How many times have signed your name today?
If you work in an office, you’ve likely had to sign your name on paperwork requested by another employee or manager. If you have children, you might have had to sign your name on a document from your child’s teacher or a permission slip for an upcoming field trip.
If you’re ahead of the rest of us, and you’ve already begun writing your Christmas cards and addressing the corresponding envelopes, you might have signed your name dozens of times in a short amount of time. Most of us have to sign our names from time to time, though in the Information Age, we do so less than what would have once been required, especially as the popularity of online digital signature capabilities grows.
But though the number of times we sign our names varies from person to person, one thing is true for nearly everyone: our signatures don’t net any monetary gain in and of themselves. But one man’s signature became extremely valuable as his popularity and success grew, and today, items autographed by the man are being sold online for fortunes of various sizes.
Walt Disney’s Signature Becomes Famous
Walt Disney’s signature is recognized by fans around the world today, but during the first half of the 20th century, Walt’s famous “John Hancock” wasn’t nearly as known.
But his autograph became very highly sought after, especially after Walt began hosting his weekly series on television. According to D23, Walt was often nearly overtaken by those seeking his autograph at Disneyland, but he enjoyed it and was happy to oblige as he could.
Walt’s kindness in offering to sign autographs for his fans was significant enough that it is even featured in the film Saving Mr. Banks (2012), in which actor Tom Hanks embodies the legendary animator. One scene in the film depicts Walt handing out pre-autographed for guests at the entrance to Disneyland, though according to those who knew him well, actually signing autographs was a regular occurrence for Walt.
Children at Disneyland Had No Desire for Walt’s Autograph
Only one occurrence exists on record during which guests were not interested in having an autograph from the one and only Walt Disney, and that lack of interest was entirely scripted.
In a special production from The Walt Disney Family Museum directed by Don Hahn, titled Christmas With Walt Disney (2009), the first scene features Walt Disney and a group of singers clad in their Charles Dickens best. Shortly after the group finishes their rendition of “Jingle Bells,” Santa arrives and talks with Walt Disney about Disneyland and Christmas.
Two children rush to Santa, each one begging for his autograph, and because Walt is used to signing autographs at Disneyland as well, he makes ready his fountain pen, only to be virtually ignored by the children who run away as soon as they acquire the coveted Santa signature.
In an episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color from 1962, titled “Disneyland After Dark,” Walt can be seen as he’s inundated with autograph seekers as he makes his way through the park, but he handles the situation with grace and humility (and popcorn).
Walt knew that his fans loved having his autograph, but he would probably be surprised to learn how much those 10 written letters would one day net.
Walt Disney’s Signature Fetches Thousands . . . and More
Walt Disney’s autograph fetches more from collectors than autographs of Hollywood stars and even U.S. Presidents, and there’s a reason for that. Walt’s signature is extremely unique and includes curves and loops in just the right places, but more than that, Walt’s signature has something even more valuable–global recognition.
Some think that the Walt Disney Company logo features Walt’s actual signature, but that’s not true. It does, however, feature some of the loops and curves that Walt used in his own signature.
Items autographed by Walt Disney can be found online, but most of them come with a hefty price tag. On eBay, a 2″x5″ album page signed by Walt Disney at the Ambassador Hotel on March 4, 1948, is listed for $12,500.
A check written to the United Republican Finance Committee for $1,200, which was made out and signed by Walt Disney on May 5, 1961, as payment for a dinner for Richard Nixon (at $100 per plate), is listed for $10,999.99.
Another item on eBay, which includes a letter on Walt Disney Productions letterhead, prints of WWII images of Donald Duck with Walt’s signature, a “best wishes” note signed by Walt, and several other nostalgic items, is currently listed for more than $349,000.
And these are only a few of the online offerings of items autographed by Walt Disney.
Walt Nearly Misspells “Disney”
Walt Disney’s name and signature may have the blessing of global recognition, but in 1956, Walt must have had to sign more documents and more autographs than at any other time because when he appeared on a TV game show and had to start by “signing in” on a chalkboard, he appeared to nearly forget how to spell his last name.
On November 11, 1956, Walt Disney made an appearance as the Mystery Guest on and episode of the popular television game show What’s My Line? hosted by John Daly on the CBS television network. As he wrote his name on the chalkboard, he paused for a few seconds after writing “D-I-S-Y,” before turning the “Y” into an “N” and continuing.
As part of the show, the celebrity panel, comprised of funny man Jerry Lewis, journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, writer Bennett Cerf, and actress Arlene Francis, were each permitted to ask one question of the mystery celebrity in an effort to determine who he or she might be.
Though Walt’s isn’t the highest-priced autograph in the world (that honor goes to President George Washington), it’s safe to say that his definitely brings in bigger bucks than most.
What do you think Walt would say if he knew something with his autograph was selling more more than a quarter of a million dollars?