How I evaluate the price of autographs

I thought you would like to learn a little about how we evaluate the price of an autograph. 

Do we simply pluck them out of thin air?

Is this simply an attempt to artificially inflate the price of the market, as has been claimed about some other leading collectibles indices?

No, and no.

A labour of love

What you must know is that I spend a generous proportion of my week poring over upcoming auction catalogues, as well as reviewing the results of past auctions.

I also attend several major auctions and events each year around the globe - all to keep me abreast of movements in the market and all the latest trends.

Prince william autograph
Leading examples of Prince William's signature have grown 33.3% in value in the past year


I also monitor the prices at several dealers, throughout the world.

And all the time I'm doing this, I'm constantly looking towards the finest pieces for each name, from Neil Armstrong to Prince William. Which means I will be looking at the: 

  • Quality of the autograph
  • Quality of the paper/photo
  • Context (is this an illuminating letter or inscription/ is the recipient famous?)
  • Provenance

And, if it's a signed photo, which are generally more valuable than standalone signatures, is the photograph typical of the person? A signed photo of Charlie Chaplin in his tramp guise will be more desirable than one of Chaplin in his civvies.

The figures quoted in the PFC40 are the market value for museum-grade quality specimens that have been fully authenticated.

These are the most desirable and valuable pieces. These are the items we sell at Paul Fraser Collectibles.

This all enables me to arrive at a figure for each name on the list.

And when it comes to selling our stock of rare autographs on our online store, it enables me to set fair prices.

Prices that I believe offer the new buyer good scope for potential gains should they wish to sell a few years' down the track.

What is "market value"?

Now, some may say that the "market value" prices listed on the PFC40 are more a reflection of dealer figures, and don't mirror the lower prices achievable through auction houses.

This is true, to an extent.

Auction prices are indeed more variable, depending on who is bidding at an auction on any given day.

Yet the advent of internet bidding means that there are far fewer opportunities for amazing bargains these days.

Some wheeler dealers may argue this is a bad thing. I think it has helped firm-up prices in the rare autographs sector, ensuring the integrity of the market and boosting the confidence of buyers.

And in many cases, the excitement of the auction room propels prices far beyond those offered by dealers.

It's also important to remember that although prices might sometimes seem lower at auctions, ask yourself if the authenticity of the item is as strong as it might be. Is the condition of the piece top rate?

When you buy through a dealer, especially one who offers a lifetime moneyback guarantee of authenticity, often times you are paying a touch more for the security that comes from knowing your item is genuine.

That, in my humble opinion, is money well spent. 

Paul Fraser. 

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