For many, collecting autographs can be a fun hobby, a way to connect to one’s favorite celebrities or public figures, or an incentive to line up at concerts and VIP events. However, the market for famous signatures is lucrative and extensive, with some autographs garnering millions of dollars in bids. These are the 20 most expensive signatures in history, all sold in auctions.
20. James Dean’s Autograph: $21,600
Early in the 1950s, James Dean made a few film appearances, but it wasn’t until he had the lead part in Rebel Without a Cause that he became well-known.
His defiant persona and tragic 24-year-old passing made him a symbol of adolescent anguish. Despite the fact that Dean only featured in three movies, his autograph is among the most valuable and rare ever.
On the other hand, a James Dean autograph went for $21,600 in 2015 at an autograph shop. It appears on a copy of the Rebel Without a Cause movie script.
19. John F. Kennedy’s Signed Newspaper: $39,000
President John F. Kennedy traveled to Texas with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, on November 22, 1963. The president signed the front page of a copy of the November 22 edition of The Dallas Morning News for Jan White, a member of the Hotel Texas staff, shortly after 9 a.m. in Fort Worth, where the Kennedys were staying.
Later that day, John F. Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald when the president was riding in a motorcade through Dallas. The Dallas Morning News is most likely the last item Kennedy signed before being killed. The signed newspaper was purchased by historical document dealer Joe Maddalena for $39,000, and it was promptly insured for $250,000, according to a 2009 Los Angeles Times article.
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18. David Bowie’s Autograph: $42,000
David Bowie was a British singer, songwriter, and actor who spent more than 40 years working in the music business. His unusual voice and charismatic theatrical presence made him well-known. Throughout his career, Bowie put out 27 studio albums, some of which were hits including “Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Let’s Dance.”Bowie was a renowned artist, and getting his autograph was priceless.
In October 2016, a handwritten and autographed lyric sheet from Bowie’s song “The Jean Genie” brought £32,500 (about $42,000) at auction. His blue pen signature is dated December 1972 and appears on the lyric sheet.
17. Steve Jobs’s Autograph: $47,775
One of the most important figures in the technology sector, Steve Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. There are a select few lucky people who have his autograph, despite the fact that he did not enjoy signing merchandise for fans.
One of them is Mike Wilkins, who in 2011 spent $47,000 for a personalized Apple computer handbook. One of the most expensive autographs in the world, according to AppleInsider, is a handbook that Jobs signed on camera.
16. Jesse James’s Signed Photo: $52,000
Jesse James, a train robber who rose to popularity as a Robin Hood-style criminal between 1866 and 1876, hardly ever signed autographs because of the bounty on his head. One of those that did was a well-known portrait thought to be the lone photograph of James that he personally signed, which was discovered and sold in 2011 for more than $50,000.
15. Neil Armstrong’s Signature: $52,247
One of the early forerunners of space travel, astronaut Neil Armstrong, was the first to set foot on the moon. A rare, autographed photo of Armstrong taken immediately before he stepped foot on the moon was auctioned off in 2019 and brought in $52,247. Richard Windmiller Sr., the head of NASA’s picture department, had inherited the autographed photo from his family.
14. Jimmy Page’s Signed Guitar: $73,000
One of the most admired guitarists in the annals of rock and roll is Jimmy Page. As a founding member of Led Zeppelin, he is best known. After forming in 1968, the group went on to produce some of the greatest rock albums ever.
Some of them were “Stairway to Heaven,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Kashmir.” In 1963, he personalized 25 guitars that were raffled off as prizes.
The autographs are not very valuable because the guitars were mass-produced. However, one of the fortunate winners chose to auction off his instrument in 2014 for $73,000. And because of this, it was one of the most expensive autographs ever.
13. Albert Einstein’s Signed Photo: $75,000
One of the first images that appear online when you search for Albert Einstein’s photos is one of him sticking out his tongue. Photographer Arthur Sasse with United Press International captured this image in 1951. Sasse was attempting to make Einstein chuckle as he celebrated his 72nd birthday. He was successful, and the image went on to become one of the most well-known pictures of the 20th century.
Einstein was highly reclusive and rarely signed autographs. For Sasse, though, he made an exception and signed the image of the tongue on the negative. This signature brought $74,324 when it was auctioned off in 2009.
12. The Rolling Stones’ Autographs: $152,000
English band The Rolling Stones gained popularity in the 1960s. The group has been performing together for more than 50 years. Along with songs like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Paint It, Black,” and “Jumpin,” it is well recognized for these hits.
A signed copy of “The Rolling Stones,” the group’s debut album from 1964, sold for $152,000 at auction in May 2015. Even though that was their most costly signing, their autograph is still highly valued.
11. Joe DiMaggio & Marilyn Monroe’s Signed Baseball: $191,200
In 1954, Joe DiMaggio and Marylin Monroe were wed for around nine months. They were one of the most well-known couples in the world at the time.
Monroe was a Hollywood bombshell, and DiMaggio was a great baseball star. After Monroe had a romance with Mickey Mantle, a baseball great, they got divorced.
