Non-Sport Update's Card Talk
Inscription Autographs

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June 21, 2020, 10:21 PM
Inscription Autographs
It's a slow night, so here's a quick poll on the latest premium hit fad known as the Inscription Autograph card. The best thing about Inscription Autographs is that they really need the room of on-card signatures, so stickers are out. RA seems to have monopolized them now, but UD's Bond included them and Breygent had less formalized inscriptions years before either one of those manufacturers. Before that there was just a random celebrity every now and then who liked to do something extra on their own. <BR><BR>Now the mandated Inscription is being marketed as a separate and distinct hit from the regular signed card. It's also advertised as better, rarer, and presumably worth more. But is that the opinion of card collectors?<BR><BR>So a few questions and just try to pick the statement closest to your own opinion, as it's difficult to shorten answers when there are so many variables in quality involved. Please leave comments after your response to better expand on your view of Inscription Autographs if you have the time.Would you be willing to pay more for a certified inscription autograph card than for a signature only certified card from the same signer?Yes, an autograph with an inscription is always going to add more value.No, the autographs are the same and have the same value.Yes, inscriptions add value most of time.Yes, some inscriptions add value sometimes.No, most inscriptions don't add enough value to matter.Do you think that any sort of additional wording should be considered to be an inscription?Yes, anything added besides the signature is an inscription.Yes, but I prefer inscriptions that are character quotes.No, some inscriptions aren't good inscriptions.No, most inscriptions aren't really inscriptions.Do you regard inscription autograph cards as a separate hit that you are collecting besides or in conjunction with the standard signature?Yes, I collect as many different inscriptions as are available for a signer.Yes, I collect inscription autographs only.Yes, I collect both regular and inscription autographs.No, I see no difference and don't collect one more than the other..
June 22, 2020, 03:01 AM
As far as I can remember, this all started with an Inkworks Charmed set and Billy Drago. They were unique and fun. Now inscription autos are a way of dragging a franchise way beyond it's shelf life.
June 22, 2020, 03:58 AM
Scifi Cards
It's been going on in sports and in-person signings for years.

Getting a "MVP" or "HOF" with a signature does increase the interest in a sports item, and thus usually increases the price. Athletes recognize this an usually charge extra for inscriptions.

Same goes with adding a character name or show title for actors. Many used to do it for free, but you're starting to see them charge for it now as well.

Game of Thrones Season 8 has proven that people will pay a premium for an inscription they like. It has also proven that a common or boring inscription does nothing to increase the value of the auto, sometimes it actually makes worth less than a standard auto.


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June 22, 2020, 08:44 AM
I do not feel I can take this poll since I have curtailed my card collecting well over 90%. On general principles, I agree with Graham. Once in a blue moon was fun. Now you need to have a lot of disposable cash to be any kind of completest collector, which I was.

IF I did have the proverbial money tree of unlimited funds, I'd be all over these cards, but since I am on a very limited income stream now, I can only sit back and watch what others do.
June 22, 2020, 12:21 PM
Having pulled a few inscription autograph cards now, I started thinking about whether or not I preferred them over a standard signature and whether or not I'd be willing to pay more for them if purchased individually. I decided the answers for me were, NO I don't prefer them and I wouldn't pay more for the majority of inscriptions, but I would pay a premium for select exceptions.

I agree with Graham's point that mandated inscriptions were designed to extend the shelf life and demand for aging titles and repeat signers, but its more than that. It's artificial rarity carried to its fullest potential and we are supposed to pay more for it.

A common signer autographs 600 copies of the same card. Too much. The same common signer autographs 600 copies of the same card, adding 12 different inscriptions he was given. Now there are only 50 copies of each version on the same card. In theory, the reduced supply in each version makes them rarer, increases the demand and creates a higher price. Did I mention the common signer part. Yes.

To me, a common signer could add the Gettysburg Address and it would still be a common autograph worth no more than the clean autograph. Big Grin That's one thing.

