If there's one word that can sum up card collecting these days, to me that word would be "expensive". With the emphasis on high-end, you can see "boxes" of 1 card in the $300 range (hello, Topps Dynasty).
So in the age of expensive collectibles, can autographs be a bargain? I think so.
It goes without saying that in-person autographs require nothing but preparedness, time, patience and a little bit of luck; while through-the-mail autographs ("TTM's") require planning, a few stamps and a lot of patience.
But what about purchasing a legitimate autograph from a reputable source? Let me present this comparison.
Who's the hottest rookie autograph in football right now? In my eyes, it's Odell Beckham Jr. But take a look at what his autographed cards are commanding...
$100+ for an autographed card. That's not really that bad, right? That's pretty much what a mid-range box of cards would cost. But yesterday, NFL.com had 11x14's of "The Catch" with a Mounted Memories COA for just $99 (they've since sold out). They also have 8x10's for $89 and mini-helmets for $149. Steiner Sports has a 16x20 of "The Catch" for $159.
Now I know that this memorabilia isn't as small or easy to store as a card; but it's something that I prefer because it can be displayed more prominently. There's also less of a "chase" -- there won't be a better or more limited version made by another manufacturer this year. There's another plus in my book. For most people I want an autograph of, it's one and done. Get it and cross it off the list.
Again, it's not for everybody; but I do like this approach right now for my own collection.