Original Trilogy Main Character Autographs By The Numbers
Watching different Star Wars actors sign autographs for the last few decades, I started trying to figure out the numbers. How many pieces have been signed? How much value should be attached to each autograph? What are the prices that these actors charge vs. what the actual value should or could be?
So I started by using what I felt could be considered round average numbers for ease of understanding.
Using 20 weekend shows worldwide per year, with an average of 2,000 signatures per 2 or 3-day show in the last 25 years. If you feel the number of signed items per show is high, I can understand your concern, but it is realistic if the signer doesn't sign that much assume the remainders are easily filled out with private signings and trading cards for Topps etc. I believe these numbers are quite reasonable.
Sure at some events the guest may sign less, but there are certainly events where they will sign far more. Remember, even if you don't see lines for these guests at a show, that doesn't mean that the promoter doesn't have a mountain of stuff that the guest is contractually obligated to sign.
These figures put our most common Star Wars signer at about 1,000,000 autographs. Dave Prowse although retired, is likely the best candidate for this number. Jeremy Bulloch also retired, and Peter Mayhew (RIP) are probably really close.
Kenny Baker (RIP) likely made just as many appearances as the gentlemen mentioned above, but was a much slower signer. So while the number may seem low, I am putting Kenny at the 500,000 mark.
Anthony Daniels has limited his signing appearances sometimes to only 1 or 2 per year. I put Anthony at the 350,000 level.
Carrie Fisher (RIP) didn't really start on the show circuit until 4 or 5 years after the other cast members, but her draw at shows, as well as her book signings has easily put her in the 300,000 range.
Mark Hamill has done a handful of shows, although none in the last few years, partly because the fees he or his agents have charged for his signature have always been higher than the rest. I am putting Mark's numbers at about 200,000-250,000.
Harrison Ford for decades was the guy that you had to go out and try to meet in public. He still doesn't do autograph shows, but he has done multiple private signings and has signed some material for specialty products and trading cards. Quite recently, he has even done a couple of send-in signings for fans’ personal items. If we guesstimate the number of these private signings to maybe 20 events with an average of roughly 1000 pieces signed, we can put Harrison in at under 20,000 nice sit-down autographs. Sure plenty of scribbled out signatures have been signed in the streets, but they really don't compare well to the clean sit down signings
Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing were both generous signers via their home addresses. My rough estimates place Alec's Star Wars signed items at about 2000-3000 pieces. Peter likely signed maybe 500-1000 with at least 90 percent of those items inscribed to the fan.
Speaking to a number of active TTM autograph hunters and dealers, if they attempted mailing requests to Mr. Cushing between 1977 and 1985, a large percentage of material sent was Hammer Horror film stills and Sherlock Holmes items. Star Wars images were not good sellers and only existed in press kit images and lobby cards. By 1986 Star Wars was forgotten by most, and it did not see a huge resurgence until 1995-1997 (a year or more after Peter passed).
Taking into account that both Alec and Peter had long careers prior to their roles in Star Wars, and the fact that both gentlemen were extremely fan friendly both in person and via the mail. Estimates of their overall signing numbers would place them easily in the 10's of thousands of signatures out there and available.
I know we don't live in a perfect world, but if you crunch the numbers, and only count Star Wars related signed items:
Kenny should be twice as valuable as Dave and Jeremy with Peter Mayhew falling somewhere less than Kenny, yet seeing a bump in value above Jeremy and Dave.
Anthony should be roughly 3 times as valuable as Kenny, but due to Kenny passing, their values have about evened out.
Anthony and Carrie should be pretty close in value, but one is a princess and the other is CARRIE FISHER.
Mark should be more valuable than Carrie, just by the numbers, but that certainly hasn't been the case.
Harrison's sit down clean autographs should be as much as 10 times the value of Mark.
Alec should be about 10 times as valuable as a nice Harrison.
Inscribed Peter items could be as much as 4 times the value of an Alec.
Uninscribed Peter Cushing Star Wars items should be worth a small mountain of Dave Prowse signed photos.
You can adjust the main numbers anyway you want.....cut down the number of shows a year, the number of years the signer appeared at shows, or even the average number of pieces signed at a weekend show.
The fact remains that some Star Wars related autographs are in such great supply, you should be very careful in what you choose as a good autograph to collect. That is, of course, if you are seeing your hobby as a possible future investment.
I realized that I have been talking about rarity levels, and I haven't actually given the scale that I use.
R1 5000-7000 pieces exist
R2 2000-5000 pieces exist
R3 500-2000 pieces exist
R4 200-500 pieces exist
R5 75-200 pieces exist
R6 50-75 pieces exist
R7 10-50 pieces exist
R8 5-10 pieces exist
R9 2-5 pieces exist
R10 1 piece exists (Unique)
R11 0 known pieces exist, maybe rumors but nothing seen or shared between collectors.
Come on now, you had to realize this had to "Go To 11."