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Is Albert Pujols the Hobby Antichrist?

I’ve watched the highlights. I have studied the stats. Barring some insane revelation about his off-season routine, Albert Pujols will more than likely go down as the greatest baseball player of my lifetime. Of course, as collectors we are accustomed to overpaying for what is hot at the moment. I still remember attending a card show during the summer of 1990 and standing next to a man who forked over $300 dollars for two 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco cards.

You can imagine my shock when I read that Albert Pujols charges $200 dollars for every autograph he signs for Upper Deck. The 2008 Sweet Spot version that you see below is #’d to 45 copies. In case you are too lazy to do the math, that’s $9,000 dollars for those 45 signatures which probably took “Prince Albert” an hour or less to complete. The example below sold for a slap in the face, $120 dollars.

What’s worse is that if you live in St. Louis and want that home town discount, you will need to pay a  measly $215 dollars for the chance to have Albert sign your item and give you the customary nod and smile. In a time of a full blow recession when people are losing their jobs and homes it seems a little ridiculous that anyone would charge that much for a signature of a player, especially considering Pujols is likely to sign thousands of autographs over the next twenty years.

The sad fact is that this trend is going nowhere. Last year a card shop in the area wanted to charge customers $50-$75 dollars per autograph (depending on the item) for Florida Marlins star, Hanley Ramirez. As an “adult fan”, Hanley is without a doubt the hardest autograph to score at Dolphin Stadium but it’s no rarity to have his autograph. I have seen/heard dozens of young collectors showing off their Hanley auto and sharing their story. Why pay more than the price of a ball, bat, or card when you can get the autograph for free?

As for me, it took me another decade before I was finally able to pick up that fabled Jose Canseco “Rated Rookie”. I may have been late to the party but I cannot complain about the $5 dollar price tag it cost me to enter. I can only imagine whatever happened to that “high-roller” who spent so much on that rookie hype at that card show way back in the day.

I sure hope this is not him.

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30 Responses to "Is Albert Pujols the Hobby Antichrist?"

  1. It’s not just stars–my buddy that runs a card shop got a call from an agent of a Twins player last spring, asking if he’d be interested in having a signing session–when he said yes, the agent said it would be $2,500 to have him in. I can’t remember who the player was for sure, but I think it was Philip Humber, who didn’t even make the team out of spring training (if it wasn’t Humber, then I think it was Kevin Mulvey–it was one of the pitchers from the Santana trade).

    And I might be off on the price–it might have been $5000. AND I believe that was for a certain number of autographs, too–anything over that amount, and they would have to pay extra.

  2. Charlie says:

    And we constantly wonder why Topps & UD fill out the rest of the checklist with crap.

    I’d be curious to find out what the rest of the players charge.

  3. Grand Cards says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. As somebody who has tried to get autographs of “choice” individuals for a personal collection, the prices can quickly get out of hand. The key is, players either charge an appearance fee for x hours or charge a per-autograph fee. The host of the signing then needs to mark up the signature to cover expenses and to make a profit. Pujols is hardly the antichrist for this–he may well be the best player in the game and charges accordingly. Beloved hall of famers like Cal Ripken Jr. charge over $200 per signature, and curmudgeonly legends like Willie Mays might set you back as much as $500! The elite stars–Pujols, Arod, Jeter, Bonds, etc. charge a lot because they can get away with it. They are unique players. I’m not justifying it by any means, but this is driven much more by the Memoribilia Market than it is the card market. Unfortunately, this also provides a disincentive for them to sign for free at games–essentially devaluing their own signature by reducing scarcity. What bothers me is when young players and up and comers either charge a lot at shows OR don’t sign at games (especially for the young fans). There is a social contract between the players and the fans that seems to have disintegrated in the minds of many players in recent years.

  4. Charlie says:

    At the Chicago Sun-Times show last year, Emmit Smith was charging $350 to sign a football, and had a HUGE list of restrictions for items he wouldn’t sign, which included any Gators gear. He was also the only athlete out of about 40 or so, that required you to buy the autograph ticket from his management company and not from the show promoters.

    At the same show, Adrian Peterson was signing for $250. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the AP.

  5. Newspaperman says:

    Well, you have to take into consideration that much of the proceeds from Albert’s signatures probably go to his foundation (http://www.pujolsfamilyfoundation.org/).

    When you get a item signed in person, the price you pay is for more than the ink on the ball. It’s paying for the few seconds you spend with the player and the ability to say a few kind (or harsh) words. It’s an experience, not unlike going to dinner at some expensive steakhouse.

  6. Mario A. says:

    You can’t tell me spending those few impersonal moments could ever beat doing so in person before a game or during Spring Training when every player is easier to access.

  7. chasingmoss says:

    Anti-Christ is a bit much, but I certainly understand the sentiment overall.

