Sports card expert: The days of free autographs are over

TULSA, Okla. — This weekend marks the official beginning of the end of the free autograph from a collegiate athlete, a Broken Arrow sports card expert says.

In Chicago, the National Sports Collectors Convention, one of the largest sports memorabilia gatherings in the country will host a collegiate level athlete for the first time, OU Quarterback Spencer Rattler.

“This is unheard of. It’s never happened before,” said Adam Thomas, owner of S&S Sports Cards.

Thomas, who has been in business since 1998, told FOX23 before the Supreme Court ruling that allowed college athletes to profit off their likeness came down this summer, he was repeatedly told by the NCAA not to do business with or sell anything belonging to an athlete until they had officially been drafted into a professional league. Now, those rules are out the window.

Rattler will appear at the convention on Saturday July 31st, and he will charge $150 per autograph, an extra $60 for an inscription of up to five words, and $150 for a photo op with him. The cheapest ticket to access the convention itself and get in the door is $19. Rattler will be featured along with other famous athletes such as Pete Rose, Rick Flair, Emmitt Smith, Chipper Jones, and dozens of others. Rattler and other college athletes immediately joined the app Cameo to sell customized videos of themselves for anyone willing to pay them to speak into a camera, but this is one of the first times a collegiate athlete will formally appear at an event of this size and sell access to them.

“I think with COVID precautions and schools cancelling signing day and fan day events, and now these new rules, its killed off the free autograph,” Thomas said. “The days of waiting outside the locker room after the game to get a ball signed for free are done now that these guys can charge. You might get a less popular athlete who will be willing to sign your items for free, but even they now have the right to charge for it.”

Thomas told FOX23 players of multiple collegiate sports have already reached out to him about hosting a signing session where customers could pay for their autographs and photos ops in his store.

“We get asked every year if we have cards of players who are at the caliber of a Spencer Rattler, and we were never allowed to before,” he said. “We now have the ability to sell cards with current players on them while they’re still in college. This is huge.”

Thomas said it’s very likely fan day events and other events where players have signed things before in the past for free, even for small children, will likely have to charge at least an entry fee because the players can now assert their right to be paid for their signatures and even photo ops.