How much is Shakespeare’s signature worth?

Presently, there are six known William Shakespeare signatures in the world today. Each signature has been valued at five million dollars*. This makes each of them the most valuable autograph in the world.

If you’re frugal and wanted to negotiate that the autographs are worthless… I would tell you that the three words in italics (in the previous sentence) are three of over 1700 commonly-used English words that Shakespeare, himself, invented.

His signature carries a story and the ink and paper represent an opportunity to “experience” an important figure in history.

But, it’s still just ink and paper, so why all the fuss?

Objects Carry Essences

Matthew Hutson wrote the book, “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking.” The first law he writes about states that “Objects Carry Essences.”

William Shakespeare’s signature carries an essence in the same way that a beat up blankie is someone’s prized possession. That signature was written by the hand that wrote some of the most famous writings of all time. Therefore, there is historical significance in that signature, and that creates value.

Just ask George Costanza.

In this episode, George buys a convertible after he hears that the previous owner is actor Jon Voight. Suddenly, this object (funky wooden convertible) carries essence (Jon Voight used to own this!) and is worth the purchase to George. George is furious as Jerry points out that the car likely belonged to a presumably less famous John Voight because the perceived value is, therefore, lost.

We can attach irrational value to objects because of the emotional story they carry.

The belief that objects have hidden defining qualities is called psychological essentialism. If you can tap into psychological essentialism you can increased the perceived value of your product or service.

Here’s the (very basic) three step approach to make that happen:

  1. Introduce a physical object into your product or service
  2. Wrap a significant story around that object and explain why it matters
  3. Create some level of scarcity… less is more.

Here’s a list of ideas to create more value in different business sectors.\


Let’s say you’re helping a young couple purchase their first home together. When the day comes for them to sign the deed for the home they’re about to purchase, present them with a pen.

Not just any pen, but the type of pen that comes in a box for $10 – $20. Let them know this pen is special and represents the start of their first home together. You only give these out to first time home buyers. Keep this pen in a safe place.

They’ll keep that $10 pen for a long time and tell a lot of people how much they appreciated their first realtor.

Restaurant owner
Have one signature dish that doesn’t exist on your menu.

That’s because the owner’s grandmother used to make this dish only for special occasions.

This dish is only mentioned to patrons celebrating a special occasion with a loved one (like an anniversary or proposal) because the owner wants to keep the sanctity of the dish.

After the meal, the patrons are asked to walk over to the corner of the restaurant where an old, yellowed cookbook sits on an old kitchen table. Inside that cookbook are polaroids of people who had this special dish for the first time.

You get to take a polaroid and sign it with the date and add it to the book. Suddenly, that chicken parm is worth quite a bit a more and people will talk about that special restaurant with a tradition forged in love.

If this sounds crazy to you… then why do KFC and Coca-Cola spend time reminding people that their recipes are locked away in a mysterious vault? It’s because they want to remind you that this food and that drink are special and rare (even though they’re not rare at all).

Candle Store

First, ask if the candle is a gift and if it is for a loved one or a friend.

If they say yes, then place a tiny card on top of the candle lid with a random message inside.

Fold the card shut and seal it with hot wax from the either the lovers’ candle or friendship candle that always stays lit inside the store.

Advertise the story behind the friendship candle and the lovers’ candle so that it becomes a thing for candle lovers to see that wax holding the message sealed tight atop their gift.

You can’t reproduce the value of a blue Tiffany’s box overnight; you’re going to have to work harder to do that. A little wax to hide a message with a story behind the candle will help you start your own brand.

Fast Food Chain

I haven’t stepped inside of a McDonald’s in probably 10 years. It’s a sad badge of honor for people who kind-of-sort-of watch what they eat. When I was a little kid, however, it was a different story.

This is a link to current sales on eBay selling McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys for over $100. Some of the sales are just for the cardboard boxes.

McDonald’s understood that little kids are persuasive and they built in a specialty menu item just for them. It wasn’t just a toy thrown into a bag left to swim around with the loose french fries.

Nope, it was a Happy Meal that was just for me.

I got to open it like a gift and keep that toy that I never knew I had wanted. It made that salt-mine-in-a-box taste better than it actually was and encouraged me to plead with my parents to go back. Looking back, I’m thankful they didn’t give in to that request very often.

That toy that cost less than 50 cents was far more valuable to a little kid. It wasn’t just a burger and fries… it was a Happy Meal.

No matter what business you’re in, there are ways to deepen the significance by adding essence. The deeper and more significant your service/product feels, the more people will feel connected to your brand.


Shakespeare signatures: Wiki
Shakespeare worth: 5 million
The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: Book link