To A. Investor - with best wishes, A Famous Person

Football fans who managed to get their Euro 96 programmes signed by the England squad may find future collectors are prepared to pay big money for them.

That's the view of Grant MacDougall, who looks after football memorabilia for Christie's, the auction house. He says a programme from the 1966 World Cup final, signed by Sir Alf Ramsey and the full England squad, would now be worth between pounds 300 and pounds 500. Without signatures the programme would fetch just pounds 10 to pounds 20.

The autographs of the Manchester United players who died in the Munich air crash of 1958, the "Busby Babes", would fetch between pounds 200 and pounds 400.

Outside the world of sport, two of the most sought-after signatures are those of Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe. Last year Christie's sold some early love-letters written by Churchill for about pounds 20,000 each. A signed photograph of Monroe could be worth more than pounds l0,000.

Other "first division" names include the Beatles, Queen Victoria, James Dean, Theodore Roosevelt, WG Grace and Jimi Hendrix. Chris Kendall of Frasers, a specialist dealer in London, says British investors can still make money from this market, especially as prices here are far lower than those paid in the US.

"Ten years ago you could pick up a signed Beatles photograph for about pounds 50," he says. "Five years ago we were paying about pounds 150, and now a good- quality l0 by 8 is going to sell for at least pounds 1,500 - more probably pounds 2,000.

"Our typical customer is a professional in his thirties or forties who is buying a piece he can hang on the wall, which is a good talking point but also a sound investment."

The really valuable signatures are from historical figures or entertainers who remain very well known. Some more recent pop stars such as Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson are starting to prove collectable, but these are a gamble. Giles Moon of Christie's popular entertainment department suggests a few brave souls might speculate on the signatures of Liam and Noel Gallagher of the rock group Oasis.

Mr Kendall says: "When people are looking for a portfolio for investment, what I would suggest is that 80 or 90 per cent of it is solid material. That is material you always know is definitely going to rise in value, although maybe only slowly. Then there's mid-range material - I would suggest artists' letters. Letters written by Monet, Renoir and the Impressionists are still very inexpensive."

Beatrice Boyle, who looks after the historical side of this business for Christie's, says: "The only politician who really fetches a lot of money is Winston Churchill. The rest of the prime ministers tend to be banded into one lot - they don't really fetch a lot by themselves, unless it's a letter saying something controversial. Context in letters is very important."

The Churchill love-letters may have fetched pounds 20,000 each, but a more routine letter may be worth only pounds 300. Signed photographs could be worth anything from pounds 300 to pounds 1,000, depending on the size of the print. The ultimate Churchill item, says Mr Kendall, would be a signed copy of his "We will fight them on the beaches" speech.

When it comes to entertainers, Marilyn Monroe is in a class of her own. This is partly because she often had assistants sign photographs for her, so genuine signatures are rare.

Mr Kendall says: "Demand for her worldwide is enormous, and good signed photographs are very, very hard to come by. You're going to have to pay over pounds 10,000 for one of those. Having said that, we sell things like a personal cheque, framed and mounted with a portrait, for about pounds 4,000."

Last year a pair of publicity stills for the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, showing Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, was sold at Sotheby's for pounds 7,360 thanks to Monroe's signature on the prints. The guide price was just pounds 1,500 to pounds 2,000.

As with Monroe, signatures of US presidents may turn out to be less than genuine as they often used an "autopen" - a machine for busy people that produces copy signatures which are almost worthless.

Surprisingly, Elvis Presley features much further down the list for valuable autographs. Christie's Mr Moon says: "Presley is collectable, but he's not in quite the same league as the Beatles. There seem to be more examples of his signature, which probably holds the price down a bit. His autograph on a piece of paper would probably make pounds 150 to pounds 200. It's better if it's from his army days. He signed a lot of publicity posters and postcards and that sort of thing while he was in Germany."

Autographs find their way to the auction houses from private collections or, in the case of some of the grander historical names, from a visitors' book which has been in a family for many years. Ms Boyle says: "Autograph hunting has been standard practice for hundreds of years - it's certainly something the Victorians did."

If you think you may have some signatures worth selling, the first step is to take them to an auction house and get them valued. Ms Boyle says: "There might be signatures in there you can't recognise. Auction houses, because they see so many of them, do start to recognise people's handwriting. Stalin's signature, for example, doesn't look anything like 'Stalin'."

o Contacts: Frasers 0171 836 9325; Christie's 0171 581 7611.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea