Trade You 68 Monte Rock IIIs for a Springsteen

Would you pay $65 for a photo signed by Garth Brooks?

Or how about $200 for a 3-by-5 card signed by Bruce Springsteen?

Or maybe $750 for the autographs of the current Rolling Stones?

Somebody will.

At least that's what a growing number of autograph dealers are hoping.

Baseball autographs have become a multimillion-dollar business in America. You can find hundreds of signed plaques, balls and bats for sale nightly on TV shopping channels--even the old stars on camera hawking the wares. The veterans--and some current players--pick up some extra bucks handing out autographs every weekend at huge card-collector shows around the country.

Now it may be rock 'n' roll's turn to join the party.

Mike Guiterez, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based collectibles dealer, says that the pop world generates only about $100 million a year in memorabilia--including autographs--compared to the estimated $4 billion a year sports souvenir market.

But he feels that there's growth potential in the pop autograph business--partly because millions are caught up now in sports collecting and may want to branch out.

Bob Eaton, owner of R&R; enterprises in Amherst, N.H., hopes that he's right.

The Brooks-Springsteen-Stones offers are among more than 100 pop autographs available through Eaton's company, which advertises in such pop cultist publications as Goldmine.

"How's the average guy going to get an autograph?" says Bob Eaton, owner of the firm. "If they do see someone like Elton John, it's at a concert and there are thousands of people around him."

Speaking of John, R&R; has a signed color photo of him, matted with a single of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," for $100. Or what about a signed photo of the singer for $75?

Since there isn't the machinery yet for rock stars to turn out hundreds of autographs for the collectible dealers, how do dealers get them?

"There are professional people who make their living knowing where the stars are going to be," Eaton says. "They go everywhere--airports, hotels, receptions--and get the signatures and then sell them to us."

Occasionally, a dealer can also get hold of documents signed by stars. Eaton's company is the one selling checks endorsed by Jim Morrison (they're asking $995 each) and recently offered contracts signed by artists performing on "American Bandstand." A Los Angeles-based collector told of a friend who worked for a record company who was caught going into files and clipping signatures off contracts and selling them to dealers. (He was dismissed.)

Guiterez says that the most discerning collectors (and most rabid fans) are increasingly seeking higher-ticket mementos. "I'm now doing signed guitars, and those can go on auction for several thousand dollars," he says. "People like clothing articles too. I sold a John Lennon jacket from the '60s for close to $5,000 four years ago, and a uniform Madonna wore for the upcoming baseball movie ("A League of Their Own") recently went for $4,000."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
54°