We cut in line for them. We spend money for them. Everyone has that person whose autograph they would do most anything for. And yet, what makes an autograph so special? Isn’t it just a glorified signature?
Yes, basically. But what is it that makes the signature glorious? Is it the fame of the person? Is it their level of skill? Is it simply a select audience’s obsession with the person?
Would Prince’s autograph mean much to me? No. Katy Perry? No. (I’m aware this will ruffle some feathers.) Jane Fonda? No. I’ll refrain naming political figures whose autographs I would not covet, but believe me, there are plenty of them!
But even if I didn’t personally value any of these people’s autographs, my human weakness would still be somewhat enamored that I had one of their autographs. Maybe I don’t admire their work or careers, but my silly, egotistical side would get some boost out of possessing such an envied item. This is the concept called triangular desire: when we desire something simply because we know others desire it, not because we actually value it. And in some cases, we may not even view the person as talented—yet we would still feel pretty cool if we had their handwritten autograph.
What does this say about us?
This came to mind as I was recently invited to hold my first official book-signing at a local store. I had a table and chair with a stack of books, poised right outside on the sidewalk so shoppers during my town’s fall festival could come and get their signed copy. It was a rather surreal experience, and the most fun I’d had since reading The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock to the elementary school.
Aside from the sheer excitement of seeing parents, grandparents, and kids smile when they saw and purchased the book, it was surreal to see that people assigned value to my signature. I’d signed copies of my novel before, but rarely handed them to buyers directly—and those that did receive the novel directly from me were people I know, which makes the signature feel even less like an autograph.
But even as I wrote my name over and over on the title page of each book with personalized notes, it occurred to me—it’s just my name. The same name that goes on each waiver I’ve signed. Each petition I’ve signed. Each contract I’ve signed. Each letter I’ve signed. What makes my signature more important when it’s on a title page?
After all, what does a signature mean?
A signature is like a written oath. We sign formal agreements to indicate that the words in the document are binding. We sign letters to ensure that the preceding words are ours.
An autograph is the same… plus a flair.
It carries the same weight as any other signing of your name—only it represents something fully original and unique to you. It signifies that the work, the time, and the ownership of this creation are fully yours—and like an agreement, you stand behind it.
I think we would all work harder at the various tasks before us if every one of them required our autograph. You see, some people believe a signature becomes an autograph only when you accumulate a certain number of fans or groupies. I believe the difference between a signature and an autograph lies in the degree of ownership that you take over the article being signed.
What do you think?
Do you take pride in your signature?
Is there anyone’s autograph you would do just about anything for? What makes that person’s autograph so valuable to you?
Do you think there is any qualitative difference between an autograph and a signature?
Got kids? Grandkids? Nieces and nephews?
Or are you just plain curious to find out where all the missing socks go? Find out one ambitious sock’s journey by ordering your copy of The Misadventures of Melvin the Missing Sock!