Autographed vintage cards are hot trend

Besmirching a card with a pen used to be sacrilege. That has changed in a big way

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Collectors are always looking for ways to level up their collection.

Whether upgrading the condition of their favorite cards, completing a full set or finding their ultimate grail card, these quests can take many forms.

For some of the most experienced vintage collectors, the next goal on the horizon involves autographed cards.

Unlike modern cards, which have been produced with on-card and/or sticker autographs since the 1990s, autographed vintage cards are much more hard to acquire.

Though the very idea of besmirching a card with a pen seemed sacrilegious just a few short years ago, the tides have turned, and the market has begun to recognize the value.

In today’s valuations, the rarity of an autographed vintage card often trumps condition grade in terms of ultimate value.

The 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson rookie is one of the most sought-after vintage cards in existence.

But it isn’t necessarily hard to find — if you have the money. Robinson’s iconic rookie can be found more than 2,500 times across the population reports of PSA, SGC, and BGS.

Yet, a mere four examples bear Robinson’s signature, providing extreme scarcity among the already-exclusive club.

In August 2023, one of these copies sold for $588,000 at Heritage Auctions. Despite a condition grade of Authentic, this not only set a new high watermark for the card, which had sold for $372,000 in PSA 8 condition, but also established a new high for signed vintage cards overall.

The premium of the autograph becomes even more apparent when comparing this card to another PSA Authentic copy, which sold a month prior at Heritage for just $4,560.

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Card provides another example of how an autograph can send value skyrocketing.

From the same auction as the signed Robinson, this PSA 1/Auto 10 example of the iconic Mantle fetched $264,000 at auction. It’s one of less than 20 signed examples authenticated by PSA.

A PSA 1 example (sans auto) sold for $24,000 a month prior at Goldin auctions.

These might be high-end examples, but the laws of scarcity tend to remain true across vintage cards, even those with less impressive price tags.

A 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle featuring a PSA 4 condition grade and 10 auto grade sold for $15,600 in that same Heritage auction.

Four days earlier, a PSA 4 example (sans auto) sold for just $679.

Regardless of the market segment, whether dealing in the high-dollar auctions or the more affordable mid-range, an autographed vintage card can be counted upon to add both rarity and a substantial price premium.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct. You can follow him on X at @Will__Stern.