The Business of Autographs at Conventions

drusselmeyer

Well-Known Member
The purpose of autographs has changed radically over the years. Once it was to connect with fans to raise profile and leave a mark. Now it is done as a fundraiser for charity or as an income supplement. Too many speculators have made it into something contentious and abusive. Like art, it is valued more for its price than its actual worth.
 

lukold

Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I like having autographs of every movie that I liked, just feels good to flip open the Itoya and look through the graphs every now and then.
 

Funky

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
If you're paying through the nose for an autograph, you're a fool. If your buying an autograph simply for resale value, you're an idiot. Most of the "collectibles" that are "signed" are fakes. Even if the one your selling is real you really have to jump through hoops to prove it.
 

Elvis

Active Member
ive met a ton of celebs, some charged for sigs, some didnt what stood out to me was when they took the time to engage you as a person, that was a better memory and one that made me respect the actor/actress even more.
 

Psab keel

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I got into collecting autographs for a few years. Interestingly enough I did a costume commission for someone who told me that back in the day he attended a comic convention where Adam West was charging for autographs which was unheard of at that time. I initially only got into collecting the autographs as a by product of being able to meet my favorite actors. (mostly Star Wars cast members). Getting a picture was more important though and if I didn't meet a celebrity in person I had no desire to own their autograph. My intention was to display them all with my prop and costume collection but sadly they sat in storage for years and little by little I sold them off.

I do still like to meet certain actors from my favorite films, though all I get now is a picture with them and a brief moment to tell them how much their movie meant to me. Which I enjoy and I have been fortunate enough that everyone I met has been gracious and kind to me. When I met Carrie Fisher she put glitter on my face and when we got our picture together she leaned into me and I just went with it! Great memory!

One of my other favorite celebrity meetings was with Timothy Zahn. I was at San Diego Comic Con and was bummed that I missed out on meeting Mark Hamill (who interestingly enough I met later that year at New York Comic Con) and I happened to see Zahn walking with two people near some empty booths. I ran over and politely stopped him to ask if he would be kind enough to sign my copy of Heir to the Empire. He had just finished a panel and signed my book. I got a picture with him and he even gave me a second autograph on a special sticker that I could add to my hardcover copy of the Annotated version Heir to the Empire. (that version was being released a week or so after the convention if I recall correctly.) He was super friendly and incredibly humble. That was one of my favorite encounters with a famous person at a convention and he never once asked or expected payment.

I can see both sides of the autograph/ photograph business. From a fan perspective I get that it can be annoying that you have to pay to meet people whose work you admire and wait in long lines to even catch a glimpse of them. I can also understand that many actors have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles away and deal with hundreds or thousands of fans all clamoring to meet them. I work with the public and as much as I enjoy people (mostly) it can be exhausting, no matter how kind they are. Plus a lot of the actors that attend conventions are just working actors and aren't millionaires. They have to make a living between acting jobs and if it means doing the convention circuit, to put food on their table, I can't fault them for charging money to do it.

As a fan, I just enjoy the experience of meeting someone whose work I admire. I bet at least on some level it must be nice to hear that for an actor because it's not like their chosen field is a live play or concert where they get that instant gratification of fans cheering them on. As long as people are pleasant on both sides, I don't see the harm in exchanging money for memories. I personally stick to just photos now though because it's the ultimate personalized memory. lol
 

Laspector

Sr Member
I've never really gotten the whole autograph thing. I've met several celebrities in my life. Honestly, asking them for their autograph never even crossed my mind.
 

