Inscriptions Can Turn Autographed Cards into Historical Markers4 min read


There was a time in our hobby when inscriptions on autographs were much different than they are now. First of all, they were not represented by an additional charge at autograph signings. Second, they typically came in the form of “To My Pal Johnny,” “Best Wishes,” or a simple “Sincerely Yours.” At some point the now-ubiquitous “HOF” designation became popular and that was followed by awards such as “MVP,” “Cy Young,” or some other statistical reference. Many such examples can be seen in the AutographFacts portion of the PSA website.

Inscriptions are a way to set signatures apart from one-another. They can help us to customize our collections in ways that reflect things we feel to be important and worthy of remembrance. Along those lines I have been challenging myself to come up with unique inscription requests. The end result has helped to personalize my collection in a new way. Additionally these inscriptions document important moments in an athlete’s career and in a way transform trading cards into small historical markers.

The following are a few examples of signed cards that I have added to my collection in recent years. Note that in an effort to coincide with the significance of the inscription, whenever possible the card that has been signed has been one that corresponds directly to the year of the event.

1960 Fleer card with “1st AFL Touchdown” inscription

One September 9, 1960, the Boston Patriots and Denver Broncos met at Boston University’s Nickerson Field and played in the  American Football League’s inaugural regular season game. On the first play of the second quarter, Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka tossed a screen pass to his tailback Al Carmichael. Seeing the field ahead of him crowded with Patriots defenders, Carmichael reversed his direction and ran 59 yards for the score. In a game saturated with historic “firsts,” Carmichael had scored the AFL’s first touchdown.

1965 Topps card with “I was a proud member of the AFL All-Star Game boycott, January 10, 1965” inscription

In January 1965, the City of New Orleans was set to host the American Football League All-Star Game. Things immediately began to unravel however, because the African-American players were unable to get taxi cabs to take them from the airport to the team hotels after their arrival. The situation got increasingly worse as the players ventured into the city for meals and evening entertainment but were kept from entering local establishments. One group of players was even threatened at gunpoint by a bouncer wanting to keep them from his club.

Late that evening the African-American players convened at their hotel and decided that if they were not to be shown fair and equal treatment, they would boycott the game. A press conference was held, announcement made, and the AFL packed up and left New Orleans to play the game the following week in Houston. The boycott later proved to be a catalyst for racial change in New Orleans.

1963 Fleer card with “Hello K.C.” inscription

After spending their first three seasons in Dallas, Texas and winning the 1962 American Football League championship, Lamar Hunt knew that his team could not survive in their current home. The upstart Dallas Cowboys were an inferior team, but the backing they received from the NFL guaranteed their success. After much deliberation, Hunt moved his Dallas Texans to Kansas City and rechristened them the Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs were unveiled in 1963. Their on-field success continued, and they won AFL championships in 1966 and 1969. They lost to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I, but defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, the last true game before the AFL-NFL Merger.

The possibilities for interesting, thought-provoking and historically-significant inscriptions across the sporting world are limited only by your own imagination. Consider not only an athlete’s athletic accomplishments, but also their public statements, interactions with others, and contract signings, etc. A few examples off the top of my head…


While anything is possible, I would strongly advise against requesting any inscriptions that would be considered insulting or demeaning to anyone involved. Always remember that when asking for an autograph we are representing not only ourselves, but our entire hobby as well. You do not want to be the collector to offend someone and ruin future opportunities for others.

Once you have begun building your collection, share it with the hobby. Consider building a Digital Card Album or set up a Showcase on the PSA website. Show off your efforts and have some fun. That is what a hobby should be about in the first place, right?

Posted by Todd Tobias

Todd Tobias is a longtime hobbyist and PSA staff member who is constantly on the hunt for vintage lacrosse issues and autographed cards for his American Football League (1960-1969) collection.

Johnny Robinson - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019!!!

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