Vintage Cards

My Favorite Autographed Cards

A recent thread on NSU Card Talk asked people to list their 10 favorite autographed cards. Most of the cards described were autographed inserts, reflecting the state of the hobby as it exists today. My own autograph collection predates the now-expected inserts. Back in my.

By Apr 21,2015  8

A recent thread on NSU Card Talk asked people to list their 10 favorite autographed cards. Most of the cards described were autographed inserts, reflecting the state of the hobby as it exists today. My own autograph collection predates the now-expected inserts. Back in my day, if you wanted an autographed card, you’d have to get it autographed yourself. And I did. Mostly, I collected autographs by mail (see an article I wrote in NSU on the subject in Vol. 4, No. 2). I also picked up a few in person over the years. Some of them have a story behind them. A few of my favorites (in no particular order):

Mark Hamill

When Mark Hamill was filming The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia near Chattanooga, I was working at The Great Escape, a comic book/trading card/record store in Nashville. We were all surprised one day when Hamill walked in, looking for Beatles memorabilia. I believe he bought some Tiger Beat magazines and some Beatles 45s. We had a few Topps Star Wars cards for sale, and I quickly bought one and got him to sign it for me. It was the first autographed non-sport card I ever got.

Dave Stevens

From 1990 until 1994, my job required me to go to California every couple of months (I’m a research engineer for the U.S. Army). Once I was there through the week, and finished things up early on Friday. My flight home was Saturday, so I had the afternoon to kill. There was a pretty big comic convention going on (I can’t remember if this was in the Bay area, or San Diego, or LA) so I went to it. In the artists’ alley Dave Stevens had a table, and there wasn’t much going on at it. I bought a set of Topps cards from theRocketeer movie in the dealer’s room and brought them to him. He had done the artwork for a couple of stickers in the set and signed them for me. And we had a nice conversation about the comic and the movie and Bettie Page.

James A Lovell

The first big card show I ever went to was the National Sports Collector’s Convention in Atlanta in 1992. One of the vendors there was the card company Space Ventures, which had just released one of their SpaceShots sets of cards with astronauts and NASA missions in it. They brought shuttle astronaut Bruce McCandless, Jim Lovell, and Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov to their booth as guests to sign cards. Lovell was not as well-known as other Apollo astronauts, having never made it to the moon’s surface despite flying on two separate Apollo missions. His fame soared, however, after the Tom Hanks film Apollo 13 was released in 1995, starring Hanks as Lovell. But that summer of 1992 in Atlanta, he was modest and happy to meet anyone who dropped by the booth.

Admiral Frank B Kelso II

Admiral Frank Kelso was Chief of Naval Operations during the first Gulf War, and as such, had a couple of Desert Storm cards. His family has roots in Kelso, Tennessee, only a few miles from where my father was born, and I’ve always had a soft spot for cards with a Tennessee connection. We had a Pentagon phone book in our office, and it was easy to look up his “official” mailing address and send him a Pro Set Desert Storm card for a signature.

Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing was best known for his work in the British Hammer Studio horror films of the 1960s when he was cast as Grand Moff Tarkin in the first Star Wars film. But actors have hobbies, too, and Cushing was a trading card collector. When I sent him this card for an autograph, I mentioned our shared interest and got back not only the signed card, but a nice note from him as well.

Johnny Carson

While Jay Leno has had a great run as host of the Tonight Show, there will never be another Johnny Carson. For 30 years, he was the host of the best talk show ever produced, and was a good at the job as anyone will ever be. For such an important figure in television history, he is surprisingly under-represented in the trading card world. This card is from a set featuring high-school yearbook pictures of stars. By the time it was released, Carson had retired from the Tonight Show, but he still received mail at the NBC studios in Burbank, where I sent this card.


When the 1992 Star Pics Saturday Night Live set released, it featured not only big stars, but some of the extras and writers as well. Robert Smigel hadn’t yet created Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and wasn’t particularly well-known, yet still he was on one of the cards. I sent it to him at 30 Rock for a signature, and was very pleased when it returned with three autographs. Smigel had not only signed it himself, he got Chris Farley and Mike Myers to sign it too.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Like many moviegoer of the early 1990s, I was a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger and saw Terminator 2 on opening weekend. I had enjoyed his work as far back as Stay Hungry, a modest picture he made in 1976 that I saw in college a few years later. I read in the paper that he owned a restaurant in Santa Monica, and sent him a T2 card care of that address.