    The $40 pass and $175 autograph proceeds go towards Cardinals Care, the team’s charitable arm who help the less fortunate in the area. A local documentary awhile back also stated that his other auto proceeds / charges go towards his Pujols Foundation, whose current project is to build schools and provide medical & dental care to kids in the Dominican and other Latin countries.

    Is it a lot? You bet. But people are buying them. I stood in line to get auto tickets for the Winter Warm Up and his were the first to sell out at the pre-sale. The folks in line didn’t seem like dealers but diehard baseball fans. I’m sure some were there to “cash in” and flip the auto’d jersey (actually Pujols, Brock, Gibson & Schoendienst will only sign photos & baseballs these days) but the players who sold out that morning, in order, were Pujols, Khalil Greene, Troy Glaus, Lou Brock. How’s that for a strange crew? HOF, lock HOF, and two new guys who the fans want to meet & get autos (Glaus was there last year but was only available on a limited basis).

    Another factor to consider: Pujols isn’t the one charging $175, Cardinals Care is. Its a charitable event with the goal to raise as much money as possible so they can help as many people as possible in this economy. Pujols, Brock, Gibson, Sutter are all priced at $100 or higher. Want an eye opener? The online auction for the first 10 spots in line for his meet, greet & auto went for thousands.

    For what its worth, I’ve seen Pujols sign, gratis, before games… kids only though.

  8. chasingmoss says:

    Funny story on how you may want to pony up the time or the $$$ for an in person. I wasn’t in the hobby at the time of McGuire Mania here but this story was all over the news. McGuire has an instore at a hobby shop located in a nice mall. For the occaision, the owner had McGuire jerseys, bats, balls displayed throughout the store… many of the items from his personal collection. McGuire comes in looks around and does a Mine / Not Mine… according to him, over half of the items were fakes. Owner goes pale as he thought he had bought them from legitimate sales, auctions, etc… I wonder if he got in line and got McGuire to sign something!

    • Mario A. says:

      That sounds about right. McGwire’s sig is very distinct and elegant.

      I was a Jose fan all the way but Big Mac always seemed like a guy who cared more about the fans.

  9. bapple2286 says:

    My guess is that it took Pujols less than 10 minutes to sign 45 times. Don’t forget he did this without interruption. not a bad way to make a penny huh?? Think about that… if my estimate is even remotely close that’s $54,000 per hour. Is it too late for me to tryout for the majors???

  10. daryl says:

    From what I can tell Albert Pujols is about as far from the anti-Christ as a person can get. I live in St Louis and my son Thomas has Down Syndrome. Albert, his family and his foundation are very active in the local community. My son & I have attended 3 of his bowling nights, where Albert is there at the beginning of the event and stays past the end when everyone has left. This year ESPN screwed us and changed the game time to a Sunday night game, but his wife was there as she has been in the past. Albert walks through the bowling alley himself–no handlers, and talks to each child & the dad that is there for a minute or so. At the end of the night each child receives a gift bag with foundation goodies and always one item autographed by Albert. There is no charge for any of this.

    If you want to pay for an autograph from Albert so be it, I think he is probably worth it. From what I have seen Albert is the geniue article and gives back more than enough to the local community here in St Louis as well as to areas in Latin America.

  11. Mario A. says:

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    Just to clarify, I said Antichrist of COLLECTING not in his personal life. I know he’s a generous person who gives a lot of time and money to charities.

    That being said, charity or not….$215 is way too much. Can you imagine how many more people would be able to help is the price went down to say, $100 dollars?

    As for Upper Deck, doesn’t buying in bulk usually help price go down per item? $200 times however many sigs they buy is simply a rip off.

  12. JRJ says:

    Mario – his rate is pretty standard for a player like him in the autograph show world. Sure, its pretty high but most current players charge crazy high prices. Albert is no different.

    This is why I’ve said on this blog, my own, and others – never go to the autograph shows to get the current big star player. Get the players who have retired, left the game, and are in the Hall of Fame. Their rates are much more reasonable and you typically have a much better experience (unless you are Jerry Koosman or Roger McDowell – don’t get me started on that again!).

  13. Ross says:

    The funny thing is the Cardinals held an online auction for these Pujols auto tickets. They had spots 1-10 in line “reserved” for this auction.

    http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/fan_forum/warmup_auction.jsp

    Last time I looked there was not one available for under $320.00

  14. Charlie says:

    I love how people just keep commenting and turning this into something it’s not. Read the post before you comment.

    This has nothing to with what athletes charge at shows

    This has nothing to do with Pujols as a person

    This has nothing to do with his charitable donations

    The entirety of this post is about the fact that he charges the CARD COMPANIES $200 per signature, thus affecting the production cost of each product that he is in.

    Like I said in my earlier comment, Pujols and other high demand players charging this much for autos on cards, stickers, etc. most likely is directly related to why most of us pull Joe Koshansky and John Van Benscoten autos when we open wax.

