By: Andrew Harner, Editor-in-Chief

As the demand for certified autographed cards increased over time, card companies had to find a way to meet demand without raising the prices of products to unaffordable ranges.

Their solution: the often-controversial sticker autographs.

Some of the biggest landmarks in certified autographs were Reggie Jackson’s 1990 Upper Deck Heroes autograph, Brien Taylor’s 1992 Topps autograph, and the beginning of complete autograph sets like Donruss Signature and Leaf Signature Series.

Around the time of complete autograph sets (1996-1998) the industry boomed, and a few years later companies were producing at least ten sets each; a lot of which had autographed inserts. And as time went along, virtually every set had some form of autographed cards in it, many with multiple autographed insert sets.

Before and during the beginning of this boom, companies had to send out boxes of cards to players to get signed which had some major drawbacks.

  1. Shipping costs were increasing as more autograph sets were made
  2. Cards can get damaged in the shipping process
  3. Late returns caused the need for often complicated redemption cards

Despite these factors, companies still at times send out a box of cards to a player to be signed. Phillip Hughes recently had a thread on Beckett’s message boards in which he shared his experience signing cards for Upper Deck that came in what appeared to be an 800-count box.

However, using the above reasons as ammo, card companies created and began to send out sheets of stickers to athletes for signatures more frequently. These sheets were a vast improvement to the current system, but also had their drawbacks.

  1. Stickers can be unattractive on cards
  2. Stickers take away from the feel collectors get knowing the athlete handled their card
  3. Stickers limit the athlete’s creativity in their signature

On the flip side, sticker autos have also had a profound affect on the certified autograph market.

  1. Stickers allow companies to change designs close to printing time without worry
  2. Stickers help make multi-auto cards easier to produce
  3. Stickers strongly discourage counterfeiting
  4. Stickers greatly reduced redemption cards
  5. Stickers allow cards to stay out of the mail and help ensure their pristine condition
  6. Stickers allow companies to use the same autographs for players for multiple sets

And while a lot of collectors at first complained about sticker autos, they are finally realizing that with technology comes improvement.

When sticker autos first started, many were produced on a bright silver sticker that covered a decent amount of the player’s photo at times. The sticker was at times affixed in a crooked manner and some autographs weren’t centered very well.

But as time passed, companies found ways around the bright silver stickers and now some products have clear stickers that are hardly noticeable. Others put company logos or set names on the stickers to try to hide the fact that a sticker was used.

Despite the convenience of stickers, there are still sets that utilize on-card autographs. For those collectors that prefer this type of autograph, they just have look harder for the sets and then pay a little bit more for them as they have a high demand and a small supply.

Whether you are an autograph collector or not, you are more-than-likely well aware of the difference between sticker and on-card autographs. And while you may have complained at one time, just remember that companies are able to do so much more with their products now that stickers have been utilized, and the chances of you getting a redemption card are very small nowadays.