Expertise: Entertainment, Historical, and Sports Autographs.
In the late 1970s, young Steve Grad went to two baseball games that
would prove to have a profound impact on him. "I went to my very first
baseball game at Comiskey Park to see the Chicago White Sox play the Minnesota
Twins," Steve recalls. "Although I was a huge baseball fan, I had
yet to make the important choice that every Chicagoan must make – to be a
Cubs fan or a White Sox fan. If you live in Chicago, you know that you have to
live and die with one team or the other – never both. Soon after
going to that game, we went to a Cubs game. After leaving the stadium, my
brother, mother, father and I waited outside the player parking lot hoping to
get some autographs. All of a sudden, we noticed that the player driving out of
the lot was Dave Kingman. We were all excited thinking we would get his
autograph but instead, he just drove past and gave us the finger. From
that moment on, I was a White Sox fan!"
Steve spent the majority of his childhood in Orland Park, Illinois, a
suburb south of Chicago. "I always loved baseball. Summer meant
playing baseball and winter meant counting the days until I could play
again. My family spent our summers in Delavan, Wisconsin, a small town
just over the Illinois border. Those days were filled with playing
baseball, fishing, water skiing and listening to the White Sox on the
In the mid-1980s, while attending Carl Sandburg High School, the
then-15-year old Steve was looking forward to another relaxing summer vacation.
His father, however, had other plans. "My father took me to work with him
and I had no idea what I was in for. It was at that moment that my life of
luxury and having no worries or responsibilities ended. I started working that
summer and, when I look back, I see that was really a life-defining moment for
Throughout the end of his high school career, and while attending
Chicago's Roosevelt University and Columbia College (where he majored in
Broadcast Journalism), Steve worked in radio broadcasting and eventually landed
a gig at one of Chicago's top rated radio station. "I covered news,
sports, political elections, and was a traffic reporter," Steve
says. "I was also a sidekick on a morning show called Mancow's
Morning Madhouse where I did traffic reports before moving on to the sports
desk. My nickname back then was Psycho Steve."
After his two-year run with Mancow, Steve went on to work for the
One-On-One Radio Network, now known as Sporting News Radio, the nation's
largest nationally syndicated sports radio network. "I started as an
anchor/reporter, and then went on to co-host my own talk show that was
broadcast in over 400 markets – The Steve Grad Show – how original
While working in radio, Steve had also become fascinated with autograph
collecting. "Although my first experience in attempting to get an
autograph was less than positive, that changed in 1980 when I obtained my first
autograph – the signature of White Sox pitcher Rich Dotson. I was out
at the old Comiskey Park and saw him down by the left field line signing for
fans. My brother and I grabbed a piece of paper from my mom and ran to get his
signature. That's when it all started for me."
The following year, Steve attended his first autograph show where he
added Bob Feller's signature to his collection. "It was at
that show that I got to know my neighbor a little better. Up until then, I
never knew the guy who lived across the street from us was Dan Knoll, who is
one of the most respected authorities on game-used equipment. He taught me
about autographs, how to collect them, store them, and all about values and
authenticity. I started chasing autographs at the ballpark on a consistent
basis and then moved on to team hotels. I also started to get autographs
from celebrities, politicians and every conceivable sports
In 1988, Steve turned his passion for autographs into a small business. Partnering with his brother, Bob, he would set up at local Chicago sports shows, selling autographs and sportscards.
After living in and around Chicago for 31 years, Steve's position
with PSA took him to Pennsylvania and, two years later, to Lake Forest,
California. Today, as he is about to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary,
Steve and his beautiful wife Claire have two daughters – Mikayla and
Isabel. "Our family also consists of four cats,' says Steve.
"Pudge, named after Carlton Fisk, Gi Gi, Roxy and Emerson."
Through his regular travels throughout Europe, Canada, and the U.S. over
the last twenty years, Steve has collected over 100,000 in-person autographs.
His personal passion is in collecting Star Wars
autographs. "I'm in complete geek mode around my Star Wars
autographs," laughs Steve. "I have assembled one of the top Star
Wars autograph collections in the world and have been lucky enough to meet
almost every major character. It's my ultimate goal to have a signature
from every person that was involved in all six movies. I have a long road ahead
of me in reaching that goal, but it sure is fun."
When he's not traveling or working, Steve loves to
read. "I'm still working on the last Harry Potter book and
I'm also about to dive into a book called Blink. I watch every
Chicago White Sox and Bears games I can. I recently bought a Slingbox that
enables me to watch games from wherever I am on my laptop. I also enjoy
taking my daughter to school in the mornings and what I really enjoy most is
time on the weekends with my family. I grill at least twice a week and I also
try to work out four times a week, though it's really difficult to find
the time to do that."
Steve considers himself to be one of the biggest Carlton Fisk fans on
the planet. "I collect his autograph, game-used equipment, and unique
items relating to his career. I have known "Pudge" for many years.
I used to live close to him and would visit him regularly in the off-season. We
have developed a friendship over the years which has resulted in my having over
250 things signed by him including photos, baseballs, programs, you name
it. My favorite Fisk item, however, is a letter he wrote when he was
11-years old. I bought it on eBay for just $12!"
Another one of Steve's passions is Metallica. "I love their
music and have a tattoo of their legendary "scary guy" logo on my
left arm," says Steve who has seen the heavy metal band in concert many
times. "I have met the band members too many times to count and I
have been lucky enough to assemble one of the most comprehensive Metallica
Steve also collects Rock & Roll autographs and has met and obtained
signatures from just about every musician and band from Paul McCartney, Bruce
Springsteen and Eric Clapton, to Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, U2, B.B.
King and Kiss. He also loves to chase down signatures from the stars of
his favorite flicks such as Office Space, Clerks, The Big Lebowski, Eight Men
Out and Star Trek.
As for his work with PSA, Steve is proud of what he and the company
bring to the hobby. "We serve as the ‘go to guys' for
authentication," he proudly states. "There is no dealer, auction
house or collector in their right mind that doesn't use our services, and
that is because we deliver. Whether it's with sportscards or autographs,
PSA and PSA/DNA give the item instant credibility."
Steve said that he also believes it is important for people to
understand what he does. "It is not an exact science," he says.
"You can't earn a degree in autograph authentication. In this
business, knowledge is acquired one way – experience. I have a
passion for autographs. I took that passion and channeled it by learning
everything possible about autographs and authenticating. In some cases, I will
visit an auction house and physically review thousands upon thousands of
autographs. If people knew the volume of autographs that I view in any
given year, it would give them a better understanding of what I do and how I do
it. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a great staff that is very
knowledgeable. To be good at this job, repetition is the most important
thing. Constantly viewing autographs, handling them, viewing them is what
helps you stay on top. You have to stay active. I keep an exemplar database
that has over 50,000 signatures of sports stars, celebrities, and notable
people throughout history. I am constantly updating it. My job is a never
ending homework assignment of sorts but I love it because I know that my effort
has a positive effect on the hobby. That is what makes my job