Cal Ripkin Jr.

Forgive me for sneaking one sports card into the list, but this is a good one (and likely is the most valuable trading card I own). The Nashville Sounds were the Double-A minor league team where I grew up. When I was in high school, my father would buy minor league trading cards from mail-order dealers for me and I’d try and get autographs of the visiting players as they came through town. Baltimore’s Southern League affiliate was the Charlotte O’s. One of their infielders went on to a Hall-of-Fame career–Cal Ripken Jr. But at the time, he was just another guy trying to make it to the Show, and to be honest, I was just as happy to have gotten the signature of Drungo LaRue Hazewood and the other members of the team.

Dan Aykroyd

In 2010, Dan Aykroyd visited the army installation I work at to promote his Crystal Head vodka and to support the Wounded Warrior Project. He appeared at the base liquor store and a huge line of folks were there to meet him and buy vodka. There were more people than he really had time to meet with. As the time for him to leave drew near, his “handlers” told everyone who wanted to get an autograph to line up with their items in front of them, and Dan would quickly walk by and sign things – no time for photos or personalizations. Most people had Ghostbusters DVDs or Blues Brothers CDs. When Dan got to me and I held out a Coneheads trading card, he gave me a very puzzled look, then a smile, and then an autograph. I daresay no one else there had one.


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  • Wayne Frazer April 21, 2015 Reply

    Awesome read, and that triple SNL card is a killer! Although I have lots of pack-pulled autographs, one of my favourites is a Growing Pains trading card signed to me by Alan Thicke. Made me feel like I was a real Canadian!


  • wolfie April 21, 2015 Reply

    Great stuff, nice to read all the little stories attached to the cards.


  • Don Norton April 21, 2015 Reply

    Some great autos and stories. I have a good one – years ago my father went to the Osh Kosh Air Show, he was a big fan of aviation. Chuck Yeager, the famous ace and test pilot, was appearing at a location across the field, my dad couldn’t get around easily, so he asked his friend, an airline pilot, to get an auto from Yeager. The pilot met Yeager, who was willing to sign, but had no paper to write on, the pilot looked in his wallet and all he had was a few $50 bills, so Yeager signed one. My dad passed away a few years ago, and the Chuck Yeager $50 bill is now in my collection.


  • Rudy April 21, 2015 Reply

    Terrific collection and stories! I treasure my Dave Stevens autographs, as well, but they are on comics for the most part. What a talent, and gone at least 40 years too soon, same with Farley.
    That was really awesome of Smigel to get the other two “Superfans” to sign for you. Wish I’d thought to mail some of those StarPics SNL cards to 30 Rock way back when as bought plenty of them when they were newly issued! I did meet Smigel and Triumph years later at Comic-con and he graciously signed my Triumph CD “Come Poop With Me” as Triumph so that was pretty neat. He said it was “sweet” for me to have brought that as I don’t think it sold very well, unfortunate, as it is very funny and has real songs on it in addition to the comedy bits.
    Thanks for the article and congrats on the haul!


  • Bill Mullins April 21, 2015 Reply

    “Wish I’d thought to mail some of those StarPics SNL cards to 30 Rock way back when”
    Rudy, it’s not too late. Send the cards to New York. NBC usually will forward them to the appropriate star. It may take a little while for mail to get around, but it’s worth two stamps (the stamp to get it there, and the SASE you should enclose to make sure you get it back.)


  • Bill Mullins April 21, 2015 Reply

    Don — I didn’t include it in the blog post, but Chuck Yeager has a card in the “American Fighter Aces” set:

    I got him to sign it for me through the mail, as well as Joe Foss (what a guy! check his biography on wikipedia some time) and a couple of others from the set.

    Another favorite aviation autograph in the collection is Jimmy Doolittle,which I have on a 1992 Starline Americana card. He died only a year later, so I was lucky to get that one. Of course, there have been signed Doolittle cards possible since the 1930s: National Chicle’s Sky Birds, and Heinz Famous Aviators.


    • Don Norton April 21, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Bill, Never saw this set before. I do have Gabreski’s auto, met him at a modeler’s convention years ago.


  • Dave Thompson April 23, 2015 Reply

    Bill, it’s great to see you getting so much more out of your autographed cards than just the autographs! I’ve always said, collecting is more about the journey than the destination. More than just background, you tell some terrific stories here!


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