Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why is Cam Newton signing autographs for $125 and up Saturday in Charlotte?

I wrote my column today about Newton signing autographs for Saturday at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte – for a fee that goes from $125 and up depending on what you want signed and what you want it to say.

Charging for autographs is a common practice in the sports world, but I still don’t like the idea of Newton doing it in Charlotte for a fee. He has already done three shows like this in Alabama and two others in New Jersey over the past year or so, but for some reason that doesn’t strike me the same way as having one in his backyard. (In the column, I also quote the man who is running this autograph show and Newton’s marketing agent for their perspective on why they believe this is a good thing).

Newton, of course, will continue to sign free autographs by the hundreds – the best chance to get him that way is at training camp in Spartanburg, where at the last camp he was often the last player off the field because he was signing so many things. The problem, of course, is even if Newton signs 100 autographs after every practice, the 101st person waiting is always miffed. There’s truly no way to satisfy everyone.

In my research about autographs, I found out a few things that didn’t fit in the column I thought I’d share with you.

-- I talked for quite awhile with Gary Takahashi, whose Hawaii-based company has Newton under a multi-year contract for autograph shows. His company will run this “for-profit” show at SouthPark.

Takahashi has about 20 elite athletes under similar contracts and is one of the industry leaders. He said Newton’s autograph costs more for fans to purchase than for some quarterbacks and less than others. “To put it in perspective,” Takahashi said, “he doesn't get paid as much [per autograph at a show] as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning. But he gets more than Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton.”

-- The best magazine story I believe that has ever been written on the practice of getting sports autographs was this one, by Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum in 2005. Here are just a couple of excerpts:

-- (From Sports Illustrated, 2005): People have been collecting signatures for centuries. In ancient China an autograph from an emperor was considered priceless, though selling an item bearing the signature was a crime. Somebody knew enough to save the signatures of William Shakespeare and John Donne, which are preserved in the British Library. In 1857 the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his diary that he had answered 70 autograph requests in a single day. The billionaire industrialist J.P. Morgan was an inveterate hunter of autographs, scouring Europe for the signatures of kings and queens and generals; he was particularly proud of acquiring Napoleon's. A 1939 Disney cartoon called The Autograph Hound shows Donald Duck running afoul of a security guard as he seeks signatures at a movie studio. Pancho Villa reportedly had a baseball autographed by the New York Giants.

-- In 1995, when linebacker Kevin Greene was a Pittsburgh Steeler (Scott’s note: this was before he became a Carolina Panther), he was stopped by a youngster seeking his autograph on a football after a preseason session at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Greene took the football and, in a variation of the little-used quick kick, punted it over a hill. The kid brought the ball back, and Greene promptly punted it away again. The father of one of the kid's friends complained in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Greene was ripped by fans. He explained his actions by saying that the kid should have been more respectful, asking for an autograph instead of demanding it. Greene may have been correct, but two punts on the same set of downs seems a little extreme.

In any case, feel free to leave your comments about this issue below and Newton’s signing Saturday (more info on that here, if you want to go). But please keep the comments clean. I appreciate very much the 99 percent of you who do.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

You aren't his dad. He can do what he wants.

Ed McDonald said...

I will leave the outrage about Cam charging his fans $125 to others. Anyone who pays that much for anyone's signature is a fool.

John Ferris said...

Cam is probably not charging that amount of money. The promoter of the autograph session is.

Cam Newton gets a set fee for showing up. The promoter then marks just like Foot Locker does it's $300 shoes that cost $10 to make.

This has been going on for years. I remember people paying a small fortune to stand in line to get Mickey Mantles autograph. He did 50 shows a year @300 autographs per show.

Would you rather have an autograph for $125, the right to buy season tickets for $10,000 or a pair of sneakers for $300? I think all of the choices are the choices of a fool but at least we live where we can make the choices.

J said...

We can actually get into quite a deep discussion on this issue.

Why do we want autographs? My answer to that is that our society is buried so deep in celebrity worship that a celebrity's signature is worth more to us than it should be. Not many people can give a detailed answer to why the Supreme Court's decision on ObamaCare is a good or a bad thing. But everyone in the world knows who won American Idol and who Kim Kardashian is doing this week.

We demand FAR too much of celebrities. I read blog comments and Facebook posts all the time that say stupid, asinine things like "when you are a celebrity, you forfeit your right to privacy and any info about your personal life should be out in public" or similar nonsense. We think that when we see a celebrity in a restaurant or the grocery store or other public place, it is perfectly acceptable for us to get all up in the celebrity's face and start talking to him/her or demand an autograph.

