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My Signature is Worth $9.77, and Yours?

Autograph hounds take note. My signature is valued at a whopping $9.77. Not that I am overjoyed with that figure mind you, because when everything is said and done (as in this story) I am sure one of you would offer me the nice round figure of — $10.00!

Autographs are highly sought after collectibles, especially if you’re a celebrity or a sports star or famous comedian, or Pulitzer Prize winner. Worth even more if said person is deceased. I am none of those just yet.

A local businessman I know collects autographs of U.S. presidents. But with a certain catch attached. Their “John Henry” has to be scribbled on or in their biography. The book itself may only be worth $29.95, but with their signature on the forward or first page, it can add hundreds and hundreds of dollars to the final value — depending on the President, of course.

Kennedy, Eisenhower. Taft, Truman or Roosevelt? Carter or Bush or Obama? Look carefully at flea markets and garage sales. An autographed copy of their memoirs may be lurking in an unwanted stack of books! Oh, and their “reproduced” signature (mass produced when printed, using a copy of theirs) does NOT count!

As a child, I sought out my favorite racecar drivers and was very successful. In a small red book that has the word “autographs” etched in gold ink on the front cover, I gathered, with time and patience many of the greats. That includes A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Al and Bobby Unser, Gordon Johncock, Wally Dallenbach, Joe Leonard and on and on.

Some kids would get close to the drivers of their dreams, then back off. I never did. Just casually walked up to them and said, “Mr. Andretti, could you please sign my little book?” They always obliged, even if they were having a frustrating day of time trials or tire tests. This goes a long way in making a young fan happy and giving him lasting memories into adulthood!

Currently, I still find drivers or famous auto-related people’s autographs in books or press kits at the swap meets. Recent examples include Dan Gurney and John Greenwood (drivers) and Zora Duntov (engineer and father of the Chevrolet Corvette).

As I became addicted to the sport of tennis in the late 1970s, I went to professional tournaments and hung onto the practice fence waiting to “pounce” on my favorite players for their valued signature. Again, mission accomplished. Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Pat Cash, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert Lloyd, Gabriela Sabatini and a bunch of others. Good players, good people.

Sometimes, autograph requests can be out of the ordinary. True (and slightly embarrassing) story. On many pro tournament trips I took my tennis students who would partake in a free hitting clinic, and then get to meet some of the top players. I warned you: get ready to blush (or laugh) over this one.

In the late ’90s, one of my female students, Brittney D., was infatuated with a young German player named Tommy Haas. Built like a Panzer tank, and could do modeling on the side, the girls swooned over him.

The brash Brittney chased down Mr. Haas with nothing but a black fine tip Sharpie in her hand. No paper or event program. I should have known something was up. After tracking him down, she made an unusual request. “Tommy, can you sign one of my breasts? I swear I will never wash it off!”

Her peer group had mixed emotions; some giggled, some let their jaws drop to the ground, others had cameras in hand for the big moment. Tommy, flattered but flushing had other thoughts. “No miss, I cannot do that. But I will sign your hand or arm for you.” The gracious Mr. Haas signed, “To Brittney, best wishes, Tommy H.” on her forearm. For the rest of the day (and week) she showed it off like a trophy!

Happy to tell you the other kids favored paper, not skin.

It’s tough to witness kids waiting and waiting for an autograph and then get turned down. Many don’t realize these “famous people” are pressed for time and other royal commitments. Maybe on another day.

There are certain people I would never seek an autograph from. Hollywood stars and politicians (they should ask us for a signature) or college players and coaches. Entitled on one hand, and overpaid by the millions on the other.

Schoolteachers used to sign my yearbooks but that ritual ended by ninth grade. “To Gerry, a valued student,” they would write. Oh sure. They got the Gerry part right, but valued student? About as valued as a broken fire truck during a five-alarm blaze! My biology teacher, Mr. Phillips, saved his right hand from cramping. He used a rubber ink stamp with his name on it over his picture. Nice touch, and legible too!

Of all my autographs on hand, my mothers and fathers are highly prized and valuable to me. Both nice looking and free-flowing, Lord knows those two names appeared on hundreds of checks written over the years for doctors visits, shoes, sports supplies, clothing and school supplies and tuition. They are, no doubt, the most important signatures I have in my possession. At some point, that birth certificate had to be released. Trust me; I didn’t sign it!

So, you’re still wondering why my humble scribble (resembling a doctors prescription order) is worth a paltry $9.77. Hint, it wasn’t put out to bid via eBay, but rather enforced by the IRS.

In my mad rush to get my 2017 tax return done and sent in, I forgot one crucial component: my signature and occupation at the very end. I forgot to put the icing on the cake! First time I ever forgot to do that. So, I get a letter from the IRS saying to sign it and return, which I did.

Letter number two from them requests $9.77 for “late fees.” Even though my return got there in time, they had to reprocess it with my name on it. That took a few days, as in penalty time accrued. That meant $9.77. Or in their terms in the infamous tax table “above $9.50 and below $9.85.”

What’s your signature worth? For some people, like President Trump signing an executive order, or an FDA research team signing off on a new drug, it can be priceless. For others, myself included, not even worth the paper it’s signed on. That includes, but not limited to, tax returns.

Next year, I work the tax form in reverse. Sign and date it first. By the way, with inflation and some newfound demand, I am hoping the value of mine jumps to at least $15.00. For you guys, I can let it go for $10.00.

The line starts to the right for autographed Webb Weekly copies. Please, no shoving or pushing. First come, first serve. And ladies take note: I don’t sign breasts or other body parts no matter how hard you demand.

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