eBay Guides - Sports Autographs Buying Guide
Skip to main content

 Reviews & Guides

Sports Autographs Buying Guide

Hold a piece of sports history in your hand by owning an autographed ball, signed jersey, autographed photo, card, or other sports memorabilia. Connect with your favourite sports heroes by collecting equipment and apparel they actually used in a game. Whether you’re a serious investor or an occasional collector, you’ll find a wealth of original autographed and game-used  sports memorabilia treasures on eBay Canada.

Discover & Collect Sports Autographs

Discover & Collect Sports Autographs

Sports autographs can be found on just about any object with a writable surface. The most popular autographed memorabilia are:

  • Trading cards: Examine trading cards for sharp corners, smooth surfaces, and good centring. Since 1990, athlete-signed cards have often been inserted into new packs. Check the back of the card for certification.

  • Balls: Look for autographed balls signed by a single player, which are worth more than balls signed by multiple players.

  • Bats: Bats are among the easiest sports items to authenticate. For higher value, look for game-used bats along with solid evidence of game wear and tear.

  • Jerseys: If you’re looking for genuine game jerseys, watch for sweat stains, authentic wear and tear, and proof of game use. Research jersey labels to help determine authenticity.

  • Boxing gloves, robes, and trunks: Signed boxing attire can be very valuable, especially if fight-worn.

  • Photographs: Most photographs are 8 inches x 10 inches or smaller; larger sizes tend to be uncommon and accumulate value over time. Demand is also higher for colour photos and photos signed before 1980.

  • Index cards: Signed index cards are among the most common and generic forms of autographs, and most affordable.

  • Postcards: Older autographs were often signed on mail-sent government postcards (GPCs) or picture postcards.

  • Signed letters and documents: An Autographed Letter Signed (ALS) is a letter both written and signed by the athlete. A cut is an autograph that has been cut out of a document and (usually) framed. Letters and documents are often valuable collectors’ items.

  • Books: Autographed books written and signed by an athlete are unique items. Condition is important. Look for sharp corners, clean pages, and flawless covers.

Before bidding or buying, make sure you review eBay’s policy on Autographed Items.

In-person autographs

The most reliable autograph is the in-person (IP) autograph, signed by the celebrity in the presence of the collector. Authentic in-person signatures can be valuable. If you can’t get one yourself, look for sellers who back up their IP autographs with a respected certificate of authenticity (COA) or a money-back guarantee.

Vintage autographed memorabilia

The most treasured autographed sports items are photos, bats, and balls 35 years or older. Prior to the 1970s, most collectors gathered autographs on 3” x 5” index cards, autograph albums, government postcards, and other publications, or gathered many signatures on a single ball. You’ll find a variety of vintage sports autographs on eBay.

Back to topBack to top

Explore Game-Used Memorabilia

Explore Game-Used Memorabilia

An item is game-used if it’s been hit, kicked, punched, worn, or thrown in an official game by an athlete (apparel is sometimes identified as “game-worn”). These pieces of memorabilia are attractive to collectors for their sheer historic and nostalgic value. A clean, mint-condition autographed bat that’s never actually been used is one thing, but a bat that’s pitted, scarred, and possibly cracked from the hands of an athlete carries another kind of evocative glory.

You’ll find two types of game-used memorabilia on eBay:

  • Complete apparel or equipment: Get the entire set of balls, bats, jerseys, helmets, gloves, and shoes. These are usually pricey. Look for sweat stains, authentic wear and tear, and proof of game use.

  • Swatches: Swatches of game-used apparel or pieces of equipment, usually attached to playing cards, are designed for collectors who can’t afford the full item.

Some items identified as game-worn are from practice games or league photo shoots. Ask about specific details. If it’s a card, check the back for an authentication copy that should detail how the apparel was used. If it’s a full piece of apparel or equipment, inquire about proof of authenticity. Buy from sellers or secondary vendors with a reputation for carrying authentic memorabilia.

