Ludwig van Beethoven’s autograph: Classically rare
Ludwig van Beethoven is among classical music’s biggest megastars, so it’s no surprise that there’s a healthy market for his autograph.
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell, it’s helpful to begin your journey with an understanding of his market so you can be assured you’re getting the best possible deal.
Here’s what you need to know.
It’s rare – but not that rare
Rarity is relative.
To be clear, texts and short musical manuscripts in Beethoven’s hand are rare.
The only known section of the Ninth in Beethoven's hand (Image: Sotheby's)
But Beethoven had the good fortune to be recognised for his genius in his own lifetime. He left behind a large body of work and correspondence, which was carefully preserved by those he worked with.
These manuscripts appear regularly in specialist auctions.
But over time, more and more have ended up in permanent collections.
That leaves fewer in circulation, driving up the value of those that remain.
Everyone wants one
Beethoven’s standing among classical music lovers is supreme.
Beethoven was hugely famous in his own lifetime (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
And, along with Mozart and Bach, he’s a household name for those with only a passing interest in music.
This means there’s a market for his autograph that extends beyond hobbyists.
So, while there may be a large number of Beethoven signatures in circulation than for his contemporaries, prices are naturally higher.
You’ll struggle to find a quality specimen for less than £20,000.
And that figure pales into comparison with the prices paid for his scores.
Scores are the apex
In 2002, a single handwritten leaf from the original score of Beethoven’s Ninth sold for £1.3m ($1.9m). It remains the record price paid for a single leaf of music.
Owning a score in Beethoven's hand is a dream for many collectors (Image: Sotheby's)
The symphony is Beethoven’s most famous and there is no other surviving manuscript in his own hand, hence the extraordinary result.
A complete example of the Ninth in the hand of a secretary, with Beethoven’s own corrections in the margin, sold for £2.1m ($3.5m) in 2003.
Lesser score fragments generally sell for upwards of £150,000.
For investors, there are few names that can match Beethoven for sheer staying power.
His appeal is eternal.
This, combined with the diminishing number of signatures in circulation, bodes well for long term growth.
PS. Do you have a Beethoven signature you’re looking to sell? I may be able to help. Get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org.