Expensive Pursuit: Chasing Steve Jobs’ Signature

 

When it comes to collecting autographs, it’s never easy finding previously signed documents by the dearly departed. Unless, of course, you have some extra dough to pay for these rarities when they come up for public auction. Or, better yet, you were smart enough to land their treasured scrawls before they left this world. Such is the case for autograph collectors chasing the scarce scrawl of late Apple Computer co-founder and iPhone visionary Steve Jobs, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2011 at the age of 56.

This month, an online “Pop Culture” auction will bring three never-before-seen Jobs’ signatures to the marketplace. On Thursday, March 8, Boston-based RR Auction will begin accepting bids on the trio of unique signatures from the man who was, by most accounts, an unwilling signer. Online bidding will conclude one week later. Landing each of the signatures was an adventure in itself for the three different consignors, all of whom had their precious Jobs’ autographs verified by PSA/DNA. RR Auction’s online preview of the fast-approaching Pop Culture auction is live right now.

Mac manual signed by Jobs and authenticated by PSA/DNA.

The three autographed pieces going up for bid include a 1973 job application filled out and signed by a then-18-year-old Jobs seeking employment as an “electronics tech or design engineer” (starting bid: $5,000, estimate $50,000-plus); a Mac OS X Administration Basics technical manual signed by Jobs in the Apple Inc. parking lot in 2001 (starting bid $1,000, estimated to sell for $25,000-plus); and a newspaper article that appeared in the June 10, 2008, edition of the Palo Alto Daily Post covering the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. It includes a photo of Jobs speaking at the conference with a headline reading “New, Faster iPhone will sell for $199” (starting bid: $2,500, estimate $15,000-plus).

A young Jobs filled out this job application in 1973, which has also been authenticated by PSA/DNA.

The consignor of the technical manual, for instance, had this story to share about securing Jobs’ autograph: “I met [him] in 2001 when I went to Cupertino [Calif.] to get my technical training to become an Apple technician. That day I inadvertently parked my rental car beside his [a silver Mercedes Benz S500 with no license plate]. It was afternoon, the end of my training day and I just got into my car when I saw Steve Jobs walking up to his car. I rolled down my window and called his name. He asked me whether he knew me. I told him I certainly knew who he was and immediately asked him if he would be kind enough to sign my Mac OS X Administration technical manual. He refused and said, ‘I feel weird doing that.’ I refused to back down. After a bit of cajoling on my part, he finally told me to hand over the manual and pen. He said, ‘give me those’ and autographed my manual.”

Jobs could marry creativity with science. A temperamental mastermind who demanded ridiculous deadlines from colleagues, he left an indelible imprint on the world before his premature demise. He was feared and despised nearly as much as he was admired and revered. The man who unveiled the iPhone to the world in 2007 was, quite simply, a tech genius.

“Identifying Jobs as a reluctant signer is a major understatement,” said Steve Sloan, vice president of PSA. “And for us to be able to authenticate three of his signatures inside of a month is truly a rarity.”

Just like other great inventors before him, from Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin to Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford, his signature in death is a prized commodity that commands big bucks. For example, in a previous auction conducted by RR Auction this past October, a Jobs’ signed and inscribed (“I love manufacturing”) 1988 Newsweek magazine cover sold for a whopping $50,587.

 

Today’s market will likely yield and even surpass the early auction-house guesstimates on the autographed pieces going up for bid. Such is the power of scarce, sought-after signatures with the backing of the folks at PSA/DNA. Click To Tweet

 

In another online auction, one conducted by Julien’s Live that concluded on Sept. 23, 2016, several personal items once worn by Jobs resulted with some eye-popping prices realized: black leather jacket, $22,400; Baume & Mercier gold watch, $18,750; Seiko watch, $12,800; wallet and ID badge, $8,320; and a pair of blue jeans, $3,125.

Today’s market will likely yield and even surpass the early auction-house guesstimates on the autographed pieces going up for bid. Such is the power of scarce, sought-after signatures with the backing of the folks at PSA/DNA. It’s the real deal, all right. You can take that to the bank.

Kevin Keating, PSA/DNA’s lead authenticator, had this to say after evaluating the three Jobs’ autographs: “Steve Jobs’ signature is remarkably simple when one considers his brilliance and creativity, and his simple-style cursive does match well with the simplifications that marked many of his innovations as it related to making computers and devices user-friendly.

“There is nothing, however, structurally significant or creative about his signature which remained quite consistent during his adult life. Like other autographs, the value [of his] is largely a direct product of available supply versus demand. As a habit, Jobs did not sign autographs, thus the enormously small number of authentic items that are now in circulation. There appears to be no end to the increasing interest in Jobs, which will continue to drive interest in his autograph and make his name a good autograph investment for the foreseeable future.

“For now, the high prices realized at auction are helping to draw out more material, but those same prices almost certainly will elicit more fraudulent attempts by unscrupulous individuals trying to score with forgery attempts. For every real Jobs’ [autograph] we see, we continue to see a number of fakes.”

Posted by Terry Melia

Terry Melia is a hobby veteran who has served in various PR and marketing roles for industry movers and shakers including The Upper Deck Company and SCP Auctions and is currently working as PSA's Public Relations Specialist.

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