Are Doctor Who Autographs Too Expensive?

The Daily Record online has splurged a headline about David Tennant charging fans an “astronomical” sum of £100 per autograph at an upcoming US convention – that’s about $170 in your monochromatic American money. The tone of the article sways from his being unreasonably steep to being a popular charitable sort. It is, in an Internet first, aimed to get you to click on it. Something we’d never stoop to here at Kasterborous Towers…

The article notes that he compares unfavourably with original Star Trek captain of the Enterprise, William Shatner at £52 and Eleventh Doctor’s companion, Karen Gillan at £39 in a different convention.

But is this unreasonable? How much *should * he be charging for an autograph. A moment of his time and a flick of the wrist. My first thought was to introduce some market forces into this and peek at the starting price for comparable celebrity autographs on eBay… (by which I mean other incarnations, of course..)

It seems, at the time of writing, that one might hope to pick up Mr Tennant’s monicker for anything from under a fiver (we’re talking well under $10) to around £20. Less than a fifth the amount he’s charging for fresh ones. In fact a combo Doctor Who autograph from the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors was going for the starting price of £77. Obviously bids may send these way up, but it does look from this particular test as though the Daily Record could be right in their allegation of grandiose pricing

Sylvester McCoy, a Classic Doctor and Hollywood film star in the fantasy genre since the Hobbit films, has autographs starting at under a fiver as does Tom Baker – the prototypical Classic Doctor and sole returnee for the 50th anniversary. In fact it seems, and quite rightly, that one needs to be deceased with (one hopes) a finite number of autographs on the planet to fetch a chunkier asking price – First Doctor, William Hartnell’s personalised flourish starts from anywhere between £325 to £750 (that’s around $1150 at the higher end).


This is all, of course, provided you are happy to part with your cash for something that may well not be genuine and might be made out to someone other than yourself. And the thing that’s really missing here is what exactly you are paying for – a pre-booked autograph at a convention is not just a little slice of your hero’s history for you to take home and show-off to friends or dangle to the bidding masses. It’s a chance to meet the actor and make a memory which you don’t get from just the piece of paper and ink marks – genuine or otherwise.

I am reliably informed by those involved in previous London Comic Con events that this is not necessarily an alarming price tag. Tennant is enormously popular and still very active with his UK and US versions of Broadchurch and various other projects and this is apparently a realistic price for a key guest. And it looks as though people are very prepared to pay the asking price…

And, frankly, if my signature was worth a hundred bob, I’d be sticking to that! He’s undoubtedly signed some fan’s books and photos for free and given some kids the best souvenir ever. If those hitting the conventions with enough dosh to get in can and will pay that amount, why wouldn’t he ask it? Keeping it a bit more exclusive also helps to keep the total numbers down and maintains the value of his signature – he’s protecting his assets. As it were.

And presumably there’s something of a convention to this sort of thing – Shatner hasn’t been on the big or small screen for a long time – he can’t *keep* on asking huge sums for his siggy. And Gillan, while a very talented actor and very popular with the fans, has not had as long or successful career as Tennat (yet) and it seems to make intuitive sense that this would also feed into what is an appropriate asking price.

But enough meandering from me. What do you think, Kasterborites – is this an astronomical fee and an abuse of vulnerable fans wallets? Or is Mr Tennant entirely entitled to set the bar this high? And crucially – will you be parting with your hard earned cash for swish of his wrist? Tell us below…

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  1. Andrew G. Dick says:

    I got Jon Pertwee’s at a convention in Glasgow (just weeks before he died in 1996). For the price of a photo (about £10), and he signed an autograph book as well. And I’ll never part with them for anything.

  2. mrdavidnet98 says:

    I have the UNIT family of Pertwee, Courtney, Levene, Franklin and Manning on a limited edition Bellamy print. However much it’s worth it’s not for sale, but I would be intrigued to find out, genuinely for insurance purposes. 4 of the 5 signatures are personalised.

  3. TheLazyWomble says:

    I have autographs from Pat Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Peter Cushing, loads of companions. All from the days when stars didn’t charge for autographs. And, no, I wouldn’t part with them.

  4. FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Charging £100 for a signature is completely obscene for anybody to charge. Seriously, If I was Tennant or any other star charging any more than a tenner from their loyal and besotted fans for the privilige of a signature and a breif ‘hello’ I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night or even look them in the eye. If you are charging that much money then you obviously feel it is such a burden on you, in which case just don’t do it. Never understood the whole autograph thing in the first place to be honest. Also, T Baker wasn’t the only returnee in Day Of The Doctor, £100-a-time tennant also returned.

