This article will discuss collecting certified autograph cards. It will discuss why and how to collect and give a bit of information that will be useful to the modern card collector.
Certified autograph cards are the most widely collected modern cards by all different types of collectors. The first autograph cards were found in packs of 1990 Upper Deck baseball. In 1991, Pro Line football became the first full sized autograph set of 300 cards and included autograph cards of Troy Aikman, John Elway, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and many other current and retired football players. These cards were very popular even though you got one in 1 out of every 3 boxes. In 1996 Leaf Signature series became the first product to have one autograph per pack. This was also the first product that had a deep checklist of star players and commons.
Throughout the years, some of the most popular insert cards, rookie cards and sets have been autograph cards. The 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols autograph rookie and the 2001 Sp Authentic Tiger Woods autograph rookies are two of the most sought after modern cards on the market. They regularly sell for $2000- $2500 when they come up for sale and many are locked up in private collections. Other heavily collected sets are the 2000 Greats of the Game Baseball and Football. Both of these sets are challenging with quite a few expensive shortprints.
Recently, more and more cards have been signed on a sticker which is then placed on a card. An on card autograph, or “hard signed” refers to a card that has been actually physically touched and signed by the player on the actual card stock. A sticker auto refers to an autograph that was signed on sheets of stickers and then the stickers are placed on the card stock. In this case the player does not actually touch the card. Most collectors would rather have an on card autograph, because they generally look better and because the player actually touched the card.
The one major positive is that all certified autographs are guaranteed authentic by the companies who produce them. You do not have to worry about getting the cards further authenticated by PSA/DNA or JSA. Certified autograph cards are also not as expensive as a full signed ball, jersey or piece of equipment.
Unfortunately, there have been a few issues with unscrupulous sellers selling fake autograph cards. These sellers are using blank, unsigned cards and faking the autograph on them. The main sets this has happened with are Topps Photo shoots in football and basketball, as well as the 2006 Bowman Originals. Fake stickers are also being put on cards that were originally designed not to be signed. These are usually bad fakes with the autograph not even being close. The best way to look out for these cards are to look at the autograph and compare it to other issues of the players.