Thursday, October 8, 2009

Can I Pay to Have Your Autograph?

There is a discussion going on at one of the comics-related message boards about the cost of getting an autograph at a convention. Specifically, Adam West, who played Batman on TV in the 1960s, will be one of the guests at the Big Apple Convention in New York next weekend and a few of the folks were discussing what the charge would be. One person mentioned that he had gotten West to autograph a TV Guide some years back and it cost $25. Another responded that at more recent show, the charge was $50.

Such a practice is not new; it seems to be standard operating procedure at card shows when professional ballplayers are the guests and is becoming more common at comic book shows as well, particularly where movie and TV celebrities are involved. But is it justified?

On one hand, there are people who get books, photos. etc. autographed and immediately offer them for sale at a premium price. If it is my signature that is responsible for someone paying more, shouldn't I be entitled to a share of it?
On the other hand, if an individual buys something I've written and has no intention of selling it, why wouldn't I sign it for free? If it's a book, I presumably have a royalty deal and will get a percentage for every copy sold. If it's a comic book, I've been paid to write the script and the more people who buy it, the more likely it would be that the magazine would continue to be published.

Granted that Adam West is not making any money off an old issue of TV Guide, but the show promoters are presumably paying him something to appear, along with his expenses. Those promoters make their money from the admission they charge and one big way they attract more paying attendees is with the guests they line up.
If I am a dealer in collectibles and I want to make money on someone else's celebrity, I should be willing to share the profits and pay that person for each and every signature.
But if I am a fan of Adam West and am willing to pay $25 or more to get into the convention to see him, why should I then have to pay another $50 to have him autograph something for me?


  1. It is a most ridiculous concept. As memory serves (and it IS all memory, please forgive errors and/or lapses), Stan Lee is going to be appearing at Pittsburgh Comic Con, and it's an extra twenty dollars to see him, and an additional FORTY dollars to get his autograph.

    Man, I remember when I could buy an entire Stan Lee story for just twelve cents. Did everyone else get the same story? Well, yeah... but after all, for sixty bucks, everyone is getting the same Stan Lee signature.

    I agree with you that if people are being asked to sign something to increase its intrinsic value for resale, then yes, the signer SHOULD get a piece of the pie.

    But when I go to see, say, George Artist or Roy Writer, and tell 'em that I loved their stuff, and it would mean a lot to me to get an autograph, why should they get money from me? They already got money from me! I bought their book!

    Stupid as it sounds, if a 46 year old ball player wants to get twenty-five bucks for a signature on a blank piece of paper, let me make a suggestion - GET A JOB and STOP SCREWING THE FANS. They paid your salary in the FIRST place!

    I remain,
    Eric L. Sofer
    The Bad Clown

  2. I'm as big a right-wing capitalist as you'll find anywhere, but I'd never pay for an autograph.

  3. I just attended the Baltimore Comic-Con this past weekend, and stood in line at Neal Adams' table to have some items signed. When I reached the front, I found that he was charging $5 per signature, so I put away two Jerry Lewis issues I was going to have him sign, and bit the bullet and paid to have him sign three other comics I had picked up on the newsstand back in the day (and will be keeping). If I hadn't already invested time in gathering the items and waiting in line, I probably wouldn't have paid; it definitely made me think less of him. Especially when Joe Kubert was just down the way from him, happily signing things and chatting away for free. Neal wasn't even talking to people; he was conducting an interview at the same time he was signing.

  4. People need to boycott ALL autograph/photo sessions. This is NOT what conventions were created for. Back in the day I used to go to comic and music conventions and meet artists and get their autographs for free and I cherished them and still do. They are a memory as a fan (who already paid a lot of money for their work). The first time I saw someone charging for an autograph, I said, "F" this (and them) and never went to another convention again. They need to understand that the fans are the ones that made them famous in the first place and giving an autograph was a way to say thank you.

  5. I agree that the comiccon cover charge should be almost nil if people are paying that much for autographs--I can see paying $50 for an autograph to be sent to you, but the cheaper option is perhaps writing a fan letter. Something of a lost art these days. Anyway, thanks for making my youth a lot more fun than it otherwise would have been, Answer Man!