  15. PAB says:

    Why blame Pujols et. al for raising the cost of products? Call me crazy but if the card companies cut the fat (or the lesser known players who you could care less about) out of their autograph/memorabillia checklists wouldn’t that lower costs?

  16. Jason Ballew says:

    It’s not just Pujols. I wrote something similar about the upcoming Houston TriStar show. I was seeing Biggio and Berkman listed and getting excited, figuring I’d have to pay about $30-50 per player to get an autograph.

    Try nearly $150 for Biggio and $100 for Berkman.

    No, thanks. I’d rather just get an auto’d card off Ebay. I love the players and the teams (and I’m wearing an Astros jersey right now), but, to me, that amount of money is worth more than a few words and an autograph. I’m not blaming anyone in particular at the moment, just rather disgusted with the entire concept.

    I’ll be going to the Round Rock games and saying hi to the players there, instead.

  17. Beppo says:

    Sounds like Pujols is just getting his cut from the card companies. They’re making big money off his autograph, so it seems fair that he gets some of it.

    At least he signs for kids for free. That’s where it “helps” people the most.

    All that said, I couldn’t charge $200 per autograph to other people. Maybe to companies when they’re going to sell it / market it. But to fans who already spend a lot of their money to go to games and buy memorabilia, that would be too extreme.

    I’m sure the players get tired of dealers wanting these signed at games, and people who are going to sell it on eBay, and rude people, but they should remember how much they make for playing baseball. It’s a dream lifestyle, and they should remember that. And it’s the fans that make it possible for them to earn millions of dollars for playing ball.

  18. Hoiles says:

    As with the prices of the cards themselves, I guess times have changed. I remember going to local card shops in the 90s and getting autos of Andre Dawson, Moises Alou and Jeff Bagwell for free.

  19. ToddUncommon says:

    Thanks for the link to the Sportkings box break! It was very entertaining. I understand it can be hard to feel like things are still moving moving when on camera, hence his apparent need to repeat himself and give asides with filler language.

    My favorite part starts at about 1:40 in, when he narrates the first box break (while throwing in little asides).

    “…mini base Jackie Robinson! (that’s pretty cool!)”
    “…big base Roberto Clemente! (the one and only!)”
    “…big base Sugar Ray Leonard! (sweet sugar Ray!)”
    “…Greg Louganis.” (…)
    “They all look pretty nice!”

    Why no love for Louganis, like “delicious, multi-gold Greg”? Must be because he was just an Olympic athlete.

    Just sayin’.

  20. Paul says:

    I don’t see any reason that Pujols (or any other player) should cut the card companies a break. The card companies are using those signatures to promote (and hopefully sell) more of their product. And last time I checked, Topps and Upper Deck weren’t charities.

    Does it stink that the big name stars can command $200 per signature? Sure. Considering that they make upwards of $10 million annually, I’m not sure why it’s so surprising. If these guys are careful with their money, they’re going to be set for life. They don’t need the money. They’re not going to sign for $20 a signature, and honestly I’m surprised that they bother at any price.

  21. Marie says:

    I collect Pujols as some of you know, and I honestly think that the “Antichrist” is a bit overboard. If any other player that was future HOF material signed for a whole lot less than this, how come no one really pulls these autos all the time? I have tons of auto’s of people I know probably will never see the majors, yet have only pulled a couple of good autos. How many people have pulled Derek Jeter autos? A-Rod? You are using Pujols as an example, and I get that. But putting all of this solely on him is unfair, the person who made the initial statement should include some other players to give everyone an idea of who is really like this. And for all we know, they could all send this money to a charity.

  22. o62omega says:

    Go online and search the ticket brokers for tickets to the StL Cards “SPRING TRAINING SEASON TICKET HOLDER RECEPTION” and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.. Albert signed last year and i picked up ticket to the event for $20 each.. Got 2 Pujols balls and about 15 other cards autos, they all show up. From what people said last year Albert dosent come every year but $20 bucks is worth a chance plus its a great event

  23. Jeff W says:

    He doesn’t let the card companies over produce and drive down his value. Ah well, I met and have autos of Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson for half that price from Nationals. I know Pujols is great, but I prefer my experience.

  24. slette says:

    Going back to the McGwire point, in all the Twins/A’s games I went to as a kid, Canseco signed once, but McGwire signed each and every time. Both were very nice though, which was cool.

    And one time when I was trying to get McGwire’s auto, my mom went and got Storm Davis’ for me. She’s a great gal.

  25. chazz says:

    Live in Atlanta- last year had seats right behind the visitor’s batters box and watched Albert sign autographs for kids during batter’s practice for at least 20 minutes- didn’t charge a dime!

  26. CardsFan says:

    From what I understand, a significant number of people who hounds players for autographs turn right around and post them for sale on ebay. So it’s hard to blame them for not wanting to be someone else’s gravytrain.

  27. As a far-away (Netherlands) STL Cardinals fan, I am always looking for new sites with Cards news.
    I hope that Pujols stays healthy all season.

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