Captain Kirk rakes in real dough from virtual autographs

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

San Francisco (CA) – William Shatner, known to millions of Star Trek fans as Captain Kirk, is making some serious cash from virtual video autographs through his new business liveautographs.com.  Shatner, along with other celebrities like Danica Patrick, Carmen Electra and even Buzz Aldrin, star on the website featuring expensive fan memorabilia authenticated with a short video message.  While it may seem hokey to some, the demand is hot and Shatner recently sold more than 200 autographs in a single sitting.

Created last year, liveautographs.com allows customers to buy fan merchandise like shirts, posters and hats for $149 and up.  The stuff is then signed by a celebrity of their choice and barcoded.   In addition to the signature, buyers can send a message of up to 200 characters to the celebrity when buying the gift.  The actors are videotaped, with several cameras, reading or responding to the message.  Liveautographs promises to store the video forever and the buyer can simply supply an HTML link to anyone who is doubtful about the memorabilia’s authenticity.

To the average Joe, this may seem over the top for an autographed shirt or baseball cap, but according to Liveautographs.com more than 50% of autographed merchandise is counterfeit – a big deal when you’re talking about a two billion a year market.  Shatner is betting that a video of celebrities signing the item should be worth much more than a simple Certificate of Authenticity provided by other autographed merchandise vendors.

In a recent Reuter’s article, Shatner talks about the wacky messages fans have tried to get him to say.  One customer asked if Shatner would rather be a starship captain or an actor to which he said, “I can't even understand your question, but I want you to understand -- I'm an actor."  While Shatner did play the role of Captain Kirk of the starship Enterprise in the television series and several movies, he’s quite vocal in his disdain of ‘Trekkies’, rabid fans of the show.

While the messages for the celebrities cannot contain the name of a business (according to Liveautographs.com’s frequently asked questions page), one journalist seems to have gotten around the restriction.  Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.com purchased a signed photo from the site way back in May and just received his video reply – “I love TechCrunch.”  I suppose a three month turn around isn’t too bad.