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The Ultimate Guide to Signed, Slabbed Rookie Cards

Investing In Slabbed, Signed HOF Rookie Cards Is A Smart Move

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A signed, slabbed rookie autograph is a card that was signed on the card and then authenticated/graded by a professional grading company. 

Before card manufacturers began distributing certified on-card autographed cards in the mid-1990s, the only way to obtain an autographed card was to get it signed in person by the player. 

Thus, many former players don’t have a certified rookie autographed example if their career began before the mid-1990s. 

After the mid-1990s, card companies began producing more certified autographed card examples. 

This article only discusses in-person on-card autographed examples, also known as an “IP” autograph. Once signed, a collector must get the card graded/authenticated by PSA, BGS (BAS), or SGC to help confirm authenticity.

Let’s take a closer look at the signed, slabbed rookie card market and the importance and impact these cards have had on the hobby.

Grading Options For Autographed Cards

There are several different grading options for authenticating autographed cards. Depending on your choice, the value of your card can vary greatly. 

Here are several different examples.

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Dual-Grading Service Option

With this option, both the card and the autograph are graded. For example, the card is graded a 9 (Mint) overall, and the autograph a 10 (Gem-Mint) overall. 

This might seem confusing to some newer collectors, but a player’s autograph can be evaluated on a 1-10 scale based on the clarity, legibility, and crispness of the signature’s ink.

The most sought-after type of signed slabbed card is one in which the card receives a perfect 10 overall grade, and the autograph also receives a perfect 10. 

Example: One of the premier dual-graded examples is the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. PSA 10 with a 10 Auto, also known as PSA/DNA. This most recent sale of a Griffey Jr. graded PSA 10 with a 10 Autograph sold for $7,900 at an eBay auction. 

Only 89 of these have received the dual grade of 10/10. This Griffey Jr. signed and slabbed with the dual grading of 10/10 is 4.5 times more valuable than the standard Upper Deck PSA 10 rookie with no autograph.

Autograph Grade Only Option

This grading/authentication option will only authenticate and grade the player’s signature on the card, scoring 1 through 10. Itself. In this case, the card is authenticated but will not be numerically graded. Cards that receive a ten autograph-only grade are still highly sought after.

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Example: The 1993 Upper Deck Derek Jeter SP Rookie PSA 10 Auto Grade Only PSA/DNA. This card sold for $929 at an eBay auction earlier this month. It features a signature in a nice silver Sharpie. Derek Jeter has been rumored to be around $1,000+ to get his autograph signed on a card in today’s market. This one received a PSA 10 autograph, which adds much more overall value than only an authentic graded version.

Autograph Authentic Only Option

Grading with this option only verifies that the autograph is authentic, but the grade is not graded on a scale of 1-10. This likely means that the autograph is not in 10 overall condition. If you purchase autographed examples with an authentic-only option, evaluate the autograph’s condition before buying. You may see rare occurrences where some cards are in 10 autograph condition even though the card was only graded with the authentic option.

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Example – 1964 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA Auto Authentic Only Grade PSA/DNA. This card presents well, and the signature is in excellent condition overall. This autograph would grade a 9 or 10 overall. This card sold for $2,899 at an eBay auction in March. You could buy cards like this Mantle and have them re-graded with the dual-grading service option.

Cost Considerations

To determine if you’re making a good buy when buying these signed and slabbed cards, evaluate the total cost. Try to find what a current athlete is charging nowadays to sign a similar type of card. 

Former and current Pro athletes are now charging a lot more to sign autographs, and many of these cards are already signed and slabbed for a lot cheaper than what it would cost to do it yourself. 

One example that reflects this is Joe Montana. Montana was among the first players to increase the cost of signing his rookie cards. He was asking around $700 to $800 for rookie card signatures, and now he’s asking for as much as $1,000+ through some websites and signings. 

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There are a few Montana 1981 Topps rookie cards already signed that feature perfect 10-grade autographs – many are listed on eBay for $500 or so. 

These won’t last much longer at this value, especially with the hefty asking price to get his rookie card signed today. This does include the costs of authentication and grading, which can cost upwards of $50 to $100 or more, depending on the specific card (and player).

Population Reports

The low population reports of many of these signed cards can be advantageous when buying them as an investment or for your collection. It is hard to say just how rare these types of cards are. Many famous players don’t sign frequently, so the already signed and slabbed ones are still widely undervalued.

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One personal example: I recently sold a 1989 Score Deion Sanders rookie graded PSA 9 with a 10 Autograph for the total asking price of $400 earlier this month. Only 45 of these were graded a PSA 9/10 example. Considering that Deion is not scheduled to do a signing again any time soon, and this one was already a high-grade example, obtaining this type of card again shortly will be very tough.

Determining Value

Determining the value of these cards is like anything else in today’s market. Check eBay completed sold items and cross-reference to platforms like 130point.com or Alt sales data.

If you need to double-check, use resources like PSAcard.com Auction Prices. Also, check the PSA Pop Report to see how many have been graded in the particular card you’re trying to buy.

Buying examples with the dual-grading option, like 9/10 or 10/10, is the best option compared to buying examples with auto-grading only.

Here is one dual-graded example that seems relatively undervalued right now:

1990 Jaromir Jagr O-Pee-Chee Rookie graded PSA 9 with a 10 autograph.

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Only 53 of these have been graded a 9/10 example. A PSA 8/10 example was sold on eBay auction for $150; a 9/10 is listed for around $180 and shipped on eBay in February 2024.

4 Sharp Corners is known to sell many of these types of cards through websites that are signed/slabbed. They are usually listed as slightly cheaper on their website than on eBay. Some are listed on their website instead of dual-listed on eBay. I have had great success buying these cards, mainly because they are limited. 

I believe more collectors or buyers will soon target buying these cards because they are limited, and very few high dual-graded examples exist.

Conclusion

Investing or buying signed, slabbed rookie cards will require some patience. Sometimes, when they are listed, there are not many sales to go off of, so it will take the right buyer to want to buy the card from you if you’re looking at it from a resell or investment standpoint.

Adding these cards to your collection is a must, mainly because they are considered rookie autograph examples for many retired players. The low Pop Reports on these cards will always drive the value and demand. Keep your eye out for these cards in the coming months, especially with many Hall of Famers beginning to ask for a lot more money to get rookie cards signed at events or signings.

If you want to continue the discussion, feel free to visit our forum to discuss more about card grading.

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