Taking My Hacks

Rookie Autographs – Why Not?

Joe Orlando

All things being equal, the general rule in the world of collectibles is – the earlier, the better. In other words, cards, bats, jerseys, photos, etc., are usually worth more if the items are vintage. That is, of course, assuming that the overall quality of the piece is on par with one from a later era. The same can be said of autographs.

For example, vintage Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams autographs usually sell for much more than 1980's or 1990's examples of the same two legends. The same could be said of any athlete from Ali to Jordan to Ruth; earlier signatures are generally worth more.

Let's take it one step further.

In some cases, an expert can estimate when the autograph was signed in a fairly accurate manner. For example, the expert may feel that a Mickey Mantle autograph was circa rookie-era or circa 1950's, in their opinion. With the help of exemplars and knowledge about specific autograph characteristics from that era, they may be able to narrow the time frame.

Let's take it one more step.

Using the same example, there are times when the expert can pinpoint an autograph to an even more specific period. For example, on a team signed baseball, the experts might be able to date the autographs to a specific year or two by analyzing the names, comparing the names to rosters and by using the exemplars once again. Even though the experts might be able to do this with only a slight possibility of error, the shadow of doubt still remains. The expert cannot say, in the vast majority of cases, they are certain of the date.

What if a service could remove that doubt?

Just think about it. What would a Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth autograph be worth, right now, if there was a way to document it as a rookie example? Just like rookie cards, that are documented as such, there could be a huge premium associated with rookie autographs.

I am excited to announce, through two new PSA/DNA programs, that this type of documentation is now available. The two new programs are called RookieBall and RookieGraph. The rules are simple and the reward could be outstanding. In a nutshell, if you submit an autograph at any time prior to the beginning of the athlete's second full season, it is eligible for either of the above mentioned programs. Once the time is up, no more rookie autographs will be documented by PSA/DNA.

During the 1980's, my friends and I would buy huge bricks of rookie cards in hopes that these athletes would become stars one day. Some of them were the likes of Roger Clemens and others the likes of Sid Fernandez (I still think El Sid was legit back in the day). The same desire exists for rookie autographs but an acceptable product in the marketplace, one that is identifiable and documented, didn't exist – until now.

While we, unfortunately, cannot go back in time to save the Mantles, Jordans and Ruths, we can press forward in hopes of preserving some of the rookie autographs of the future like those of star quarterback and rookie phenom Ben Roethlisberger. For someone like Big Ben, there's still time to submit his autograph, or any other player entering their second season, prior to the start of the 2005 NFL season in September.

For more information about the RookieBall and RookieGraph programs, please go to our website at psadna.com.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.