In recent years, though, celebrity autographs have experienced something of a renaissance, as the cult of celebrity has gone global, reaching into every corner of the world with its promise of glitz and glamour beyond the experience of ordinary life.
So whats the appeal? Simply enough: a celebrity autograph makes people realise that there isnt so much of a difference between us mortals and the rarefied world of the rich and famous. The act of writing a signature on something is a thing that we do every day on cheques, on rental agreements, on card slips. To hold and to own something that shows that a celebrity has done the same thing: it becomes both a unique memorabilia piece relating to that person, and the effect that he or she has had on a life, and a reminder that that person is really no different from any one of us. Celebrity autographs humanise the people we have put up on pedestals, reinforcing our own sense of connection with them while also reminding us that behind every famous name lies a normal human being.
In the last 10 years, the idea that a celebrity is also a normal person has risen to new heights. Since the arrival and dominance of reality TV in the early part of the 21st century, a celebrity autograph has become a symbol of more than just adulation: its now a validation of an idea that has been close to home for everyone interested in popular culture for years. Normal people become famous just for being who they are and that has raised the stakes of our relationships to celebrity figures ten fold. We now believe (with good reason) that celebrity is a status that definitively applies, in utero, to all of us and so the trade in celebrity autographs has climbed to the stage where it is reaching an all time high.
As normal people become famous almost as a rite of passage, everyone else begins to feel a higher level of association with the famous in general. And so the celebrity autograph becomes a symbol of the closeness of these people to our everyday lives, no matter what they have become famous for.
Thats why the autograph has risen to the prominence it has and that, in turn, is why there are more sites and vendors than ever selling the authenticated signatures of the super famous. Any fan will reveal the same reason for owning these things: with a piece of that life so close at hand, he or she gets a kind of positive reinforcement for his or her own life, his or her own struggles and tribulations, that can be as powerful as any self realisation technique. Thats a good thing, and part of the reason that all these film stars and pop stars become famous in the first place. To show everyone else that there is always a way. Celebrity autographs make us feel that there is reality in that claim.