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Fans, collectors have split opinions on autograph fees

By Jon Waldman

In October, a sports memorabilia show in Edmonton raised a few eyebrows due to the appearance of two of the Oilers’ hot young prospects – Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner.

The young guns, you see, were at a signing table, ready to put pen to paper, photo, puck or just about any other material. The cost of this opportunity to meet the players and get an autograph from each was $25. This, to some fans, was an unreasonable charge. The session, as described in an Oct. 19, 2008 article, which appeared in the Edmonton Sun, “left some fans shaking their heads at having to pay $25 for the quick scribble.”

Another instance, as reported by the excellent Vancouver Province-based Orland Kurtenblog, a trio of Canucks had a similar run-in with the industry. Alexandre Burrows, Taylor Pyatt and Ryan Kesler, were alerted to the fees the promoter planned to charge – $30 for a small item, $40 for a big one – and excused themselves from the engagement before it happened.

For the veteran autograph seeker, however, the charges are not exorbitant. Richard MacAdam, a Halifax native, recently attended a card show in Montreal and paid $25 apiece for two items signed by Jean Beliveau. He believes the current price levels are fair for the experience a fan receives.

“If they were to bring a name player here for a future card show, depending on the player, I'd be willing to pay $25-$50 unless it was a Crosby or Ovechkin, in which case I'd go higher,” MacAdam says.

MacAdam isn’t alone in this belief. Every year, thousands of collectors from Canada, the U.S. and other countries across the globe put down some cash for the opportunity to meet their hockey heroes, shake their hands, have their memorabilia signed and maybe snap a picture or two. For this community, the charge for this activity is not only accepted, but the reasons behind it are well known.

“Someone has to pay for the athlete's time, photos, advertising, etc. and then figure a way to recoup most of that,” says Ryan Rajmoolie, a former promoter with the Toronto Card Show. “For the most part, the people who come to the signings, who are actual collectors, know why (there is a fee). Collectors are educated in the behind-the-scenes events that lead to a public appearance by an athlete at something like a sports card show.”

- with files from Ryan Kennedy



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