Ryne Sandberg remains the most iconic modern-era player for many Chicago Cubs collectors. 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.
A Note on Ryne Sandberg 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.