It’s been a year-and-a-half since we last looked at Elvis autographs. For some reason, not too many came on the market during that time, at least not at the five auctions I’ve followed – three Heritage rock memorabilia auctions and two Auctions at Graceland. What was for sale tended to be more expensive, partially because of the items Elvis put his autograph on. Here’s a look at them in ascending price order.
Autographed Fan Photograph (1965):
In 1965, Elvis signed the back of this 5” x 4” b&w photo taken by a fan club president at Elvis’ Bel Air, California home. For some reason, the back with the autograph was not shown on the auction website. The signed photo went for $650 including the 25% auction house service charge. One reason for the low price has been noted here before. Photos, postcards, etc. signed on the front make a much better display in a proper frame, with matting, and non-glare glass, and they bring a higher price. With this one, you would just see the autograph on a blank piece of paper.
Signed Promotional Photograph:
The group of items above were part of a promotional package for Elvis’ 1961 movie Wild in the Country, when it had its national premier at the Malco Theater in Memphis. The b&w photo at the bottom left is 7.5” x 9.5” and is signed on the back. Elvis must have turned it sideways when he signed it.
This one went for $1,375, but certainly part of that value is from the accompanying eight-page premier program and the bumper sticker. How do you like that message? “Official Teenage Press Agent – Ask Me”
Example of How Presentation Affects Value:
See that little piece of white paper under the color photo of Elvis? It measures just 2.5″ x 2.5”, and may well be the smallest thing Elvis ever autographed. So, how do you turn this tiny item into something that brings $1,500 at auction? Easy, put it in a nice matted frame with a good Elvis photograph.
Over the years, I have seen so many scraps of paper with Elvis’ autograph up for auction that had no attempt at proper presentation. Why don’t these sellers spend some money and make displays of their autographs. They’d come out hundreds of dollars ahead, like this seller did.
Autographed German Postcard:
There is certainly some intrinsic value to German Elvis postcards from 1959. Although Elvis’ autograph is on the backside, this went for $1,500. The auction website said another not-autographed German postcard was part of the lot, so that probably added to the total value.
The German text on the back is promotion for Pulverdampf Und Heibe Lieder (Love Me Tender). One thing I don’t understand is that the postcard front is rectangular and the back is square. How can that be? The auction website offers no explanation.
Signed 1956 Promotional Photo:
Well, this one is big (8” x 10”) and it goes back to the early days of Elvis’ career. Is that enough to make it bring $1,625 at auction? It was for one bidder. The auction description states that all four corners display Scotch Tape residue. We can assume the young fan thought it was more important to display Elvis’ face than his autograph. I wonder what the new owner will decide.
Autographed Envelope, 1955
You need to know the history behind this autograph to appreciate why it sold for $1.625.
The front of this envelope is postmarked “Mar 20 1955 / Greenville Tex.,” and addressed to “Carol Eldred.” The original letter to Carol is still enclosed inside. It is from Bobby Belew of the teenage singing act, The Belew Twins — two young brothers who performed around the South in the early 1950s, and who crossed Elvis’ path a few times at various gigs. Carol obtained this autograph in May of 1955 when she went to see her friends The Belew Twins perform at “The Big D Jamboree” at the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. Elvis was also on the bill that night.
Carol remembers not caring much for Elvis, but when she saw him backstage while she was waiting for Bobby Belew, Elvis asked her if she wanted his autograph. She didn’t, but she also didn’t want to be rude, so she fished this letter out of her purse and the future King signed the back of the envelope for her.
You know it had to be real early in Elvis’ career if he had to ask a girl if she wanted his autograph. That soon changed drastically.
Early Elvis Autograph:
This has to be the crappiest-looking Elvis autograph ever offered, but removing the piece of white notepaper to crop and display it would lose another cute story about how the fan obtained her cherished treasure.
The handwriting says, “Elvis Presley’s autograph. One Sat, Helen, Miriam Whipple & I were driving by his house & he was out on his motorcycle & we ran up and got his autograph. I touched him & his motorcycle too!!”
Don’t you love it? – I touched his motorcycle, too!! Also note that she misspelled Elvis on her first attempt.
The auctions website warns, “The note shows evidence of being well loved and admired by an adoring fan. The note has stains and folds and signs of tape and residue. Slightly torn and creased.” In spite of that (or maybe because of it), this autograph went for $2,000.
Signed “Suspicious Minds” Picture Sleeve:
This went for more than I expected, topping out at $2,250. The 45 RPM picture sleeve is in excellent condition, which certainly helped, but the auction site doesn’t mention whether the actual record is in there.
I can see top value in an Elvis autographed picture sleeve for one of his 1956 hits, but “Suspicious Minds” was released in 1969. The auction site noted that the song was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as #91 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Elvis-Signed Note to a Fan:
The supporting documents say Elvis signed this piece of lined notebook paper backstage at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium on October 26, 1957. I have no idea why nine people wanted it so much that they ran the top bid up $3,250.
However, it was sold at the second Auction at Graceland in January 2015. The idea of an Elvis-only auction held in Memphis on his birthday was brilliant, as almost every item sold for more (sometimes much more) than comparable items had at general Rock & Roll memorabilia auctions previously.
Signed Letter to MGM (July 24, 1964):
This letter looks like it was typed by MGM Studios and included in the mailing package for the reels of Viva Las Vegas film sent to Elvis. Elvis returned it signed, and it and confirmed, “I agree that said print will be used by me only for my personal library purposes,” plus some other legalese. I don’t find it a particularly compelling collectible, but somebody did and paid $3,750 for it.
Elvis and Priscilla Autographed Print:
Back in 1967, a devoted fan, Marilyn Tittle from Ohio came to Memphis determined to see (and maybe meet) Elvis. She hung out at the gates of Graceland, ultimately impressing the guard with her perseverance. First, he gave her this 16” x 20” color portrait of Elvis. Then he told her Elvis and Priscilla were honeymooning at the Circle G Ranch, and he facilitated her getting on the grounds.
It worked, and Ms. Tittle got both Elvis and Priscilla to sign the portrait. A month later, she returned to Memphis with the portrait and got Vernon to sign it. I don’t know if there are any other collectibles signed by Elvis, Priscilla, and Vernon, but this one sold for $3,875 a few weeks ago.
Signed Checks to Red West and Jerry Schilling:
These two checks were offered at the first Auction at Graceland on August 16, 2014. They were both issued to members of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia. The interesting thing is that the check to Red West went for $5,125, while the one to Jerry schilling brought in $6,250.
Why the difference? My opinion is that many fans feel the same way I do about these two men. Schilling was a true buddy until the end and waited thirty years before he wrote a book about Elvis, a very positive book. Red West wrote that hatchet job in 1977 that hurt Elvis deeply. I would be happy to display an Elvis collectible with Jerry Schilling’s name on it. Red West, not so much.
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