Who doesn't love having something special, signed by their favorite celebrity or athlete? Not only is there sentimental value attached to the item, but it's also monetarily rare as well. The people who understand the importance of these items won't mess around with them.
However, that doesn't stop others from missing the memo. Kids will find their dad's prized, autographed baseball and get it lost in the river. Siblings will intentionally or unintentionally destroy their brother or sister's special signed valuable. And even if another character isn't directly responsible, losing this precious item will be as heartbreaking as losing a loved one, or at least, that's how it'll be portrayed. And, of course, this will happen. You'll never see an autographed rarity go without being destroyed, stolen, or otherwise lost, to the great disappointment of the owner.
A common plotline is that whoever destroyed the item will go to great lengths either to get it back or to get it replaced, sometimes even having to go directly to the source and get another signature. Forgeries aren't enough; it needs to be authentic, just like the original one (hopefully) was...unless the character is desperate.
Most often it's a sportsball, which are the easiest to access and destroy, but any autographed rarity can and will apply for this trope.
Heavily overlaps with Broken Treasure, and is sister tropes with the Dead Pet Sketch, The Precious, Precious Car, Carrying a Cake, the Endangered Soufflé, the Priceless Ming Vase, and Ashes to Crashes. Often the cause of a Storm in a Teacup plot.
- In one arc of FoxTrot, Paige gets an autographed photograph from the Backsync Boys, but Jason's iguana Quincy eats it while she's at school. Since Andy promised to watch it, Paige blames her and spends the next few days slinging guilt (calling Andy "mother who ruined my life" and such) to get whatever she wants. At the end of the arc, Paige receives another dozen copies of the photo because of all the letters she wrotenote , and she apologizes to Andy for her behavior.
Films — Live-Action
- The Sandlot: Benny hits the team's only baseball so hard that he knocks the cover off. With his stepfather Bill away on business, Scotty borrows a baseball from his trophy room that is autographed by legendary player Babe Ruth. Being ignorant of baseball history, Scotty does not realize the ball's value, and hits his first home run, sending it into the Beast's yard. When the other boys learn of the autograph, they tell Scotty its value and make several attempts to get the ball out of the yard using makeshift retrieval devices, but each is destroyed by the Beast. Ultimately, the Beast’s owner compensates them by giving them a ball with the names of the entirety of the Yankees "Murderer’s Row" lineup on it.
- In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal is having toilet troubles in an outhouse when a similarly constipated man offers his brother Salim money to get inside; the man angrily leaves when Jamal is unable to finish up. In the midst of all this, Jamal overhears that Amitabh Bachchan is visiting nearby and pulls out a photo of the actor; when Salim vindictively locks him inside, Jamal simply slips out the bottom of the outhouse and runs to get his autograph. Salim, still bitter over losing the constipated man's money, sells the autograph later.
- In the film Rent A Kid, the father of the couple who are "renting" kids (basically adoption on a trial basis), tells his wife that they are "things-people" (their house is full of valuable memorabilia), and "things-people" don't have kids. His fears are justified when one of the kids accidentally decapitates an antique G.I. Joe within minutes of their arrival. At the end of the movie, the couple decides to adopt the kids fully, and we have a happy ending - just before the father yells that they can't play catch with his autographed Joe Namath football, which goes crashing out the window.
- In Hannah Montana, Miley purposefully shreds Jackson's prized autograph baseball as revenge for him accidentally destroying her favorite stuffed animal. When he fixes it for her, she feels so guilty that she goes out of her way to get a new baseball signed by the player, who now runs a pizza restaurant, and forces her to perform as Hannah to get the signature. When Jackson finds out all the trouble she went through, he forgives her despite not having the autograph. At the end, upon comparing the signatures, Jackson realizes that the original baseball was actually signed by their father, who told Jackson it was from the player.
- Drake & Josh
- One episode does this with a brand-new autographed electric guitar Drake won in a contest. Josh plugs it into a broken amp for all of five seconds before the guitar bursts into flames. He spends all his money on a brand new guitar and then has to go and track down the guitarist that signed it — at a concert Drake happens to be backstage at, causing a lot of hilarity to ensue. Drake, however, is just happy that Josh went through all that effort for him.
- In one episode, Drake and Josh get un-invited from their friend Thornton's birthday party after he catches Drake kissing his (unbeknownst to Drake) girlfriend. Drake then gives him his autographed copy of Abbey Road as a birthday present in an attempt to apologize and get the both of them re-invited. While Thornton accepts the album, he still refuses to re-invite them to the party, and Drake and Josh spend the rest of the episode crashing the party to get the album back. Downplayed as they do get the album back in the end.
- In Lizzie McGuire, Lizzie is babysitting Matt when he and his friend accidentally destroy their dad's autographed football. They manage to trade for a different autographed football, but when their parents find out, they discover that their mother already destroyed the original ball — the one they destroyed was a forgery the mother had made.
- In an episode of Hardcastle and McCormick, McCormick's negligence leads to Hardcastle's house being burgled and just about everything he owns being stolen; including a basketball autographed by Wilt Chamberlin, which is the item he is most upset about losing.
