded them over the years. They’re a finite commodity. Most stars from the 1980s are still performing and touring, and definitely still alive. With some luck and persistence, you can go out, track them down and get them to sign something. For that reason alone, it’s going to be a long time before they start scaling the same heights as older ones.
For now, that means it’s collectors who are going after those autographed pictures and albums; investors know that it’ll be quite a number of years before they can find any significant return on their outlay (however modest it might be), and even then it’s unlikely that people will be willing to shell out several thousand pounds for have the signature of Madonna, Michael Jackson, or Ozzy. Only a few 80s stars are likely to reach a truly exalted status, icons such as Queen or Bruce Springsteen.
What to CollectThe obvious answer is to go for autographed items by the artists you love, and that’s a fine course. Once you have those, though, you’re done, unless you become a serious autograph collector. Given that you’re unlikely to obtain all the ones you want without help, whose signatures are really worth having?
Queen would be a good bet, especially as prices are rising quickly, and if you can find a full set of band autographs, they’ll run you several hundred pounds – but they’re probably worth it. The other fairly safe bet is the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and you’ll be getting in on the ground floor, with £75-100 for straight autographs, and £300-400 for signed albums.
Metal fans love their autographs, especially on LPs. You should expect to pay in the region of £200 for the “classic” bands like AC/DC or Aersomith, and approximately half that for most of the others – and less for plain signatures, of course. At this point Ozzy doesn’t even rise far above the pack, claiming just in the £75-90 range for a plain signature.
Curiously, regular Madonna autographs are few and far between; they seem to come in items like cheques or contracts. Yet even those won’t put an extreme dent in your bank account, since you can pick them up for between £250-400, on average. Proper Michael Jackson autographs are also rare, although you can occasionally find some on eBay – just make sure they’re properly authenticated. Expect to fork out around £100-150, more if you can get a signed copy of Thriller.
Where to BuyYou can take your chances on eBay, of course, but remember that it’s caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. You’ll almost certainly pay more going through a dealer, but there’s a far better chance of you buying an authentic item – and if you want to re-sell later, it helps establish a chain of provenance.
In the case of some of the bigger artists, items will be at auction, but you should find dealers to be your best source for signatures.