The other thing is that inscription autographs often take away from the standard autograph, which is Ed's point. If the inscription is too short or too generic it adds no interest. A date, character name, show title, who cares? If the inscription is too long, like a quote, the signer might wind up cramming in the autograph at the top or bottom. Now the quality of the signature has been altered and maybe for some words that mean nothing anyway.

Yes, there are some inscription autographs that should earn a premium, but they are exceptions and would probably involve only the bigger names that would have higher priced autographs regardless. Rose Leslie's "You know nothing Jon Snow" is a pretty good example that should have a premium. But if the inscription is "Ygritte", is that worth more than just her signature? Not to me.

So this conversation is hard to do in general, when inscriptions are and should be very specific to the inscription and the value of the signer. In general, I would say the majority are not worth it and they shouldn't be looked at as separate and distinct.

They were separate and distinct when they were truly variants, not commissioned by the card manufacturer. When Billy Drago was adding his off the wall inscriptions, Inkworks didn't tell him to do that. I believe the story was that he got positive feedback from fans, so he just enjoyed doing it. I think it's harder to find a clean Drago signature on a card, so that might be the variant. When signers would doodle hearts and rabbits or add bible verses, those could be variants. Mandated inscriptions aren't truly variants when they are designed to duplicate each other for a specific number of copies. That's like weaponizing the concept of the variant.

The bottom line for me, only my opinion, is that inscription autographs increase supply and satisfy more demand, so they are good for the collector simply as greater choice. While some may be worth a premium over the standard signature or each other, I wouldn't pay anything more for the majority of them.
June 22, 2020, 02:12 PM
I appreciate that manufacturers are creating new and interesting things to collect.

I also understand that no matter what manufacturers do people will complain.
October 19, 2020, 03:26 AM
I just noticed a Barbara Feldon autograph card for sale. It's from the TV's Coolest Classics set (Inkworks, 1998). She added "99" to her autograph so that's a bit of an inscription. It looks like she does that with all her autographs whether on a card or photo.

The one I saw is a Razor card with the sticker on the top loader but the sticker blocks the view of the "n" in her last name.

October 20, 2020, 02:55 PM
And in the middle are cards that have something extra, like a heart or xxoo or an emoji. I call these "decorations" instead of "inscriptions".

Back with Billy Drago everybody wanted a heaping handful, and there was a devil of a time trying to get all the cards of an 8-part "story".
October 20, 2020, 03:00 PM
Often the "inscription" is just the name of the charactere or show, and these don't add anything IMHO. But I realize that manufacturers have to try new things from time to time; some of them catch on enough to keep doing them, if they build enough of a niche interest even if the 'average' collector doesn't care. I never thought that parallels that are just a numbered version of a base card would continue seemingly forever.
October 20, 2020, 03:09 PM
Barbara Feldon should have signed only 99 cards, numbering them 1/99, etc.

That would have been a cool touch to some cool cards.
October 20, 2020, 04:11 PM
For the most part I think if you put a plain auto next to the same card with anything extra, yes, the inscribed one will sell more.

The only time I can think of that inscriptions will work against some collectors are with some of the older Americana products. The Director's Cuts or Celebrity Cuts would usually list a character name or film. For my Billy Dee collection, I'd much rather have the Empire Strikes Back ones and not Lady Sings the Blues.

Much like Mark Hamill's from 2008--probably not many people looking for his he noted as "Black Pearl".

Corner cases, but inscriptions can minimize what collectors may want.
October 20, 2020, 05:03 PM
Originally posted by weasel-king:
For the most part I think if you put a plain auto next to the same card with anything extra, yes, the inscribed one will sell more.

But will it sell FOR more? Will it get a premium over the regular FB or B or V?

