On Paying for Autographs

Phoenix Comicon is coming up in June, and as per usual, I’ll be there doing various things (mostly shilling for Big Finish). I’m sure it’ll be all sorts of fun, and I’m pleased to note that they have a good variety of media guests, including some, like Mark Sheppard and John Rhys-Davies, that I’m actually interested in. However I also note, to my distress, that both of those men want $40 each for their autographs. I note with even more distress that their fees are on the low end.

Yes, people charge quite a lot for autographs these days, which is a pity. Not only are those guys charging $40 each, but Stan Lee wants $60, and Richard Dean Anderson seems to think that $75 is a fair trade for a few lines of ink.

Now I don’t really have a huge problem with this. I think it’s kind of dickish on their part, but I understand not wanting to have to sign something for all the 50,000+ people who will be there, and charging for your signature is a way to have some control over that.

On the other hand, Anderson, Sheppard and Rhys-Davies, as well as several others who will be there, are all working actors. They make a living, you know, acting, where they get money that most of us couldn’t even dream of seeing.

Here is a particularly egregious example: Matt Smith and Karen Gillian, who won’t be at the con, allegedly charge $99 each for their signatures. $99. For them to sign something. They’re both fairly in-demand actors, who probably got paid tens of thousands of dollars per episode of Doctor Who, and both of whom are under 30 and still working. Charging $99 for a signature is insane. If someone earns minimum wage, they’d have to work about 25 hours just to pay for two signatures. That isn’t even getting into the cost for getting into whatever event they’re signing at, which can be really expensive. The cheap price for someone to get in to PCC is $60.

Now do you know who I don’t have a problem with when they charge for signatures? Actors who aren’t really working anymore. Actors who really only can make a living doing the occasional commercial and appearing at conventions. If, for example, I wanted Nichelle Nichols to sign something for me at a convention, and she charged $30, I wouldn’t mind. I’d pay that and happily, since I know it’s the main way she makes a living, and since she isn’t pricing herself out of the market.

Fandom is expensive these days. The conventions are nice, but they’re pricey. When I Was younger, it used to be you could get the autographs of many people for free. You still can at some cons, like Gallifrey. But sadly, this sort of high-priced event is the new normal, and that’s a shame, because it really deprives young fans, and low-income fans, of the chance to mingle, meet, and have a good time, and that doesn’t help to build up the next generation of fans.


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