Back to topBack to top

Evaluate Authenticity of Sports Autographs

Evaluate Authenticity of Sports Autographs

Look for memorabilia that have been examined and declared genuine by a respected third-party expert. Authenticated items should be certified with a Certificate of Authentication (COA). Recognized sports memorabilia authenticators include: PSA/DNA Authentication Services, Global Authentication Inc., Mounted Memories, Steiner Sports, Upper Deck Authenticated, Tri-Star Productions, and Online Authentics.

Find sports autographs with COAs

In order to list in the Authenticator Pre-Certified section on eBay, a seller must have a seller Feedback score of 25 or higher, offer proof of authentication from a recognized sports memorabilia authenticator, display clear scans of the item and proof of authentication, and include an Authenticator Pre-Certified section in the listing that shows required item information, as well as a copy of the Certificate of Authentication.

Sellers who decide not to obtain a COA (usually for financial reasons) or who do not have a high enough Feedback rating to sell in Authenticator Pre-Certified, list their original autographs in Autographs-Original.

About non-original sports autographs

Sports celebrities get so many requests for autographs that they sometimes mass produces their signatures using other signers or machines. Here are a few types of non-original autographs:

  • Autopen signature: An autopen is a machine that copies a signature and reproduces it very accurately. Personalized autographs are usually not autopenned.

  • Secretarials, ghost signings, and clubhouse signatures: These terms are used to describe forgeries signed by someone other than the athlete.

  • Preprints: A reproduction of a signed photo. Unlike original autographs, preprints will not show the signature obviously on top of the photo gloss.

  • Stamped autograph: A rubber-stamped autograph is easy to spot. Look for tiny irregularities, smudges, and light areas.

Follow these expert sports autograph collecting tips

Here are a few additional tips that will help you be a safe and savvy collector:

  • Research the history of sports autographs: Your knowledge of dates, names, manufacturers, brands, trends, and even types of wood and fabric will help you make wise purchases.

  • Check the item description and pictures: Know your favourite athletes’ signature style, which can change over time. Start a file of reference autographs, so you can compare signatures. Keep in mind that ballpoint pens first appeared in the U.S. in 1945, and black permanent markers were not used before 1964. Email sellers with questions: From where did the item originate? Where and when was the item signed?

  • Look for sellers who are members of the Universal Autograph Collector Club (UACC): The UACC holds members accountable to a strict code of ethics. Buy from sellers who have references and a good return policy.

  • Educate yourself thoroughly on prices: Know what an item is worth before you bid. Avoid “too good to be true” deals that could be bogus.

  • Buy the best sports autographs you can afford: Focus on high-quality items that are likely to increase in value over time.

Remember: eBay does not review any listings for quality or authenticity. It is up to you to research the item you are interested in and obtain any information about its authenticity before you place a bid or buy.

Back to topBack to top

Find Sports Autographs on eBay

Find Sports Autographs on eBay

Once you know what type of autographs you want, go to the Sports Mem. Cards & Fan Shop portal, click Autographs-Original or Autographs-Reprints, and start searching for item listings on eBay.

  • Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Baseball-MLB, Football-NFL, Hockey-NHL, Basketball-NBA, Racing-NASCAR, College-NCAA, Golf, Wrestling-WWE, Boxing, and more. As you dig deeper into the site you'll also be able to narrow down your choice by brand.

  • Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find a Bart Starr Hand-Signed Autograph, type "Bart Starr Autograph" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.

Back to topBack to top

Buy Sports Autographs with Confidence

Buy Sports Autographs with Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that a problem arises during your transaction, eBay and PayPal are there for you.

  • Pay safely with PayPal: PayPal enables you to pay without the seller ever seeing your bank account or credit card numbers. In fact, PayPal protects buyers 100% against unauthorized payments from their accounts. Plus, with PayPal Buyer Protection, your purchase can be covered up to C$1,250.

  • eBay Security & Resolution Centre: Visit the Security & Resolution Centre to learn how to protect your account and use eBay's quick and efficient resolution tools.

Back to topBack to top

 Content Provided By