These Two Photos Show a Big Difference Between On-Card and Sticker Autographs

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor | Commentary

Up until about ten or 15 years ago, we didn’t have the distinction between on-card and sticker autographs. For better or worse, signatures on labels have become commonplace in the hobby.

Both have their pros and cons. On-card autographs give signers more freedom and space. They have a personal touch since you know that the athlete or celebrity held them. But they require a lot more planning as the cards need to be printed off in advance. Hard-signed cards are also prone to damage if not handled properly.

On the flipside, stickers allow card companies to have a stash on hand. This makes it easier to include players in more products and mix things up on multi-signature cards. But labels lack that connection a lot of collectors crave and put a premium on. Aesthetically, stickers can be anywhere from hardly noticeable to a major turnoff. It depends on the card’s structure and overall design.

Today, on-card autographs are treated as a premium. Even the card companies highlight their presence in marketing materials.

Whether you’re a fan or not, stickers are likely to be around for the foreseeable future. But a couple of recent photos show what a huge difference an on-card autograph and a label can make.

First up is this Brighton Sharbino autograph from Cryptozoic’s upcoming Walking Dead Season 4 Part 1. Whether you’re a fan of the show or the actress, there’s no denying the appeal this card brings as far as autographs go. Every letter is legible. It’s big. It’s on-card. It’s perfect.

2016 Cryptozoic Walking Dead Season 4 Part 1 Autographs Brighton Sharbino

And here’s the counterpoint direct from Sharbino on her Twitter account.

 

Although it’s not specified that they’re for a future Walking Dead set, it’s safe to assume that it is. Topps is taking over the license starting this fall with the show’s fifth season.

A couple of things jump out with this image. First, it gives the impression of a lot of autographs. That’s not to mean that they’ll all be used in the same product. And who knows, Cryptozoic might have that many or more slated for their final sets. But it does create a visual of a lot of signatures, even if it’s not in the bigger picture.

More significant is the signature itself. The on-card autograph is big, bold and easily read. On the labels, that signature has reduced to a couple of letters.

To be fair, Sharbino’s Cryptozoic card is the ideal specimen when it comes to signed cards. A lot of signers today only use a couple of letters, if that, for their hard-signed cards so the difference between that and a label is less noticeable.

Again, it’s still too early to say how this will impact the final card and reception for either. But strictly speaking for the autographs themselves, these two images tell two very different stories.

How important are autographs to you? Do you care if it’s on-card or stickers? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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14 comments

  1. Mike 18 May, 2016 at 13:04

    An on card auto means a lot more to me than a sticker auto. As someone that only PC’s now and sells everything else pulled, I try to only get on card autos. When I find an on card auto of my favorite player, it means that they took the time to hold the card, find where they want to sign and have a more natural signature to it. This is rather than having a sheet of stickers that their just trying to quickly get through.

  2. Richard 18 May, 2016 at 13:10

    There are a number of problems inherent with stickers.
    1) The wrong one can be used.
    2) It can be placed upside down.
    3) Bubbles can get trapped underneath them.
    4) They may eventually peel off.

    Beckett posted a picture years ago of a sticker removed from a card and placed on a Basketball, reinforcing the point that its not a signed card, only a signed sticker.

    Generally speaking, I avoid sticker products. The only time I make an exception is when the person is dead and no other auto is available.

  3. David Johnson 18 May, 2016 at 13:20

    The stickers she signed look like a lot of BS, literally. She just signed her initials, most likely due to the volume and space on each sticker for her to sign.

  4. Thomas Scribner 18 May, 2016 at 15:55

    I prefer on card autos…I want to be able to hold the auto card and say to myself that the actor/ actress held this card in their hands…

  5. Charlie 18 May, 2016 at 16:03

    Good article, and a fair perspective.

    Maybe there are pros and cons from the standpoint of making a product as a whole better. It’s basically sacrificing quality for quantity. Stickers are lower quality, but companies can get more players and more autos in a product by using them.

