- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

Washington Redskins legend and Hall of Famer John Riggins has ended a 12-year hiatus on autograph signing and will appear at a collectors' show tomorrow in Chantilly.

Riggins, widely thought to be the NFL's second-toughest autograph to get behind notorious Oakland owner Al Davis, will earn an estimated $75,000 for less than three hours of work at the Westfields International Conference Center.

His autographs will sell for $150 each for photos and $175 for larger items such as footballs. The prices more than triple those for fellow Redskins great Sonny Jurgensen, who also will appear at the show, and are among the highest currently charged for any mass commercial signing by a pro athlete.

Collectors' Showcase of America (CSA), based in Greenwood, Va., landed the Riggins appearance after more than two years of dogged pursuit. Helping grease the wheels was Riggins' January signing with Sports Placement Services (SPS), a Los Angeles agency representing such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Sandy Koufax and Joe Namath, Riggins' friend and former teammate with the New York Jets.

SPS president Harlan Werner encouraged Riggins to finally consider doing an autograph show to address years of ferocious but unsatisfied demand from fans.

"We'd been trying everything," said CSA president Marco Rol. "We tried neighbors, we tried teammates, we tried his lawyer. This is a real coup for us and for Redskins fans. He just hasn't been out there like all of the other guys. Even Sammy Baugh is an easier signature to get."

Riggins also very rarely signs if approached by collectors at other public outings.

His reluctance to become a presence on the often lucrative show circuit was based on several factors, Werner said. Already a rather private man, Riggins neither needed the money nor wanted to continue living in the past. Riggins appears regularly on WTEM-AM and WRC-TV to discuss the Redskins but rarely talks about his own playing days.

"John had been bombarded for years with these requests, and it's just something he never really felt comfortable with," Werner said. "He was looking for some representation, someone to help field all these requests, and he wanted to work with [a show organizer] he could trust. We think that's all happened here, and he decided to take a shot on this since it's in the backyard of his fan base. But this probably won't be a regular thing. He'll maybe do one show per year going forward."

Riggins never has and likely never will command the type of attention from collectors given to other retired stars like John Elway or Dick Butkus. But the 51-year-old is at once a Super Bowl MVP, one of only 12 rushers with more than 11,000 yards and reluctant to make public appearances, making those he does a hot commodity.

"He has true national appeal. We were actually surprised after signing him as to just how popular he is," Werner said. "We see him as a major property."

Riggins, who will sign about 650 autographs from 12 to 2:30 p.m., was not available for comment.

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