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Autograph Collecting: What You Need To Know About Albert Pujols

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Albert Pujols has always been difficult when it comes to autographs. At the annual Cardinals Winter Warm Up he only signed baseballs and flats: no bats, helmets, or jerseys. Now I’m not sure if that was a contractual obligation with Upper Deck or a rule set by Pujols. In my personal experience he didn’t even acknowledge me when I went through the line. He just took the ball, signed it and rolled it to me. If, and that is IF you manage to get him in person, you end up with a side paneled sloppy mess.

Private signings have been the one place you could get exactly what you wanted. You received the APujols +5 with a legible inscription and that lasted for years. Even after reaching the 500 HR, 3,000 hits, and 600 HR milestones, he was basically an afterthought to collectors due to his mediocre years in Anaheim.

This year has reminded collectors why we collect Albert Pujols. He signed back with the team where he became The Machine and had a farewell tour for the ages where he played in one final All-Star Game, reached 700 home runs, passed Babe Ruth on the all-time RBI list, and capped it off with Comeback Player of the Year. Fans were given the opportunity to truly appreciate one of the game’s greats.

With a great comeback season mixed with the need to complete milestone autograph sets, comes the all-time high demand for his signature. 3,000 hit collectors, 500 home run collectors, All Star Game collectors, MVP collectors, Silver Slugger collectors, and more all needed Albert to complete their sets following his last game.

Over the last few years, Pujols has been hit or miss with adding the +5. The first time it happened, collectors (including myself) were outraged. The +5 was part of his signature, so why was it missing? The more he signed, the more common the missing +5 became, and the more I started to accept it. With his most recent signing, I was told by multiple people that the +5 was no longer part of his signature. Based on previous signings, it was bound to happen eventually. Other players have also stopped adding their numbers after they retired, including Kirby Puckett and most recently, Ichiro Suzuki and just like Puckett #34 and Ichiro #51 (and #31) signed baseballs, the +5 baseballs will start to command a premium, so if you are looking for a silver lining, it is that your previously signed items with the +5 inscription are now worth more.

Although the +5 is no longer part of his signature, Albert still gave his classic APujols signature, for which I am extremely grateful. Based on the volume of this most recent signing due to the number of different inscriptions he had to inscribe, he could have easily shortened his signature like many stars have recently done, namely Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper.

The autograph industry has been changing and creating more and more barriers for fans to receive the truly one-of-a-kind collectible they want for their own collections. No tickets, one inscription per item, a set list of inscriptions, and even no send ins are the most common barriers set. Other new barriers limited to Pujols include no HOF logo baseballs, no Cardinals HOF Museum logos, and no baseballs signed by Stan Musial alone.

Pujols has also started adopting some of these changes himself, most recently only allowing one inscription per item. What permits as one inscription is also changing. Some players, including Pujols, consider writing out the years of awards as two inscriptions and because of this added with the one inscription per item rule, 05, 08, 09 NL MVP will no longer be available. The available MVP inscription will be 3x MVP. Another example of one inscription that is now considered two is a milestone with the date. In Pujols’ case, for example, “700th HR 9/23/22” will now be considered two inscriptions and therefore will not be available. I foresee more restrictions coming in the future for Pujols as well (set list of inscriptions most likely).

As crazy as it sounds, we have been spoiled by players of Pujols’ magnitude even doing private signings if you think about it. These guys do not need the money. Signings are tedious and precise and they have to go out of their way to sign their name for 8 hours straight.

Although the continuous changes are frustrating, I am still thankful to even have the opportunity to send into private signings and add these legends of the game to my collection.

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2 thoughts on “Autograph Collecting: What You Need To Know About Albert Pujols”

  1. I agree with everything Nik stated.

    I’m glad Pujols has a legible autograph. I do not understand why a Player can’t take pride in writing their name legibly or, “design” their signature as something where we know it’s them.

    Regarding the jersey numbers, I’ve always requested them for the simple reason of not being able to recognize signatures as well as others and, with a number, especially on multi- signed items, it helps to ID the player. Very simple – especially for those who can’t write legibly!

    Recently, we had an annual local Show with in-person and drop-off/mail-in Players signing. A recent HOF inductee was at the Show, signing for the public and behind-the-scene for drop-offs/mail-ins. I had several items done via drop-off, including 5 “words” for an inscription(s) and was charged for 3 Inscriptions @ $50/each. I think my 3 inscriptions totaled 12 letters/numbers. This particular Promoter has always had me pay when he returns my items to me, due to the number of items I drop off & my items include inscription requests. When I inquired, I was told his jersey # counted as an inscription. I showed the Promoter the flyer, which did not mention anything about the jersey # being considered an Inscription or anything about “limit # words” per inscription. The Promoter was apologetic, stating he wasn’t aware until after the drop-offs were completed, w/ one individual having sent in a large quantity and upset since he would have had the HOF Inscription added vs the jersey # if he wanted to pay for an inscription for each of his items – a valid complaint. The Promoter stated he would not be working w/ the Player again due to this upcharge after-the-fact. The in-person signing gave the individual the opportunity to at least be made aware of the use of their inscriptions, for the most part; therefore, not getting a surprise $50 charge for a jersey number.

    My point is, whether we want or do not want Pujols to add his + 5, at least we were not ever charged for the #. I was happy w/ all my items.

    I did not have approx 10 items done because of both my difficulty interpreting where my items fit into which price category and a last minute clarification before dropping off on the wording for flats up to 16×20 ($349) vs artwork ($599) and who determines what’s what. Plus several other items of mine I wasn’t sure what price category they would be charged.

    Since I am an Inscription person, do not even get me started on the debate of what is and is not an Inscription. Nik could write a Blog solely on the subject of Inscriptions. The Stats and Accomplishments are great and are desired on items from everyone, especially the greats. However, the rare times players give us an inside peek at their personalities or thoughts make inscriptions turn the item into a discussion piece. That’s what I don’t like about the pre-determined allowable inscriptions – nothing unique about them. Everyone will have the exact same inscription. We’re not even allowed to rearrange the wording.

    All this being said, I’ll conform to whatever lies ahead in the ever changing and narrowing of the dos and the don’ts!

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