The idea of an autograph collection came from my Grandmother. She sold traveler’s insurance in a kiosk at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It wasn’t too long after she was hired that she noticed the occasional celebrity or politician and decided she’d start up an autograph album. She had the signature of either John or Bobby Kennedy, I just don’t remember which one. I don’t know whatever happened to that book, but it would be really cool to flip through it now and see who’s in there.
When I acquired my first jazz autograph (Duke Ellington) and saw that it had likely been cut out of an album page similar to the one I imagined my Grandmother to have had, it clicked. At the time I was fed up with the current state of the sports card industry. When I was a kid, there were 3 card companies and collecting your favorite player was pretty easy. Nowadays, there are far too many to count. Not to mention all of the parallels and memorabilia. It’s ridiculous that in 2014, Mariners rookie Mike Zunino had 179 cards. I don’t even want to look up how many somebody of Derek Jeter’s caliber had. Though I still have a soft spot for my Mariners, and a handful of cyclists and wrestlers, I sold or traded off the rest. It was going to be jazz signatures in my collecting spotlight from then on.
That was 8 years ago. Today, I’ve surpassed 50 sigs and continue to hunt and search for my favorites. There are still some heavy hitters out there that I don’t have or that I may never have because of rarity or price or fear of counterfeits, like Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but I still entertain the idea.
When I started, I set some guidelines to follow. First: Only small signatures. Nothing bigger than a traditional trading card. I wanted to have as many authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA as I could and because everything has to match or I’d go crazy, I wanted them all to be in the standard sized slab.
Second: Clean signatures. By that I mean several different things. Nice, legible, non-smeared. Also, clean as in a solid color background. I didn’t want anything so busy that the autographs would get lost.
Third (and most important): Try to stay under $100. I’ve had to pass on some really nice ones to uphold that guideline. I have gone over, but only twice. I would very willingly go over, way over, for the 4 or 5 sigs at the top of my wishlist. You’d think names like “Bix”, “Fats” and “Jelly Roll” would be up there, right? Sure, but I’d be over the moon with delight if I could ever find another Joe Gordon. I’ve only ever seen one and I passed on it because it was in a program with a dozen or so other signatures and waaaaay out of my price range at the time.
That’s enough history for now. Let’s get to the good stuff!
I figured I should lead off this series on autographs with the namesake of this page and my personal favorite, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie. I have 8 autographs of Dizzy, 6 of them authenticated by PSA/DNA.
“To Jason, Be Bop. Dizzy Gillespie ’84”. Imagine my surprise when I found this. After hunting for a signature of Diz, that fit all of my guidelines, for quite some time and finally finding one AND IT’S PERSONALIZED TO ME! Well, okay, not to ME, but boy do I benefit by also being named “Jason”. I snagged this as fast as I could and at $35 it was a steal! It is pretty much my favorite thing I own!
Razor Masterpiece 1 of 1. Slabbed by Beckett.
This was a W.C. Handy first day cachet that I trimmed down.
I picked this one up for 2 reasons. The inscription and the date. Both were different than anything else I had.
This was a postcard that I trimmed down.
Notice the lack of inscription or date, which led me to acquire this one.
The scribble to start the “D”, the breaks between the “Y” and “G” and the “S” and “P”, and the fact that it was really small led me to not really like this one that much. The price was right though so I figured I’d have it authenticated and then turn around and sell it, doubling my money. However, before I could do that a sport card forum acquaintance, who dabbles in custom card making, offered to help. I liked the end result enough to keep it. The card design is loosely based on 1981 Topps Basketball, in case anyone was wondering.
This one was actually purchased for another signature (James Moody) that was also on the back of what used to be an LP cover. I have no idea if Diz signed through the red stamp or if someone stamped through his signature. Either way, it’s distracting. I also don’t care for that crazy tail on the “P”.
All, but one, of these autographs I’ve been able to pick up for $50 or less. If you do your homework and you’re patient, you can usually find a pretty sweet deal!
Eight is not enough! I’d love to own every Dizzy signature ever, but know that’s not possible. I always have my eye out for others that I can add for the right price. My dream piece, or pieces rather, would be a signed “The Cool World” LP cover and/or a dual signed (with Count Basie) “The Gifted Ones” LP cover. Two of my favorites for sure.