Say your time is worth $75 an hour; then the annual cost of penning your name 250 times a month on business documents is $417. That's the estimate of Orbit Enterprises, provider of a mail-in service that digitizes signatures for use in Windows and DOS programs and delivers them as True Type fonts on floppy diskettes. The three-day-turnaround service costs $95; it obviates the need for an office scanner (about $400) -- and does a neater job. In a recent instance, Kemper Securities of Chicago turned to Orbit to replicate signatures on its thank-you notes to clients, since it was dissatisfied with the jagged script and printing problems its own scanners induced. For information on Orbit's Scanned Signature Service, call 800-767-6724.

Attributes of other signature sources: Scanners save time, but "jaggies" reduce image quality, and printing is slow. Preprinted stationery offers an effective simulation of pen signatures and is cheap, but its layout is fixed, and its production requires lead time. Rubber stamps are inexpensive and allow the use of different colors, but quality is poor, and application is labor-intensive. Dedicated signature machines offer excellent quality and can use different colors, but they cost about $2,000, and their operation is fussy.