Autographs That Are Worth Millions of Dollars

An Autograph Letter By Declaration of Independence Signer, Button Gwinnett (Pictured, Background) Is Seen At Sotheby's Auction House April 8, 2010 in New York

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An Autograph Letter By Declaration of Independence Signer, Button Gwinnett (Pictured, Background) Is Seen At Sotheby's Auction House April 8, 2010 in New York
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Signature Collections

Whether you prefer athletes, diplomats, or artists, we all idolize certain famous people. Some even spend vast sums of money to own their past possessions or, in some cases, just their signatures. From lowest to highest price, here's a sampling of some of the most expensive autographs and signed objects ever sold at auction. And if you think you have a valuable signed autograph at home, double check to be sure — Bob Dylan just confessed to using an autopen to sign a limited run of "hand signed" copies of "The Philosophy of Modern Song." The books sold for $599, and Dylan has since apologized for his "error in judgement," explaining that a case of vertigo led him to use a machine for the replica signatures. The book's publisher, Simon & Schuster, has since offered refunds to anyone who purchased the book.

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President John F. Kennedy Signing Blockade Order At His Desk in the Oval Office, the White House, 1962
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JFK'S 'Last' Autograph

Price: $39,000
On Nov. 22, 1963, hours before he was killed in his motorcade, President John F. Kennedy signed a copy of the Dallas Morning News previewing his and the first lady's arrival in the city. Potentially Kennedy's last autograph, it was sold by the newspaper in 2009 for $39,000. At the same auction, a fedora worn by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby when he fatally shot Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, went for $53,775.

Related: Destinations That Defined the 1960s

Photo of Jesse James, Portrait with Him Looking Toward the Left, Circa 1870
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Jesse James Photo

Price: $51,240
From 1866 to 1876, train robber Jesse James gained fame as a Robin Hood-style outlaw but rarely signed autographs due to the price on his head. One of those that survived was a famous portrait believed to be the only photo of James he personally signed, which sold in 2011 for more than $50,000.

Related: Towns Where You Can Still Experience the Wild West

Albert Einstein Is Seated Inside By the Window, Looking Towards the Camera, Circa 1940s-50s
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Albert Einstein Letter

Price: $75,000
In December 1925, physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to engineer Giovanni Giorgi. In 2015, it was auctioned for $75,000. In the letter, Einstein wrote hypothetically about God's creation and referenced his most famous scientific contribution, saying, in part, "God created the world with more intelligence and elegance. ... I do not doubt the validity of the theory of relativity."

Iconic Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue Photo, 1951
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Albert Einstein Tongue Photo

Price: $125,000
In some corners of the web, it sometimes seems as though Einstein is as famous for sticking out his tongue as he is for his theory of relativity. No wonder an autographed copy of the heavily memed photo sold for nearly $75,000 at a 2009 auction. More recently, another auction-goer paid $125,000 for a matte-finish print of the same photo, autographed by Einstein in German. The message translates to: "This gesture you will like because it is aimed at all of humanity. A civilian can afford to do what no diplomat would dare."

Related: Famous Left-Handed People Who Changed the World

Jimi Hendrix's First Contract with PPX Enterprises, October 15, 1965
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Jimi Hendrix's First Contract

Price: $191,00
Guitar icon Jimi Hendrix was one of many 1960s musicians duped into signing contracts more or less robbing them of revenues and future royalties for their songs. In Hendrix's case, he signed an agreement with PPX Enterprises in 1965 in exchange for just $1 and 1% of the profits from his music sales. The contract, which sparked a legal battle after Hendrix's success, sold for $191,000 at auction.

Related: This Memorabilia From Woodstock Performers Sells for Thousands

A First Edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair, Selective Focus, Reflection of Book on Blurred Glass
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F. Scott Fitzgerald Book

Price: $191,000
Autographs by Lost Generation literary icon F. Scott Fitzgerald are fairly uncommon in general, but the signature that earned $191,000 at auction in 2015 had pedigree beyond its rarity. It was in a first edition of Fitzgerald's famous novel "The Great Gatsby" made out to screenwriter Harold Goldman, whom Fitzgerald dubbed "the original 'Gatsby.'"

Closeup of Two Hands Holding the Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe Signed Baseball At Julien's Auctions Hosts Sports & Southern Gentleman Collection Preview At Julien's Auctions Gallery on November 11, 2019 in Beverly Hills
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Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe Baseball

Price: $191,200
New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio and actress Marilyn Monroe were one of the 20th century's most talked-about celebrity couples. A baseball autographed by both sold for $191,200 at a 2006 auction. Oddly enough, another ball signed by Monroe using her given name, Norma Jean, sold for only $50,000.

A 1927 Baseball Autographed By Babe Ruth At a Sotheby's Preview, November 23, 2004 in New York City, in a Plastic Case
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Babe Ruth Baseball

Price: $388,375
Even DiMaggio and Monroe's combined fame can't compare to the Great Bambino's. One baseball signed by legendary Yankee pitcher and slugger Babe Ruth sold for $388,375 — up from $86,000 several years prior — at a 2012 auction, which also saw Ruth's 1927 game bat go for exactly the same price.