    • Dr Moo says:

      As did McGann. And Davison, CBaker and McCoy if we count the five(ish).

    • kwijino says:

      For some conventions, it’s also the way convention organizers offset the speaking fees that the performers ask. They might not have $100k to pay him, but if 1,000 fans pony up $50 each over a couple of days, they might have $50k.

      • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        Whatever, if mugs are happy paying exorbitant prices for a quick signature and an equally quick ‘hello’ then more fool them. Some people have more money than they do sense. And even if it is not the actor’s fault, I still wouldn’t feel at all comfortable charging my loving and loyal fans such an amount – I would rather not do it at all! What do they say? “Hello, thanks for your £100. Thanks for paying to be here in the first place. Thanks for the hundreds or thousands of pounds you’ve likely spent in you time for me or my show. Here is a pointless signature. NEXT!”

        • kwijino says:

          I only get autographs for a mostly housebound relative, but I see your point. Tis said that everything is about commercialism now, but there you have it.

  5. Aly says:

    The actors don’t set the prices. That comes from negotiations between their agents and convention organizers. Agents usually want X amount for their clients, and the organizers then decide whether or not to pay that amount, to negotiate a different deal, and, finally, how much to charge attendees for various offerings (admissions, VIP seating, autographs, etc).
    To blame the actors is misleading.
    Yes, I went to many conventions in the 80’s where meeting the actors was part of the entrance fee, but we live in a different world. Conventions are now a huge cash cow, and garner incredible publicity (look at how San Diego Comic Con has changed over the years). And security is a whole different animal these days, as well. And a lot more costly.

  6. Dr Moo says:

    I never got the whole autograph thing myself. But £100 is a bit much, if he were dead it’d make sense for that price but while he’s still going strong? No.

    But if he wants to charge that amount then he will. His career is a very strong one — Doctor Who is just one of his many famous roles — and as long as fans are prepared to pay that price I can’t see the cost being lowered.

  7. Elaine Bergmann says:

    One thing you don’t mention is the dealer factor. I have a friend who works with a Star Wars actor at cons. He used to do them for free and then realized dealers were paying kids to stand in lines and get things signed that went right on the dealer’s table at the same con. Pricing high enough so that is not a profitable move on the dealer’s part (along with always personalizing the autograph which make is worth less to a dealer) is one way of stopping that and making sure it is actual fans who are getting the time with the actor. And as Will Wheaton put it it’s really not about the autograph it’s about the 10-15 seconds of time with the actor that people really want.

    • K Doctor Who News says:

      Salient point, Elaine, thanks for sharing that.

    • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      You say it’s not about the autograph but rather the 10-15 seconds with the actor. Who in their right mind would pay £100 for 10-15 seconds with anybody? Going to the dentist is the closest thing I can think of but even then they’ve got you over a barrell with very little other option!

      • sallyatticum says:

        A lot of people as they have already sold out.

        • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

          Surely it is those charging such sums that have sold out, not those paying – those people are just mugs with, apparently, more money than sense.

          • Ginger Crawford says:

            Please remind me to never take a job as en event organizer, security staff or photographer…apparently I wont get paid if i do.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            I sincerely hope you never do as you sound like the kind of person that would jack the crazy prices up even more and rip-off people even further. All the stuff you mention should be included in the cost of the initial entry ticket in the first place, end of. Then again, like I’ve said before, fools and their money are soon parted! Oh, and things like security shouldn’t (and don’t) rely on people paying to get autographs.

          • Ginger Crawford says:

            Let me know when you start running cons so I can not attend as they’ll be disorganized, with poor security, lousy seating and overall a horrible experience. News flash: (1)the more you pay the more it’s worth. (2) it don’t count it if is doesn’t sell. (3) Your basing this on Tennant as just another former Doctor. He’s not. He’s much more than that, and that’s what people are paying for. (4) You want to pay it, then do, if not then don’t. Simple as.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            News flash: (1) you wouldn’t be invited nor welcome. 🙂

          • disqus_ukbkHXtZzt says:

            The more you pay the more it’s worth.?
            Estate agent are you 😉

          • Ginger Crawford says:

            Nope. I’m a realist.

          • Dr Moo says:

            Do they have “more money than sense”, as you put it, if they are prepared to part with this level of cash? No, because that’s what they want to spend their money on. They want an autograph but the autograph costs £100 — Do they have £100 to spare on this? If they can honestly answer “yes” to this question then it’s not a problem, stop telling people how to spend their money. If you wouldn’t spend it on this sort of thing then that’s fine (I wouldn’t either) but that doesn’t mean you can say that it is a waste of money for someone else if that’s how they really want to spend their £100. Is it an excessive price? Yes, you’d be stupid to think otherwise, but these people are able and willing to spend that much on it so they will.