    But that’s irrelevant when looking at an individual card. If you had 2 of the exact same cards, one sticker, one hard signed, and you’re looking at the cards, I don’t think anyone would say the sticker looks better. So from that standpoint, it’s only a “con”.

  6. Jonathan 18 May, 2016 at 17:57

    I like the on-card for the “he or she touched this” factor, but this doesn’t prevent me from buying cards with sticker autos. Should they be worth more? Some people will charge more for on-card just like a company will advertise it, but I feel an auto is an auto: cut, sticker, on-card, in-person, or anything else I’m forgetting.

  7. Jordan L 18 May, 2016 at 20:58

    I’ve mentioned it elsewhere before but if a company does a good job in hiding the fact that it’s a sticker by incorporating it into the design it’s not a big deal to me. 2010 Topps Finest football auto patches did a great job of this by embedding the sticker in a shallow depression making it seem less like an obvious sticker.

  8. Paul Angilly 18 May, 2016 at 20:58

    I suspect that the person signing the autographs may take more pride in it and want the signature to look better when they can see the finished product – when they see their own image on a card, they want it to look good, so maybe they take more time to sign it. But with stickers, it’s just a blank shiny thing so they just do it fast, not thinking about what it will look like when it’s put on a card.
    It could also be they see a huge sheet of stickers and have a quick visual of how many they have to sign, so they want to go faster, as opposed to a stack of cards that may not look as intimidating.
    Either way, I prefer on-card every time.

  9. Mat P 18 May, 2016 at 23:15

    I can add to this with two UFC fighters.

    Alistair Overeem:
    (K-1) http://i.imgur.com/pet89ST.jpg
    (Leaf) http://i.imgur.com/b7LADG3.jpg
    (Topps) http://i.imgur.com/XLAoJ3S.jpg
    (In Person) http://i.imgur.com/kNeadS6.jpg

    and now Tatsuya Kawajiri
    (In person) http://i.imgur.com/KowoA1g.jpg & http://i.imgur.com/NouPAv7h.jpg
    (Topps) http://i.imgur.com/8wnYPXkh.jpg

    I’ve basically given up on collecting Overeem’s Topps cards. I’ve been waiting on two on card auto redemptions for 3 years. If the best they can do is that sticker auto, then they best not bother.

  10. RavenNSU 19 May, 2016 at 13:53

    As a long time autograph card collector there is no question in my mind that an on-card autograph is better than a sticker signature. The only advantages of the sticker autograph goes to the card manufacturers. They are easier and quicker to obtain from celebrities and can be stored for use in multiple sets that have not yet been produced. Some will claim a greater sense of security with a hologram sticker, but I personally am not sold on that one.

    Unfortunately for the collector, sticker autographs are smaller because signers must keep their autographs confined to the space allowed. They will create abbreviations to fit or may omit letters, resulting in signatures that are not there true autographs. Unlike an on-card autograph or even a cut signature, there is no room for any inscriptions or extras of any kind.

    The only time I will accept a sticker autograph is when it is someone I really want and they have never signed a certified autograph on-card. Even then, I will not go above a certain price point for a sticker because I just can’t justify it to myself.

  11. Johhny 5 August, 2017 at 17:43

    It doesn’t really matter to me in all honesty. My favorite cards is an RPA of Trevir Davis and it’s a sticker auto

  12. Larry 23 October, 2018 at 03:45

    On card auto is best, sells for more money and just plain looks better, I would rather have no auto then a sticker auto. Its a turn-off to me to think of the person sitting there signing a plate of hundreds or even thousands of crappy signatures and saying “god I hate this”. I just bought a triple tape auto of Mahomes, Hill and Hunt on a football card because its the only one with all 3 and I already hate myself for buying it, but all 3 will be hall of famers with super bowl wins and the card will go up 100 times over. Not to mention if the tape is not perfect on the card it will not get a 10 for a grade. Real signatures no matter how sloppy will always get a 10, just look at the PSA and Beckett autographed cards.

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