I got started collecting autographs in, I think, about 1985. I remember going to my first baseball card show on Staten Island (maybe St. Dorothy's...my memory's not that good) and getting Rusty Staub to sign an 8X10 and my copy of the 1985 Mets Information Guide. I'm not entirely sure where those two items are now, but I do know that was the start of a childhood full of baseball card shows, from smaller ones on Staten Island (Kevin Elster and Keith Miller at the Nansen Lodge, Matt Williams and Eddie Mathews at St. Teresa's, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn, Dave Magadan, and a ton of others at a school auditorium I'm blanking on) to larger ones in New Jersey (a Brooklyn Dodgers reunion at the Hilton in Hasbrouck Heights) to megashows in Manhattan (a 1969 Mets reunion at one of the piers and countless shows at the Penta Hotel/Hotel Pennsylvania across from Madison Square Garden). God bless my parents--they took me to just about whatever show I wanted to go to and gave me money to get signatures from whomever I wanted. So I assembled a pretty nice collection before autograph prices got too out of hand. It's not a collection that will ever make me a multimillionaire, but I got to meet some pretty cool people.
Nowadays, I will occasionally head to a show or a signing at a memorabilia store for old times' sake (and, of course, Chiller because (a) I'm a loser and (b) I need photos for my Holiday Greeting). But most autograph prices are absurd today, and I kinda do the old-man "wow, times have changed" thing in my head and then spend a few moments feeling grateful that I was able to get autographs when they were cheaper through the magnanimity of my parents, who not only funded me but alsooften patiently waited hours as I stood on lines to meet baseball players I'd only read about in books.
But occasionally, I will come across a show whose prices are so ridiculous that I am legitimately taken aback. Such was the case the other day when, feeling bored, I started checking out websites for local card shows. Triumph Sports runs a lot of megashows in New Jersey, and their upcoming show is called "The Football Spectacular." They have an impressive lineup of football legends, including seven members of your Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (striking while the iron is hot); former Cowboys Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Ed "Too Tall" Jones; and legendary quarterbacks John Elway, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino, among others. Some prices aren't too crazy ("Too Tall" Jones and Paul Hornung are $35 each), some are ridiculously high, but at least somewhat justifiable based on the athletes' careers (Elway, Montana, and Marino are $200), and some are just stupid (Eli Manning is $150, Reggie Bush is $125, and Brady Quinn, who has played a game in the NFL, is $75). But, whatever-- such is the state of card shows today.
Then, I clicked on a link titled "Photo Booth" to see what that was all about. It turns out you can get your picture taken with some of the guests by a "professional" (their quotes, not mine) photographer. "Oh," I think, "that's a cool idea, especially if you're paying so much for the autograph. At least you're getting your money's worth." But wait, at the end of the page, there's this:
“Photo Booth” tickets do not include an autograph of that guest. Autograph tickets must be purchased separately.
"Fair enough," I think, "It probably is a hassle to hold up the line; you'd have to expect that they'd need a little extra to make up for that convenience. Let me click on one of these player links to see how much the Photo Booth ticket is. Let's try Dan Marino. Aaand scroll down aaaand...Oh my God."
Meaning that if you want to get an autograph from and a picture with Dan Marino, it'll cost you 550 dollars. Unless you want a mini-helmet or football ($575) or a pro helmet or jersey ($600). And tack on $75 if you want an inscription on any of those autographs.
Alternatively, you could just punch yourself in the balls for free. I recommend that option.