            And let’s stop calling such people “mugs” now shall we? 🙂

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            Like I say below, a fool and their money are soon parted. I didn’t come up with that saying but it is a wise one nonetheless. And people willing to pay it obviously encourage it and is the reason they are so high. I’ve never sought an autograph myself (really don’t see the point or the attraction) but I have been blessed to spend some brief quality times with some stars from our favourite show and I’ve never spent a penny doing so and the people in question were more than gracious and very giving of their time for free.

          • Dr Moo says:

            I must admit I am a little (well, a lot) jealous of people like you that can claim to have met these individuals as I’ve never had the pleasure of interacting with the stars of the show. The closest I ever got was when my sister served Paul McGann at the restaurant she worked at — Without the knowledge that he’s famous until one of her colleagues told her later on!

      • Canine Faecēs says:

        I do actually understand the quote. It’s not about the length of time, but rather for the chance to say that you’ve actually met that person and shake their hand. That’s really what you’re paying for, ad the autograph is a memento of that moment.

        • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

          Eh? What quote exactly are you referring to? Is it one mentioned somewhere else on this post? I’ve met lots of people and also shook lots of hands. Never had to pay a penny for the pleasure. I certainly would rather go without rather than part with such a stupid amount of money. A fiver I could understand, even a tenner. Anything more and you’re getting ripped off big time – but if that is what floats your boat. And like you say you get a little scribble on a piece of paper too!

          • Canine Faecēs says:

            I’m not justifying it, I’m simply saying what motivates some people to do it.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            Fair enough. Still confused as to what quote you are referring to though. Can you elaborate?

          • Canine Faecēs says:

            I’m referring to the motivation that people have for paying for their minute with the stars and what it means to them, whether we think it’s worth it or not.

            Sometimes you don’t have to accept something is a good idea to nonetheless understand what others get out of it.

          • FrancoPabloDiablo says:

            Jeez, have just looked over our comments again as I was still baffled as I never mentioned any quote whatsoever! It appears as if you meant to respond to Elaine’s original comment that cites a comment from Will (sic.) Wheaton in her final sentence.

            Of course I know what point you were trying to make (as much as I don’t get the appeal), it was just the quote thing you mentioned that was puzzling me 🙂

  8. sallyatticum says:

    Comparing a personal appearance to an ebay auction is hardly analogous. I am more disturbed by the fact that they made the Q&A panels exclusive to VIP ticket holders.

    It’s highly unlikely DT had anything to do with setting the amount. It was more likely negotiated by his reps who probably asked what’s reasonable and that’s what they were told. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was unaware what prices were set.

  9. Planet of the Deaf says:

    Celebrities justify charging for autographs by pointing out that the free signatures they give out end up being sold by middle men who make the profit instead. £100 does seem very steep though, bearing in mind that DT autographs can’t be very rare.
    I don’t get the attraction of a £100 autograph, but I CAN understand getting a photo taken with the celebrity at the Convention (with a 30 second chat) as this is something more personal than a signed publicity photo.

    • sallyatticum says:

      They aren’t at all rare as he seems to spend a great deal of time signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.

  10. James O'Neill says:

    The only celebrity signature I ever sought was Dianna Rigg ( now Dame Dianna) by waiting an hour after a performance of Abelard and Heloise. Lovely lady, very gracious to her fans!

    And absolutely FREE!!

  11. Colin D Smith says:

    I got Colin Baker’s autograph because he happened to walk into Toys R Us in Hull when I was working there one Christmas. He was looking for a farm set for his nephew, and was very charming and accommodating while waiting for me to get pen and paper (I wore a name badge and he made comment on what a great name I had), especially since I was rude enough to ask for an autograph BEFORE directing him to said farm sets. I wasn’t being intentionally rude–my brain froze. I mean, Doctor Who in Toys R Us with family? Inconceivable in the days before “Closing Time.” 🙂

    As to the question, there’s a sci-fi/fantasy convention coming up here in NC, USA where Tennant, and a host of other celebs will be making an appearance. At this event, you can get Tennant’s sig for $100. As I said to my wife, I wish I got $100 every time I signed something! BUT, the point should be underscored (already made in James’ article) that you’re paying for Tennant’s TIME, not really so much his autograph. I have read of authors and actors literally spending hours (and I mean 4, 5, 6 hours) at a signing table to get through the lines of people wanting that coveted scribble on their book or picture. In fairness, they should be charging $100 for, say, five minutes with David Tennant which would include an autograph, a selfie, and maybe answering a few questions. Given his schedule, I think that would be worth it. Perhaps even offer to donate half the money raised through this “Time with Tennant” to a worthy cause, (e.g., Comic Relief).

    • sallyatticum says:

      If it’s like others, the vip package includes three days entry to the Con, plus a professional photograph taken of the two of you and up to two children, I believe, plus the autograph, plus the Q&A Panel, plus expedited entry and preferred seating.

      • Colin D Smith says:

        I don’t recall it referring to a “VIP Package”–at least for this event. I might be mis-remembering, but I think it just advertized $100 for Tennant’s autograph.

        • sallyatticum says:

          No, there is also a $375 VIP package, as well as a $110 photo op.

          • Colin D Smith says:

            Thought as much, Sally. Thanks.

            This goes back to my original point about paying for a signature vs. paying for the artist’s time. The latter is far more valuable than the former. I can see paying $100 to get 5 minutes of David Tennant’s time to maybe ask a few questions, and get a picture and autograph. And I wouldn’t begrudge that at all. This is, after all, part of his job. It may seem like fun to those of who aren’t famous actors, but this is work for him–which doesn’t mean he doesn’t have fun (don’t we all want to have jobs that are fun?), but it’s still work. And as such, he deserves to be paid for his time.

            Granted, the autograph fee is probably levied by the event organizers, and isn’t something David himself insists on. Why not let the event organizers take a cut of the $100 meet-and-greet fee?

            That’s what I think, anyway.

          • sallyatticum says:

            Sitting or standing for hours for two days in a convention center is physically painful, on your feet, your hands if you are signing autographs, and on your back, especially for someone who has had back surgery…. I have done it. It is hard work. I wouldn’t pay $100 for the autograph, but $110 for a few minutes of chit chat and a professional 8×10 photo of me and DT? I might, if I could find the right outfit. 😉

        • sallyatticum says:

          For comparison with other 2015 Cons:

          William Shatner Platinum VIP Experience @ Raleigh Comic Con 2015

          Price: $499.99 (sold out)

          Norman Reedus VIP Experience @ Wizard World Comic Con Las Vegas 2015 Price: $350.00

          Nathan Fillion VIP Experience @ Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia 2015 Price: $350.00

          David Morrissey VIP Experience @ Wizard World Comic Con Las Vegas 2015 Price: $225.00

  12. Ranger says:

    I got 5th, 6th, 7th, Doctors, the Brig’s, Ben’s, Jo Grant’s, Polly’s, Ace’s, Turlough’s, Tegan’s autographs at the one and only con I attended in the late 90’s, all free of charge. Mind you, they all signed a DW reference book I had bought at the Con, not a photo: all except the lovely Mark Strickson, who gave me a signed, glossy colour photo free of charge. but that’s not why he is my favourite male companion!

    I had no idea that charging was now the norm – but I don’t see anything wrong with it – time is money and the actors have to make a living as well. Perhaps £100 is a little excessive, but if the market is there, which it clearly is, then go for it. Capitalism in action. (Waits for the abuse…!)

  13. kwijino says:

    Given the passing of Leonard Nimoy, Shatner (born 4 days apart from Nimoy) can charge whatever he likes. He also charges for the same reason as Tennant, that he watched someone get his autograph once and then went to a nearby table and got $80 for it. Shatner said that’s when he started charging.

  14. Ginger Crawford says:

    It’s a VIP package. They have to make the Q&A exclusive, can you imagine the madness if they didn’t? There is only so much seating. Then you get your Tennant time, photo and autograph guaranteed. My friend is going and has the VIP tix. Worth every penny if you ask me. Tennant will be there for hours, signing until his arm is ready to fall off, and this smack in the middle of a huge project he’s doing. Matt Smith charged this much and no one said a word. Tennant does it and suddenly he’s a greedy monster. Really?

    • sallyatticum says:

      I saw a panel with James Marsters and one with both Shatner and Scott Bakula at the 2013 Con which included a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Show Screening (live). None of those cost extra. The VIPs got preferential seating, not exclusive access. At the DW screening, there was seating for 2000. It was not full….

      • Ginger Crawford says:

        This is what it says at the site:

        David Tennant
        VIP Experience @
        Raleigh Comic Con 2015

        Regular Price: $400.00

        Special Price: $375.00

        Small venue, limited space, high demand. How are they not going to charge that? If you want to see it pay up, if not, don’t. It’s not complicated.

        • Ginger Crawford says:

          William Shatner Platinum
          VIP Experience @
          Raleigh Comic Con 2015
          Price: $499.99

        • sallyatticum says:

          I am aware of what it says… as you can see elsewhere here, I posted a link and some language myself. You can also see that ten days before the show, neither VIP event has sold out, which likely explains why they have come down on the price already.

