Are Autographs An Overlooked Investment Option?

Where can you see Prince William topple Muhammad Ali? In what arena would Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro find themselves neck and neck? No, this isn’t some kind …

Where can you see Prince William topple Muhammad Ali?

In what arena would Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro find themselves neck and neck?

No, this isn’t some kind of bizarre celebrity death match. We’re talking about the PFC40 Autograph Index, which has just been updated for 2013.

The index tracks the market value of museum-grade, fully authenticated rare autographs, showing changes since 2000.

I want to draw your attention to this index as autographs, particularly  the highest quality signed photographs, are often overlooked as investments, yet, like the majority of collectible assets, the market for the rarest examples is thriving.

We’ve witnessed how classic cars have seen an 395% increase over a 10-year period. We’ve learnt that stamps and coins are far less volatile than many traditional assets. Yet autographs, left out of many surveys of the performance of collectibles, are up 8.5% between 2012 and 2013, with a 13.8% increase per annum since 2000.

With those kinds of figures, this asset class can definitely compete with the top-earning investments. An average increase in value of 423.6% in a 13-year period is not to be scoffed at.

Perhaps the autograph market has been overlooked because it doesn’t afford the investor the status of a classic car, or the immortality of owning the world’s rarest stamps. However, for those of us who aren’t so concerned with our reputation but with the returns our investments are likely to make, autographs could be a lucrative option.

For example, unlike fine art, classic cars or wine (the list goes on) autographs are perhaps the easiest collectible asset to care for. Most autographed items can be stored in a simple portfolio or, if you prefer, displayed in pride of place in your home – there’s no need for a costly climate-controlled storage facility or an expensive garage.

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Which brings me to my next point: the pleasure of owning a rare autographed item is tangible. This is an asset you can hold in your hands, display on your walls, show to your friends. The finest examples are important pieces of history, signed by the hands of the world’s most iconic figures.

“None of my other investments give me the joy that autographs do”

It is these reasons that attracted Forbes magazine publisher and investor Malcolm Forbes to the hobby. When he died in 1990, Forbes’ collection of over 4,000 autographs from US presidents was estimated to be worth in the region of $40m-50m, though later auctions suggest that this was an underestimation.

“None of my other investments give me the joy that autographs do,” Forbes said, “because they make me feel that I am holding a piece of history in my hand.”

What’s more, the autograph collecting hobby is actually one of the easiest to break into. Most categories, such as rare coins, require expertise – a keen-eye combined with in-depth knowledge of the market and a passion for all aspects of your chosen subject. Many of us simply haven’t got the time.

But with autographs, you are already the expert. You know who the most iconic figures are, the most recognisable faces, the defining moments of popular culture.

And now is the time to invest. 64% of China’s millionaires are in the process of forming a collection in any given asset class, according to the country’s Hurun Report.

Russia has just seen its most valuable art exhibition ever held by Sotheby’s, and has now joined the list of the world’s top auction hubs.

Between 2008 and 2012, millionaires from emerging countries spent the most on luxury investments, registering a compound growth rate of 22.2% per annum.

More and more of the world’s largest economies are turning towards collectibles, and as they do so, they are becoming more open to western culture. Celebrities, movie stars, musicians and, therefore, autograph collecting will soon be top of the agenda.

So where should you place your money?

The PFC40 Autograph Index shows that Prince William’s signature has seen a 33.3% increase between 2012 and 2013, but this is a new entry to the list and it remains to be seen if the royal will continue to reign.

Behind the prince sits Andy Warhol, who is currently the world’s most valuable artist. Warhol’s autograph on a signed photo has seen a 28.2% increase in value in the past 12 months, with a total increase of 1,182% from 2000-2013. The shock-headed star could be an investor’s dream.

However, it is Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro that intrigue me the most; the unlikely duo currently share the title of the world’s most valuable living autographs at £3,500 ($5,659).

Part of any investment is to predict how the value of your assets may fluctuate, and with both of these iconic political leaders reaching their later years, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the market develops. Simply put, I don’t expect the value of their autographs to decrease any time soon!

See Paul Fraser Collectibles’ autographs for sale, or contact us for your free report on how to invest in autographs.



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