I have said many times before that I am an autograph collector rather than a card collector. Cards happen to be the best and easiest way to get autographs from my collection, so here we are. That being said, there are a few players whose autographs are among the best in each of the major sports. Think about popularity, value, and performance, and that is what I am calling the modern autograph elite. Some of these you might not agree with, and others might not be easy to get. Here are my choices that every collection should have.
Michael Jordan – Basketball
There may be one or two more autographs in history that are more recognizable than Jordan’s, and it isnt by much. Jordan, under the right circumstances, is the most valuable living signer that there is, and that is saying a lot. The issue is that he hasnt had a licensed Bulls autograph for the last half decade, and that might not ever change if things continue the way they are. If you have a card collection, you likely have a Jordan card somewhere. Good luck finding a licensed autograph from the NBA for cheap though.
2008 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Endorsements 23/23
2000 UD Master Collection Michael Jordan Auto PSA 10
2005 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Patch
LeBron James – Basketball
Funny how the two most elite autographs in the sport are exclusive to a company that no longer has a license. Panini would KILL to have LBJ and Jordan under their banner, and that’s because their autographs are some of the most valuable autographs in the entire hobby. James is on pace to break every record that there is, and collectors love what he is all about. Even with PR disasters like his move from Cleveland to Miami, the hobby remained on board. You need one of his cards.
2006 Exquisite LeBron James Noble Nameplates Auto Patch
2007 Exquisite LeBron James Limited Logos Auto Jumbo Patch
2004 Upper Deck SPA Lebron James / Michael Jordan Dual Auto
Derek Jeter – Baseball
I am not a Yankees fan, and I am of that group of people who really dont like Derek Jeter. I respect the hell out of him as a player, im just not a fan. That being said, when it comes to modern autographs, Jeter is an iconic figure. The fact that he has been absent from autograph sets over the last few years have made him more attractive as a signature to obtain, and that will only increase when he is voted into the HOF 5 years from now.
2009 Ultimate Collection Derek Jeter Bat Barrel Auto
1993 Upper Deck Derek Jeter RC Auto JSA Certified
2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Derek Jeter Auto Patch
Ken Griffey Jr – Baseball
I put Griffey on the same level as Jeter in a lot of ways, especially in popularity during the turn of the century. Griffey had video games, ad deals, and all sorts of popularity fueling his hype train, but injuries prevented him from being one of the best ever. He still hit over 500 home runs, and will be a HOFer soon. The issue is that he has signed quite a bit over the last few years, and that has impacted his value. Regardless, no one is sad when they pull one of his cards.
1994 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr / Mickey Mantle Dual Auto
2011 Prime Cuts Ken Griffey Jr Notable Nicknames Auto Inscription
Tom Brady – Football
He just won his fourth ring, and is arguably the best QB ever to lace up his cleats. The rarity of his signature is high, being that he is a late round draft pick that never got the fanfare that someone like Peyton Manning got as the first overall. Cheating or no cheating, Brady is a top hobby attraction whenever he is in products, and remains one of the best autographs living or dead in the game.
2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Logo Patch /5
2000 Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Auto
Peyton Manning – Football
Even though Brady has the rings, Manning is more the face of the NFL. He has more ad deals, he owns more records, and is identifiable in almost every aspect of his career. His autograph is significantly more common, which hurts value, but his production is unmatched on the field. The only thing that is missing is the titles, of which he only has one. Regardless of his Super Bowl success, Manning is a must have.
1998 Topps Peyton Manning Auto RC BGS 9.5
1998 Topps Platinum Peyton Manning Auto Patch Superfractor 1/1
Tiger Woods – Golf
I know, you are probably wondering why I am putting Tiger on this list. Even with a disastrous last few years of play, Tiger’s autograph is still as valuable as one would expect. He is the most popular golfer of all time, transcending a sport that only used to appeal to adults, making it popular for all ages. This means his autograph will be among the more valuable ones to get, and it doesnt hurt that it is as nice looking as it is.
2013 Upper Deck Master Collection Tiger Woods Auto Gold 1/1
2014 Upper Deck Exquisite Golf Tiger Woods Jumbo Relic Auto
Muhammad Ali – Boxing
When reviewing athletes that were larger than life, no one fits the bill more than Ali. His Boxing matches were national events, and everyone wanted a piece of “The Greatest.” Parkinsons has taken a lot of what Ali was, but he has signed autographs as recently as the last few years. Finding one in an affordable situation is almost impossible.
2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali Auto Relic
2010 Sport Kings Muhammad Ali Silver Auto
Wayne Gretzky – Hockey
The Great One remains one of the only hockey players that everyone is familiar with. The league has fallen out of favor with the US audiences in a lot of ways, but collectors still love hockey. There isnt even a discussion that he is the best of all time.
2009 The Cup Wayne Gretzky Auto Dual Patch /9
2011 Ulitmate Legends 1997 Retro Wayne Gretzky Auto
Sidney Crosby – Hockey
I know relatively nothing about hockey, but I know Sidney Crosby. I know his autograph is still insanely valuable even though he has been up and down over his career. If I was opening a hockey product, his cards would be the ones I would look for, and I would be ecstatic if I pulled one.
2005 Upper Deck SP Future Watch Sidney Crosby Auto
2014 The Cup Sidney Crosby Limited Logos Auto Jumbo Patch
There are more autographs that Im sure deserve to be on this list, but this is a checklist I will stick with. These guys will turn heads, even from people that are not collectors, and that says something.