Ryne Sandberg’s Autograph by Era: A Photographic Timeline

Ryne Sandberg remains the most iconic modern-era player for many Chicago Cubs collectors. Autographed Sandberg pieces are both accessible and generally affordable. Both new and seasoned collectors struggle, however, with keeping up with variations in Sandberg’s signature over the last four decades. Sandberg is among the handful of Hall of Famers whose signature has taken on dramatic variations over the years, making it difficult to determine authenticity. This page serves as a historical guide of known authentic exemplars of Sandberg’s signature by era.

Rookie-Era, Earliest Exemplars, Circa 1980-1983

This is the finest example of Ryne Sandberg’s rookie-era signature that I’ve seen. Notice how each letter of his name is identifiable. This is the rarest type of signature a collector can hope to find. Sandberg’s signature was fully legible for only a very short window of time.

Ryne Sandberg Rookie Era Signature
Rookie-era Ryne Sandberg index card authenticated by James Spence Authentication (JSA)

Circa 1987-1990

By the late 1980s Ryne Sandberg had become an established star player and his signature took on more hurried characteristics. The letters of his name become more compact and the signature is characterized by a large “R” and large “S” followed by abbredviated spelling of both “Ryne” and “Sandberg.” The pen flow rarely breaks during this period. Team-signed baseballs like this one became more popular and in-demand as the 1989 Cubs win the NL East with powerhouse players Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe, Mitch Williams and Jerome Walton.

Ryne Sandberg 1988 Chicago Cubs Team Signed Baseball
Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and Billy Williams first night game 8/8/1988 group signed photograph
Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg autographed 11×14 photo authenticated by PSA/DNA

Ryne Sandberg 1988 Chicago Cubs Signed Photograph
1990 Score Dream Team Ryne Sandberg autographed signed card

Circa 1992-1993

During this period Sandberg’s signature temporarily took on more unique characteristics –– most notably an open “R,” open “S” and a more abbreviated spelling of his last name characterized by a “swoop” into the letter “G.” It’s possible this variation was the result of a hand or wrist injury during this period.

1992 or 1993 Ryne Sandberg single signed baseball

Circa 1995-2005

Ryne Sandberg’s signature once again evolved in the mid-1990s. The version is more spaced and less crowded, and often demonstrates no break until the “d” and the “b” while the “swoop” seen in earlier exemplars is now absent. This version of Sandberg’s autograph is most commonly used on printed advertising and other commercial products, including video games and posters.

Program from the game of Ryne Sandberg’s first major league hit authenticated by PSA/DNA

Modern Era

By the time he’s elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, Sandberg’s signature stabilizes and becomes much more consistent and predictable as he does more conventions, professional appearances and public signings. Sandberg’s signature has remained consistent from this period to modern day.

Ryne Sandberg single signed autographed baseball
Ryne Sandberg single signed autographed baseball
Ryne Sandberg single signed autographed National Baseball Hall of Fame baseball
Ryne Sandberg single signed Louisville Slugger baseball bat
Ryne Sandberg signed Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat. Signed in-person circa 2010.

Ryne Sandberg official single signed Tristar Productions authenticated stat jersey with career inscriptions
Ryne Sandberg Signed Chicago Cubs Home Jersey with Multiple Inscriptions. Tristar authenticated. Signed circa 2020.
Ryne Sandberg autographed signed 1983 Topps rookie card
Ryne Sandberg 1983 Topps Signed Rookie Card. Signature circa 2010.

Ryne Sanberg signed, game used minor league baseball lineup card.

Ryne Sandberg Tristar Authenticated Statball – Limited Edition of 23. Signature circa 2005.

Ryne Sandberg autographed statball, Tristar Authentic

A Note on Ryne Sandberg Autograph Forgeries

Running parallel to Sandberg’s professional career was the meteoric rise in forgeries of sports memorabilia. Despite this, I’ve seen very few Sandberg forgeries, especially compared to Michael Jordan, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio. That said, there are forgeries on the market. Education is the best way to protect yourself from investing in a bad piece.