By RON KEURAJIAN
Fabled golf writer O.B. Keeler tagged Byron Nelson with the nickname “Lord Byron” for his gentlemanly and regal nature. As one of golf’s greatest ambassadors, Nelson set what many consider the greatest record in all of sports history—even greater than Ty Cobb’s 12 batting crowns record. In 1945 Nelson won an incredible 18 tournaments with 11 consecutive wins, a record that will likely never be broken. Nelson captured five majors, including the 1937 and 1942 Masters. Like Gene Sarazen (Autograph December 2008), Nelson is considered one of the 10 greatest golfers of all time.
Nelson’s autograph is simply one of the nicer golf signatures. He signed in a flowing hand with effortless strokes and a nice curvy look. It’s a signature that developed throughout the years. Early signatures are less appealing and appear rough around the edges when compared to modern examples. It lacks any measurable slant and is basically vertical in nature. Letter construction is marginal and letters tend to blend together, which adversely affects legibility. Nevertheless, the wonderful strokes of
his hand make for a signature with excellent display value. Nelson’s extremely flowing hand makes replication very difficult, so there are no well executed forgeries in the market. Forgeries of Nelson exhibit a labored appearance with thick methodic strokes and generally stand out with little examination. One final note, on occasion, Nelson would add a paraph under his signature, a variant form of his signature that is uncommon.
Nelson was a gracious signer throughout his life and the amount of genuine material is sound, but not overwhelming. He is generally found on index cards, scorecards, photographs and gum cards. Letters are also available but should be considered scarce, albeit borderline. Nelson also signed golf balls but it’s my understanding that it was not one of his favorite things to do, so signed golf balls are uncommon and many forgeries exist.
In the last year of his life, Nelson restricted his signing due to
health concerns, but he would still sign on occasion. Nelson died in September of 2006, and material signed only days before his death still exhibit good flow though a slight unsteadiness is evident. Nelson’s hand never produced a truly shaky signature.
As a price guide will show, Nelson material has increased greatly since his death and it’s safe to say that his is a very good investment signature. Index cards and other non-premium items are
valued at less than $50. Signed 8×10 photos sell for $75-$100. Typed letters signed sell for $100-$150, while autographed letters signed sell for $250-300. Golf balls have, in recent years, jumped in value and now easily sell for more than $200. A signed copy of his 1946 book, Winning Golf, is a rare find and will sell for nearly $400.