If the inscription is a good line, it will. But if its something short or just a title or character, then it will simply fall back on the importance of the signer. A common signer is hard to dress up as anything else.
October 25, 2020, 05:58 AM
I enjoy getting certain quotes on some in-person autographs, and to a lesser extent sometimes character names, but find I'm not really fussed about having this stuff on trading cards.

I don't think they always add value and sometimes I think the 'inscription' is a bit naff.
Shatner writing "Capt. Kirk" after his signature is a nice addition. Adding "Star Trek" does nothing for me.
Had Nimoy been around to write "Live long and prosper" on some cards, well, that would have been awesome.

I also think that where signers consistently have more to do when handling a stack of cards, more effort seems to go into the quote and a sloppier signature then accompanies it, which rather defeats the point. The smaller signing space doesn't help either.

I certainly don't consider an inscription a different item to the non-inscribed equivalent. Inscriptions are variants as far as I am concerned, no matter how a manufacturer sets up their checklist, and I would not pay too much of a premium for one. In fact I do not have any.

A Judi Dench autograph card is no less valuable to me if it doesn't have 'M' written on it. That said, I was MORE than happy to pay Peter Weller the extra £5 he wanted to add to my Robocop 8x10: "Dead or alive, you are coming with me." Cool
October 14, 2021, 04:35 PM
When I see boxes with 1 autograph garanteed with inscription, it feels kinda sad.

Inscriptions were fun little extras, I remember Billy Drago's cards, what a surprise!

"On Your Feet, Soldier. Take Me Back To Lallybroch."
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October 15, 2021, 10:52 AM
Originally posted by jademaliburoad:
When I see boxes with 1 autograph garanteed with inscription, it feels kinda sad.

Inscriptions were fun little extras, I remember Billy Drago's cards, what a surprise!

RA is the King of mandated inscriptions and to a lesser extent UD uses them. I would say that the idea kind of started with Breygent as a card maker, but Drago was doing it on his own. Some other people would add a doodle or a few words occasionally.

There was a time when quite a few sports card signers would add a Bible verse to their autographs. I'm not sure that I remember ever seeing a non-sport celebrity do it on a certified card, but that whole thing seems to have fallen out of favorite. I also enjoy the rare cards that are signed in foreign lettering.

Anyway card makers jumped on inscriptions as a way to have something going on besides the fifth card of a repeat signer, but I'm sure they cost more to contract. That makes the card automatically cost more, even though it may be a common signer with an unremarkable inscription. I like the inscription as a variant signature, but most of them are not worth the attached premium over the same signer with an unadorned autograph.

The exceptions are the top 10% of big signers in any checklist and/or a snappy inscription that either means something to the title or in some cases is raunchy. Card collectors still like the novelty of seeing bad words. Big Grin Beyond that I would rather have an extra plain autograph than an inscription card.

Going by the poll results I think more card collectors would agree with that than would disagree.
October 15, 2021, 01:53 PM
I know for sure that Donna Douglas signed cards with a Bible verse for RA’s Twilight Zone…seems to me there were one or two other Twilight Zone and/or The Wild Wild West signer(s) that did the same, but I’m blanking on the name(s) at the moment.
October 15, 2021, 04:33 PM
Originally posted by aeolus14ummbra:
I know for sure that Donna Douglas signed cards with a Bible verse for RA’s Twilight Zone…seems to me there were one or two other Twilight Zone and/or The Wild Wild West signer(s) that did the same, but I’m blanking on the name(s) at the moment.

You're correct about Douglas. I just checked my A2 from TV's Coolest Classics and she wrote "Prov. 3:5&6" above her signature.
October 15, 2021, 09:06 PM
Richard Kiel (who played the giant alien in the TZ episode "To Serve Man") signed his Twilight Zone Series 1 cards with inscriptions that included "Greetings", "Blessings", and "Hi!", making it among the first autograph cards to feature multiple different inscriptions.

Everywhere around this burg they're running out of verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Everywhere around this town, they're running out of nouns.