mcoractual

Well-Known Member
A lot of what was said is incorrect. I spent roughly 9 years arranging signings. Up until a few years ago. Granted it was mainly sports figures, i did have occasional hollywood type celebrities. Their fees are based off of how popular the person was. For instance, a star from the ny giants would get a set amount for an autograph session. Lets say 40 grand. For that money, the event organizers are guaranteed 1 hour And 300 autographs by the star. If the even organizer fails to sell enough auto's to make back the money and a profit hes screwed. Happens all the time. But you can get retired sports stars and lots of hollywood (retired or not as famous anymore) guys for much less. Say 800 to 5k. Its easier to sell tickets at $25 each and make back that money. No celebrity would go do an autograph signing without a contracted amount. They would never just show up for no money and hope to sell 500 autographs. A few years back, i was involved with a signing with ernie hudson and frank sivero. I can't discuss specifics, but ernie got a lot less than frank. By many 1000's of dollars. For $25, you can get autographs from ernie and a nice picture taken with him. I spoke to frank 100's of times on the phone when the anniversary of goodfellas was coming out and he wanted his set fee (which was astronomical) plus a private jet. Both were willing to stay at the convention for a few hours and max 300 autographs. Whatever isnt sold out of the 300 to the public, the promoter gets for resale. But none were willing to just "roll the dice". So yes, certain people can comand big money for a signing, but its all about who it is. Jeter never did anything public. It was private with a laundry list of specifics only for 1 company and huge money. The prices listed at cons and auto events are set by the promoter based off what it cost to get them. Its a crazy business. And if anyone wants to know, ernie was a fantastic guy. Talked for hours about ghostbusters. I wish I recorded it
It's the Hollywood Reporter - they are a garbage tier "news" outlet to begin with. They publish misinformation as fact, because that's how they make their money. I'd put them up there with the National Enquirer and Globe.
 

Onkelpsycho

Sr Member
I collected some autographs from my favorite movies years ago, but since there was never a 100% proof, I sold most of them...

Now I just get autographs from people I meet in person and only from movies I like...
 

Customrelic

Well-Known Member
It's the Hollywood Reporter - they are a garbage tier "news" outlet to begin with. They publish misinformation as fact, because that's how they make their money. I'd put them up there with the National Enquirer and Globe.
i think the National Enquirer is more honest the HR and globe lol. You really don’t believe that just beiber is an alien love child?
 

jkno

Master Member
Because of my location in Eastern EU and my health problems, I wasn't able to go to the conventions I wanted, so I bought some autographs through Official Pix or Wattographs. But I also got some through-the-mail (TTM), like James Earl Jones, Ralph McQuarrie, Ian Liston, Jason wingreen, Jeremy Bulloch, and even Dave Prowse when he didn't ask for $.

I always included $10-15 for return postage in the envelope and a small present for the celebrity (usually a Dracula/Vlad Tepes magnet or keychain or something similar) and 95% of the times I got my item back and signed.

Over the time I've had a great connection to the regretted Ralph McQuarrie, to whom I sent a few hand made items from here, and both his wife Joan and himself loved them, he sent back extra things and even some personal photos of himself and his wife. Another great experience was with John Dykstra, who sent back the $10 I included both times and also included a cool letter.

Autograph Ralph McQuarrie 08-vert.jpg
 

oblagon

Sr Member
Some people think it's foolish, but I enjoyed getting my autographs from various people. Like the SW props I own the autographs make me feel like I own a part of the movie.
 

Swordsmith

Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I have a friend, Jack Klaff who played Red 4 in SWANH, who did not do autographs in like forever. Then he found out that the SW completists are always on the hunt for anyone from the films who are obscure. He said he went to his first con and thought "well nice- if I can make like $1k I would be happy". He said he walked out with $3k then started doing cons regularly until he talked to one of the Firefly actresses.

She warned him that con auto money was "easy money". WOnder why she kind of dropped off the radar? She said she started turning down acting roles as the autograph money was too good. Then the offers stopped coming and she said she has been trying to climb out of that whole.


So now he does two cons a year and that's it. He spends the rest of the time acting and teaching.
 

Psab keel

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I've long since sold my autograph collection but I have photos of each and the memory. I'd much prefer to just get a picture with my favorite celebrities at a convention at this point so that I have the experience of meeting them, even if it's only a few brief seconds to shake their hand and tell them I'm a fan.

Given that meeting people was the main impetus for going to conventions in the first place (and getting a chance to wear my costumes) I'll have to find other events, panels or other aspects of the conventions to explore to make it worth the trip. I've skipped out on a few here and there the last few years because I either wasn't up for it, I didn't feel like spending the money, or didn't feel like making the trip.

Now only if there were RPF meetups or prop parties in my area. That would be worth the trek.
 
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