However, they were frequently captured in photographs together during their brief relationship. One of those photos, which they both signed, fetched $191,200 at auction in 1999. Because of this, it was the most expensive autograph of its time. But even now, it remains one of the most priceless signatures ever.
10. Jimi Hendrix’s Contract: $200,000
One of the most well-known guitarists of the 20th century was Jimi Hendrix. In 1942, he was born in Seattle, Washington. Hendrix began playing the guitar at a young age and was a skilled performer by the time he was 18.
He established the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966, relocated to England to further his musical endeavors, and put out a number of successful records.
At the age of 27, he passed away from an unintentional drug overdose. Hendrix signed a $1 contract in 1967 with his bandmate Noel Redding during his brief but dramatic career.
After Hendrix’s passing, the agreement rose in value as a collectible. It went for $174,000 at auction in 1995. And at the time, it was the most expensive signature ever sold.
9. The Beatles’ Signatures: $290,000
Possibly the most well-known band of all time is The Beatles. In the 1960s, the band, which had its beginnings in Liverpool, England, quickly became well-known. In addition, they have a sizable and devoted fan base everywhere. And while obtaining an autograph from one member was simple, doing it from all four members was more difficult. For a signed copy of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, a fan reportedly paid $290,000. This signature was verified by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
8. James Joyce’s Autograph: $275,000
James Joyce was born in 1882 to a poor family in Dublin, Ireland. Joyce, in spite of this, has always liked learning and went on to attend the top Dublin schools. Later, he went to college and majored in philosophy and modern languages.
Joyce became a writer as a result of his passion for reading. Dubliners, a collection of short stories, was his first work to be published. The author’s most well-known work, Ulysses, came next. The book, however, was so divisive that it was outlawed in many nations. However, a rare first edition of Ulysses reportedly sold for $275,000. Only a small number of copies have been autographed by Joyce, and this is one of them.
7. Babe Ruth’s Signed Baseball: $388,375
One of the most famous baseball players in American history is Babe Ruth. He played for the New York Yankees dynasty in the 1920s and blasted 714 home runs in his career.
Fortunately, he was also a legendary person who enjoyed drinking and having a good time. As a result, collectors adore his autograph. One of his favorite baseballs was given to a family friend by his widow Clara after his 1948 passing.
It has gone through multiple ownership changes since then. Just a year before his passing, Babe Ruth himself did, however, sign it. A record-breaking $388,375 was paid for it at auction in 2012, making it the most expensive baseball ever sold.
6. John Lennon’s Signed LP to His Murderer: $525,000
Singer, musician, and peace activist, John Lennon was. He is a Beatles member, the most well-known band in history. Additionally, the band put out a ton of hits, such as “Help!” “Yesterday,” and “Let it Be.”
At the age of 40, Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon in New York City in 1980. Lennon unwittingly signed an autograph for his potential killer hours before he passed away.
One of the most priceless signatures in history, it was found on a copy of his record “Double Fantasy” and is now regarded as such. But in 2016, it went for $525,000 at an auction.
5. Winston Churchill’s Signature: $662,500
Unquestionably, one of the most admired historical characters of Great Britain is Winston Churchill. He is regarded as one of the most exceptional wartime leaders and served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II.
Beyond that, the majority of people are familiar with him via his catchphrases, like “Never, never, never give up.” Although he went away in 1965, his legacy lives on in the memories of countless others. His signature is one of the most expensive in history, garnering $662,500 in an auction.
4. Button Gwinnett’s Autograph: $722,500
One of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett, led a rather quiet life. He was born in England in 1735, relocated to the British Colonies, got active in politics, and became fervently committed to the Colonies’ effort to secede from Great Britain. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1776, Gwinnett penned the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock’s well-known signature lies below and to the left of his own.
Gwinnett’s signature is particularly noteworthy because of how under the radar he was when he signed the Declaration of Independence. An authentic Gwinnett signature from a document from the 1770s sold for $722,500 at auction in 2010.
3. Abraham Lincoln’s Signature: $3.8 million
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as an executive edict in 1863. All slaves in the Confederate states of the American Civil War were set free as a result. The declaration, however, altered the direction of the war and is one of the most important records in American history.
Only 26 of the 48 signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation are believed to still be in existence, according to Aaregistry. In 2010, one of the copies sold at auction for $3.8 million.
2. William Shakespeare’s Autograph: $4.6 million
William Shakespeare, the well-known English playwright, is still a historical mystery. Shakespeare scholars find his signature fascinating from an autograph perspective: Shakespeare’s name has been spelled in a variety of ways, including Shackper and Shackspere.
Shakespeare’s signature appeared on a legal document in a 2013 exhibit at the London Metropolitan Archives, which is a true treasure in the world of priceless autographs.
In 2006, it sold at auction for $4.6 million at Sotheby’s. From the play “Macbeth” from 1610, comes the autograph. Shakespeare’s signature is only found on six known items, and this particular one is the only one that is still in private hands.
1. George Washington’s Acts of Congress: $9.8 Million
The first president of the United States retained a bound volume of the Acts of Congress, which included the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, during his lifetime. He signed the volume as his own and made handwritten notes in the margins. The historical document, which dates back to 1789, broke auction records in 2012 when it was sold for a whopping $9.8 million.