- Victorious: One episode has Cat house sitting for her Mom's boss, who owns many valuable things, including a guitar signed by Elvis. Jade invites herself along, claiming to want to spend time with Cat, but really wanting to make Beck jealous. She ends up breaking the guitar. The two invite Beck and Robbie over to fix it, but they end up breaking more things. When it looks like Cat's Mom's boss will find out what happened, an earthquake hits and gets blamed for causing all the damage.
- The Pilot Episode of the "Mathnet" sketch on Square One TV involved a kid losing his dad's prized baseball that was signed by Babe Ruth, so Kate Monday and George Frankly from the LAPD are called in to solve where the ball went of to with the power of math. The first part of the sketch ends with the two of them determining that the ball ended inside the house of an old lady, but only to learn that the house itself was stolen. The rest of the sketch has the two of them on a Timed Mission to locate the house before the kid ends up getting in trouble with his dad.
- Hope & Faith: One episode had Justin accidentally destroying his Dad's baseball that was signed by Roger Clemens. Faith takes responsibility for the act so her nephew won't get in trouble. Hope and Faith spend the rest of the episode trying to replace the ball by pretending to be sport reporters who want to interview Roger Clemens.
- In the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Robbing the Banks", Will's prized baseball signed by Willie Mays disappears shortly after he convinces Uncle Phil to hire an ex con as a replacement butler. Leading to him screaming "Where's my Willie!?". It turns out that Ashley borrowed it for practice, but washed it off first because "someone wrote all over it."
- The Leave It to Beaver episode "Ward's Baseball", where Beaver and Larry Mondello play catch with the Beaver's father's baseball, which was signed by several famous baseball players (including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig). They ruin it, of course, and attempt to forge the signatures themselves on a replacement ball.
- How I Met Your Mother, "Aldrin Justice": Lily is an ex-kindergarten teacher and Ted gets her an office job at their architecture firm. Hammond Druthers is their jerk boss and Lily is so appalled by his behavior to people that she decides to start taking away his things. It's her personal form of justice, supposed to make kids and people stop being mean. The first thing she takes away is Druthers' baseball signed three times by Pete Rose. He's livid, and threatens to start firing random people if his ball is not returned.
- The Big Bang Theory: For several seasons, Wil Wheaton was Sheldon's Sitcom Arch-Nemesis. During a party at Wil's place to which the four friends have been invited, Wil offers Sheldon a peace offering: a signed mint on card action figure of Wesley Crusher, Sheldon's favourite character from his youth. This immediately catapults him to the top of Sheldon's favourite people. Sheldon hardly has the time to admire his figure when Brent Spiner sees the figure, rips it out of the package and starts to joke with Wil how they used those toys to make the characters do all kinds of crazy stuff.
- In the Peep Show episode "Handyman" Mark is reunited with his school crush, Sally Slater. He discovers that she is now married to his rival Foz- but unhappily so, and she wants an affair. They later meet up and he gifts her his autographed copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Inevitably Foz finds out and Sally walks out of his life forever, along with the book. The episode aired in 2007, just six years after Douglas Adams' death, making this all the more heartbreaking.
- Chance in a Million: The titular Tom Chance is revealed to have a cricket bat signed by Alec Bedser (an English Cricketer) as one of his most prized processions in “Honour Thy Father And Thy Mother”. Naturally, it gets chewed up by an Alsatian who lives next door in that very episode.
- Invoked on Impractical Jokers when Q is punished by being forced to ruin items that were autographed by Tino Martinez. (Unbeknownst to him, all the items would be replaced.)
- "Weird Al" Yankovic: In one part of "Albuquerque", Al's lucky, autographed glow-in-the-dark snorkel is stolen by "some big fat hermaphrodite with a Flock of Seagulls haircut and only one nostril". Al tried to fight for it back, but the perpetrator got away.
- In Stags And Hens, Billy collects an autograph from the musician Peter, on a piece of toilet paper. The bully Eddy disapproves, and flushes it down the toilet.
- Arthur: Alberto's soccer ball, signed by a player named El Boomerang. In "Follow the Bouncing Ball", he gets it mixed up with Francine's brand new soccer ball. By the end, it's lost and rolls down the street, with the ball finally finding its way back to Arthur in "The Long Road Home."
- Captain Flamingo: The episode "High and Flighty" has Rutger getting a baseball pitcher machine for his birthday, but doesn't have a baseball to put it in. He then decides to use his dad's one of a kind autographed baseball, which he winds up accidentally hitting onto the top of a very tall building. Milo and Lisbeth are then tasked with climbing said building to retrieve the ball before Rutger's dad finds out what happened to it.
- In Puppy Dog Pals episode "Take Me Out to the Pug Game" the titular puppies accidentally throw away their owner's baseball (which was signed by his favourite player), and have to chase it all over the city.
- Stretching the definition of "autographed" and "item," the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Bubble Buddy" has Pearl shake hands with the legendary Grubby Grouper and promise to never wash the hand again. It's immediately foiled by shaking hands with Bubble Buddy.