Two Hands Going Turning the Cover of a First Edition Copy of James Joyce's Novel 'Ulysses' on March 4, 2020 in Dublin
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Banned First Edition Of 'Ulysses'

Price: $398,000
Irish author James Joyce's seminal work "Ulysses" was banned in the United States and U.K. upon release in 1922 for sexually explicit content, making early copies hard to come by and correspondingly pricey. In 2009, a signed copy from the novel's original run of 100 sold at a London auction for 275,000 pounds, the highest recorded price for any 20th-century first edition. The book was in mint condition and unread but for the racy passages.

Lineup of Baseball's Oldtimers At the Polo Grounds, Left to Right, Back Row: 'Duffy' Lewis, Ed Collins, Roger Bresnahan, Connie Mack, Umpire Klem 'Red' Murray, George Sissler, Front Row: Hans Wagner, Frankie Frisch, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker
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Hall of Fame Baseball

Price: $632,369
As expensive as Babe Ruth's autograph alone was, the price skyrocketed when accompanied by the signatures of 10 other original baseball Hall of Famers. Auctioned for $632,369 in 2018, the most expensive autographed baseball ever bears the signatures of 11 early baseball greats including Ruth, Ty Cobb, Connie Mack, and Honus Wagner — the only surviving members of the Hall of Fame's original 25 inductees when it opened in 1939.

Related: Sports Collectibles That Scored Big at Auction

Engraved Portrait of English-Born Governor of Georgia Button Gwinnett
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Obscure Founding Father's Signature

Price: $722,500
You don't really hear about Button Gwinnett, but he's one of America's founding fathers. He wasn't that well-known before the Continental Congress and died in a duel 10 months after signing the Declaration of Independence. Since only 51 of Gwinnett's signatures are known to exist, one such example on a business document from 1773 sold at auction in New York for more than $722,500.

Album Cover for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Record 'Double Fantasy' Which Was Released on November 17, 1980
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John Lennon Album Owned by His Killer

Price: $850,000
On Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon signed a copy of his latest album, Double Fantasy, for Mark David Chapman, a mentally troubled fan who would assassinate the rock musician and former Beatle that night. Later discovered in a planter outside Lennon's New York home, the autographed album has changed hands twice for steep prices: first for $150,000 in 1999 and then for $850,000 in 2010. In 2017, it was listed again for a whopping $1.5 million.

Related: Enduring Quotes From John Lennon

Babe Ruth Signs a New One-Year Contract with the New York Yankees As Jacob Ruppert, Watches, Both Sit At Ruppert's Desk in His Office At His Brewery on Third Avenue, January 15, 1934
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Babe Ruth's Yankees Contract

Price: $2.3 million
Babe Ruth left the Boston Red Sox to join the New York Yankees in 1919 and began breaking baseball records in his first of 15 seasons for the team. Almost a century later, the contract Ruth signed with the Yankees, making league history, sold at a 2017 auction for $2.3 million — the highest amount for any sports document. (Ruth's 1927 World Series ring sold at the same auction. Both had been owned by actor Charlie Sheen.)

Sir Paul McCartney Performs Live On Stage At the O2 Arena on May 23, 2015 in London
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Rock Star Guitar

Price: $2.7 million
The one-time world record holder for most expensive guitar ever sold at auction — Kurt Cobain's non-autographed Martin replaced it in 2020 — is a Fender Stratocaster signed by a collection of U.K. rock icons including Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Brian May. The guitar was bought for $2.7 million at a Qatar auction, with proceeds going to the Reach Out to Asia program, which works to ensure young people access to education.

Head-and-Shoulders Portrait of Albert Einstein, Facing Slightly Right, Circa 1947
United States Library of Congress

Another Albert Einstein Letter

Price: $2.9 million
Not to be outdone by Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein makes his third appearance on this list, with another handwritten letter about God. In this famous correspondence from 1954, auctioned for nearly $3 million in 2018, Einstein lays out his religious beliefs (or lack thereof) candidly and in depth, writing, "The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends."

Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Colored From Original Black and White, Circa 1860
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Abraham Lincoln Letter

Price: $3.4 million
The authentic writings Abraham Lincoln have often fetched high prices, but the record was set in 2008 when a letter sold for a staggering $3.4 million at a Sotheby's auction. The letter is a response to a petition signed by 195 children requesting that Lincoln "free all the little slave children in this country." In it, the 16th president says, in part, "While I have not that power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it."

Related: Things You Didn't Know About Presidential Inaugurations

Emancipation Proclamation Owned by American Statesman and Politician Robert Kennedy At Sotheby's Auction House December 3, 2010 in New York City
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RFK'S Copy of the Emancipation Proclamation

Price: $3.7 million
Signed by President Abraham Lincoln and owned by one-time presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, a printed copy of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was auctioned off by Kennedy's estate in 2010 for more than $3.7 million. This particular copy of the historic act was one of 48 originally signed by Lincoln, of which only half are known to survive, with only eight to 10 in private hands.

U.S. President George Washington's personally annotated copy of the Acts of Congress
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George Washington's Annotated Constitution

Price: $9.8 million
In his lifetime, the first U.S. president kept a bound volume of the Acts of Congress, including the Constitution and Bill of Rights, with his signature of ownership and handwritten annotations in the margins. Dating back to 1789, the historic document set auction records in 2012, when it sold for the exorbitant price of $9.8 million.

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