The time has come to write an obituary for the once-loved celebrity autograph. Notice of its death came by way of pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, that great chronicler of our times, writing in the Wall Street Journal. “I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera,” Swift wrote, adding that the only memento her young fans wanted these days “is a selfie”.
It was not so long ago that children received autograph books as presents and competed with each other to fill them with famous signatures. Now, at pop-culture events such as Comic-Con, fading stars charge for “photo opportunities”. Last year in New York, Sylvester Stallone’s asking price was $445 (Dh1,600) per selfie.
The advantage of a selfie is that it can be transmitted instantly by social media so your friends can share your moment of fame in real time. Yet, there remains something romantic, and intrinsically valuable, about handwriting on yellowing paper. For example, a letter signed in 1863 by US president Abraham Lincoln once fetched $748,000 at auction.
We can only guess what a selfie with Taylor Swift, or any other current figure of transient fame, will fetch in 150 years.