  15. TheLazyWomble says:

    I last went to a convention in the late 80s. They were a lot more homespun in those days. No-one was charging for autographs. But then fandom was still comparatively in its infancy and the cynicism hadn’t yet taken hold.
    I don’t particularly have a problem with an actor (producer, writer or whoever) charging for an autograph. I wouldn’t, myself, choose to pay though.

    • TheLazyWomble says:

      Sorry. By “the cynicism” I mean dealers getting hold of autographs for the purpose of selling them on.

  16. Dan Hallett says:

    You could just write to him, an autograph for the cost of a couple of stamps. David is very good and usually very quick at responding to fan mail. So I would strongly argue against him being greedy, he is very good to his fans.

  17. itsonlythesoaps says:

    The original article from the Daily Star had everything marked as GBP, but the prices for autographs were $100 and $150 plus tax in US dollars, they don’t include the price of the con in that though. The 150 was for things being signed that weren’t 8 x 10 photos. The $110 US was for photos and if you get an image with you & a friend you split the cost. (This doesn’t include going to the panel or anything else.) If you get the VIP package is $375 plus tax making it a little over $400 per person…that’s a lot. This includes photo (just yourself or others if they have a VIP package or you want to share photo with your kid), autograph and one panel plus admission. That being said, it is expensive, but it isn’t as if Tennant is doing cons in the US or anywhere else in the world. There was the con in 2012 in the UK, and the event for the 50th at the BFI…those are the only two I know about that were either DW or Scifi related in the last 2-3 years.

    • sallyatticum says:

      • Raleigh Comic Con 3-Day Weekend Admission
      • All VIP attendees will receive (2) limited-edition, exclusive cover variants of The Walking Dead #1! A Regular cover and Sketch Black & White Cover by Dean Haspiel! Artist will be on hand to sign (autograph fees may apply). Extremely limited quantities are available to VIP’s only while supplies last!
      • Exclusive David Tennant VIP Badge
      • VIP’s get onto the show floor 30 Minutes before regular attendees on Saturday & Sunday!
      • VIP Speedpass for Autographs & Photo Ops for David Tennant
      **Children 10 and under get in FREE when accompanied by a paid adult (Limit 2 Per Paid Adult Admissions).

      The David Tennant panel is included in the VIP admission.

  18. krumstets says:

    . I am staggered that anyone would pay £5 let alone £100 for an automated autograph
    A fool and their money are soon parted…..

  19. SimonDanes says:

    Dare I mention that at Bedford Who Charity Con on Saturday 11th April – click on our ad on this page to go to our website! – Terry Molloy, Anneke Wills, Paul Cornell, Mike Tucker, John Leeson and Ailsa Berk will be signing autographs for FREE?! There is the eBay factor, so some will ask for a fee for more than a couple of items. Sophie Aldred is asking £10 and Nicola Bryant £15 for their autographs. I do feel it’s fine for actors to choose to charge; it’s only fair to pay someone for a day’s work and convention appearances, however much fun they are, are still work — and the days actors can be paid help tidy them over for the days when they’re ‘resting’. Given that, in my days in teaching, a lousy course leader could charge £2500 for a day’s training in a school, we’re far away from this sort of territory. Oh, and the fee for my autograph is one quart of best bitter.

  20. Spiddly says:

    When it comes to eBay, ‘caveat emptor’ applies. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A reputable dealer will provide details of provenance, such as where and when he/she obtained the signature. If they don’t reply to you, it’s not worth taking the risk; they know someone will fall for it without question elsewhere.

  21. Canine Faecēs says:

    I was told by someone who organises signings (I won’t say who so as not to cause them problems) that quite a few of the new series actors charge a lot for appearance fees, with Tennant charging something in the region of £10,000 to £15,000 for a day (I’ve not seen or heard separate independent verification so don’t treat as stone cold fact). This is in contrast to some of the classic Doctors who are more likely to charge a third of that or less. So it’s not just about autograph fees, it’s about the cost of these people appearing at the events. It is likely that the autograph is so high because some of that money might need to go back into the coffers of the event runners.

  22. disqus_ukbkHXtZzt says:

    Jon Pertwee was very nice when he signed and I even had a chat with him. There was a small donation to charity, a real one not his pocket.

  23. atbaker says:

    At Philadelphia comic-con coming up- in May- it costs $400 to get near him! That is just not fair! rather ridiculous… not sure what that is all about…. when everyone else charges under $90 for a photo-op……

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