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Celebrity and Sports Autographs

Potential Revenues:


Revenue Source:

Sale of raffle tickets, live and silent auction sales


Varies, but usually in conjunction with a larger event like a dinner, gala, or ball


Tables to display items, two-up raffle tickets, silent auction sheets


Celebrities, sports stars,  and individuals with autographed items or photos


Volunteers Needed:

People to solicit autographed items, people to help put out the displays and bid sheets, people to sell the raffle tickets

How It Works:

According to the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory, everyone is six people away, at most, from any other person on the planet.  With that in mind, how about using your board’s and supporter’s connections to get celebrity and sports figure autographs?  These make great raffle items, as well as unusual products for silent and live auctions.  The types of items that have shown up in these venues can be mind-boggling in their variety: autographed pictures, sports equipment, guitars, microphones, CDs, DVDs, team jerseys, racing jerseys, baseballs, baseball bats, team hats, footballs, hockey pucks, team autographs and even a signed size 23 shoe from Shaquille O’Neal.   

Although most of the items sell for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, some items have been successfully auctioned by professional auctioneer houses in the 5 to 7-figure range, making the potential contribution dollars enormous.  Some examples of rare items acquired at auction include: Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Dress at a winning bid of $1,267,500 in 1999; locks of hair from Elvis Presley went for $115,000 in a 2002 auction; and Mark McGwire’s 70th-home-run baseball sold at a 1999 auction for $3 million.  Granted you’re not usually going to see these as gifts to your cause, but how about writing to several of your favorite actors or sports celebrities, that you know support your work?  Ask them to sign a pile of autographs, or maybe a special item for your event.  You can usually find their agents on sites like the Screen Actors Guild’s “Find an Agent” search: www.SAG.org or by simply Googling “who is Johnny Depp’s agent?”

If you can’t come up with appropriate autographed items, one of the best sources is www.AutographPros.com.  They give a minimum of a 20% discount to charities, and have a huge assortment that ranges from autographed guitars by the Rolling Stones, to rare sports memorabilia.  At the time of this writing, they even offer to ship “consigned items” to your event for free, and if they don’t sell, they pay to ship them back.

Ideas to Consider:

If you don’t sell your items through your event’s raffle, or your Silent or Live Auctions, use your MissionFish/eBay Giving account (see write-up in this website) to sell these autographed items after your event.   You might even want to see if you can get a good price before an event starts, and culminate the bidding at the event by using that current bid as the starting point. 

If you find MissionFish to be a successful route to pursue, you might want to broaden your ongoing offerings on MissionFish – even if you don’t have an event scheduled.  Usually it’s a pretty simple procedure to list an item on the site, and a staff member can become proficient at putting an item on the site in a matter of a few minutes.

If you’re going to run a raffle, make sure that you comply with state laws on the conduct of a raffle.  See the write-up on the Fifty-Fifty Raffle for more information, and contact your State Attorney General’s office for rules regarding charities. 

Source of Idea: Auctions, charities, and autographed memorabilia go back many years, so it’s pretty hard to pinpoint the original idea with any degree of accuracy.

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