- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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DETROIT -- Just days before the biggest game of his career, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a one-year, exclusive autograph deal with Mounted Memories that is worth at least $1 million.
For the past two seasons, Roethlisberger has provided his signature for any company willing to pay the right price for a private signing. But at least three memorabilia companies offered deals in the past three weeks as the Steelers progressed through the NFL playoffs, and the 23-year-old's value mushroomed.
"We've been very careful with Ben across the whole marketing front not to be in a rush to align him with any deals," said his agent, Ryan Tollner, on Wednesday. "But at this point, in this category, he's clearly at the top of the industry."
"There was some intense negotiating going on," said Ross Tannenbaum, chief executive and president of Dreams Inc., a public company that owns Mounted Memories, as well as other sports memorabilia brands, including Field Of Dreams, a memorabilia store chain. "But we think that, win or lose in the Super Bowl, there is no one hotter in the NFL right now than Ben. He's a young guy who is on the right team and has the right personality."
It's not yet known exactly how much the company will charge for a Roethlisberger signature, although Tannenbaum said that prices will be commensurate to the prices for Dan Marino-autographed items. An 8-by-10 autographed photo of Marino, the Hall of Fame quarterback who is also under contract with Dreams, Inc., usually sells for about $150.
Roethlisberger will do his first signings for the company after the Super Bowl.
Tollner attributes the recent boost in interest in an autograph deal to the fact that Roethlisberger didn't sign his name much this year. He says the exclusive arrangement doesn't mean that young autograph collectors will be unable to get Roethlisberger's signature for free.
"He's not prohibited from casually signing for fans," Tollner said. "But he's obviously not going to sign the same piece over and over again for a guy he thinks is bringing it to eBay."
Roethlisberger's own "Big Ben 7" holograms will be on every item he signs for the company.
Tannenbaum said he is happy that Roethlisberger exhibits good penmanship, an important factor in a name as long as his.
"It does have an effect on the ability to sell product," Tannenbaum said. "You can read every letter in the signatures that come from a lot of the Hall of Famers, but that's not the case with a lot of guys today."
Aside from Roethlisberger and Marino, the company has exclusive deals with New Jersey Nets forward Vince Carter and the "Hit King," Pete Rose. They also recently signed Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
In other Roethlisberger endorsement news, Tollner confirmed that his client definitely will shave off his beard the day after the Super Bowl, but he will only consider an endorsement with a razor company if Pittsburgh defeats the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Dreams Inc. is an over-the-counter bulletin board stock. As of Wednesday morning, the stock was up 7 percent to 7.5 cents a share.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com.
2hJohn Keim and Adam Caplan