Cam Newton is a man, just like me. Neither of us is better than the other because he does his job in public and I do mine in a space in a cubicle farm in an office building. He is a great player on my favorite football team, so I watch him and cheer for him. But I'm not inclined to pine away for his signature, after a training camp practice or at an event at SouthPark Mall. If people feel their lives aren't complete unless they posess an object with Cam Newton's signature on it, I see no reason why he shouldn't make money for it.

Anonymous said...

Shame on the Observer. And shame on Charlotte for continuing to hold our pro athletes to some gold standard unheard of in other cities. Cam should leave when his contract is up. If you don't want to pay for it, then just don't go! Bottom line. He doesn't owe anyone a free signatue. And if you want a free one, then take your lazy behinds to Spartanburg, or the fan festival! This was a very reckless story.

Russ Sharples said...

Hi Scott, thanks for your very thoughtful, objective article. You explained very thoroughly the business aspect of these signing sessions, and I doubt very seriously that there will be many 8 year olds with their cap on backwards, adorable gap-toothed smile, holding an old, rumpled picture of Cam from the Observer, tears in her eyes, hoping to get Cam's autograph so as to make her dying brother's final days more peaceful. Nope, I suspect the line will be made up of middle-aged guys making an investment. Having said this, like you, I wrinkle my nose a bit at the thought of athletes being paid for autographs. But hey, I hate the DH and indoor football, so it's pretty obvious I'm from a different era. And FYI, SI published another great article on autographs-see http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1125417/6/index.htm And thanks for your excellent columns-I always look forward to them..

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, have you ever been asked to be a featured speaker and if so do you charge or do it for free?

Anonymous said...

Scott... I have to say I was quite disappointed after reading your column, which I found to be highly misleading. There is a huge difference between Cam signing autographs for fans (which you admit he does with regularity, more than any other Panther), and Cam sitting down for a sports memorabilia autograph session. All of the items that Cam will sign on Saturday come with lifetime, money back guarantees of authenticity. That is why they are so valuable to collectors. If I take my kid to watch a Panthers practice and Cam signs his team cap or jersey, we have a nice memory but the item itself isn't worth all that much. I can see why other top QB's won't do memorabilia signings in their home cities. It's easy to manipulate the facts to make the player look greedy, when in reality many people are willing to pay top dollar for sports memorabilia from their favorite athletes with lock-solid guarantees of authenticity. That is what you are paying for on Saturday. Not an autograph. Cam signs those for free.

Scott Fowler said...

This is Scott Fowler -- one comment here in response to a question I was asked... Re: Anon 6:51 p.m., yes I do public speaking fairly frequently at schools and service clubs mostly. I don't charge anything.

Freeman said...

Fine...I think it probably reduces the number of people trying to get free autographs so they can resell on eBay so higher percentage of attendees true fans of Carolina, Auburn and/or Cam.

Anonymous said...

easy solution, don't pay for it...

Anonymous said...

SCAM ALERT !!!!

He is back at it as usual.

Mexoplex said...

Im more of a picture-with-a-celebrity type of person. Athletes that are paid to sign autographs and the fans that collect them arent out punching babies. lets move on to something else. Cam (and the others) sign autographs for more people for free than they do for the ones that pay. Find something else to complain about.

Ross L said...

Scott, Ross L here was the Anon who asked the question. Thanks for your answer. I really don't have an issue with Cam as I equate it to a writer, physician, scholar being paid for a speaking engagement. They have something based on their past performance people are willing to pay for.

Matt Raymond said...

I fail to see the issue with this. You're paying for Cam Newton's time, access to him, and the ability to get a high-quality graph exactly how you want it. If there wasn't a demand for his signature at $125 he would be charging less.

Newton signs for free at training camp and I'm sure does hours of community work each season where he is signing for young fans. Paid signings are a completely different event.

If you think athletes shouldn't charge for autographs at an organized signing, you must think executives/journalists shouldn't charge for speaking engagements. I saw in a comment that you do some speaking spots for free which is great -- likewise, I'm sure Newton signs a significant percentage of his autographs for free.

If you were asked to speak about your work and meet with readers every week would you do it for free? What if it were every day?

Interesting discussion, looking forward to reading the comments.

Matt Raymond
Autograph University
http://www.AutographU.com

Anonymous said...

Newton's autograph....priceless!

blahblah said...

Anyone who would pay for an autograph takes the value away from it. At one point in time, autographs "just-so-happened" at special moments. Take the money and spend some time with a kid. If that happens to be in line at Southpark Mall, so be it. I will pass. I have always believed to value one's character over fame. See you at the game!

Anonymous said...

Scott Fowler, you acknowledged that you don't charge for autographs in public events, good for you. But nobody knows who you even are, period. Once you reach Cam's status, then start comparing your financial ventures, have a nice day. This is a useless article, Cam is a great man and has done some many things in his community. He brought the panthers hope, is that not enough? Work with me here people, please. Go panthers!