I started collecting autographs of baseball players sometime around 1991. I remember the thrill when I received the signed cards back from Todd van Poppel, Cecil Fielder, and Roberto Alomar. Collecting via in-person ‘graphing and through the mail are both fun. It’s hard for me to do in-person autographing, as I live in a rural area. As such, I do most of my collecting as through the mail (TTM) collecting. The joy of finding a full mailbox of little white envelopes is still a great feeling. I got out of collecting for a long-span, but thanks to the Internet, I found my love for this hobby again. I’m hoping to share just a few tips and tricks to get you on your way to building a good collection.
1. Find something you are passionate about
When I first got back into the hobby, I wanted anyone who showed solid returns to sign things for me. This caused two problems. One, my request letters tended to sound form like and impersonal to the person I was writing. This runs the risk of taking away from someone who is a legitimate fan of the individual. Personally, my biggest loves are most sports, opera, punk, theater, and significant military and historical figures. Some people chose to collect television stars, movie stars, etc. But pick something that you are passionate about, because if you don’t the collection will not mean as much to you.
Also, decide on the medium that you want to focus on. If money were no consideration, every letter I sent out would be accompanied with a Rawlings Major League Baseball. And yes, that includes the opera singers. Autographs on ROMLBs are just amazing to see, and a wall of BallQubes or Ultra Pro Cubes is fun to look at. Instead, I either send sports cards, or sports card sized material for autographing.
2. Gather Addresses
As compared to collecting when I started in the 1990s, it is much easier to obtain addresses for the people whose autograph you would like to have. There are several websites which contain databases of addresses, and if you are old school and would prefer a paper chart, those are available too. One of the things I really enjoy about the databases, is that users around the world add to if the individual is still autographing, if they have a fee for their time, or if they’ve stopped signing all together. Some of the services I have used are as follows:
- Fanmail.Biz: Fanmail was one of the first databases and forums that I signed up for when I got back into autographing. They literally try to provide addresses for anyone whom you might consider wanting an autograph from. The forums were really good when I was using it previously, however, I have not been on their site in some time, as I have currently been focusing on baseball and historical figures.
- SportsCardForum: SCF is another useful site, however, the main focus is on sports card collecting. They do have a solid database of addresses that is kept up to date, and is free to use with registration. Unlike Fanmail that requires forum searching to check someone’s signing habits, SCF keeps all the information under a single click.
- SportsCollectors: SportsCollectors is all about sports autographing. I recently joined, and thus far it has proven useful. The database search function is a bit clunky, but once you get used to it, it’s solid. They have helped collectors achieve over one million autograph successes, so it is a site with history and shows results. There is a minor price tag – $15.00 per year IIRC – to gain pro-access, but it seems worth it so far.
- Harvey: Harvey is the OG of TTM address lists/books. He advertises as “The Best, Most Accurate Address Lists Being Sold…Period.” And he’s not wrong. He’s also super helpful via email and stands by his product the whole way. 10/10 would recommend his list as an every other year purchase if you get serious into this hobby. (This is not sponsored by the way, and I get no kickback from him. His lists are just that good.)
If you are looking into singers, don’t be afraid to look at venues they are performing at in the near future, and write to them at the venue. Fanmail used to keep a log of venues that would allow mail for acts. I’m not sure if it is still maintained, but it would be worth looking into.
3. Write your letter
One of the things that I enjoy about through the mail autographing is writing the fan letter. It is a pure joy to put pen to paper and write a few words about what I enjoy about the person’s work. One of the things that makes me sad is the lack of being personal. You are asking someone to sign a thing for you – a very personal moment. Sending a form letter, printed off your word processor reads dull and boring. Even if you type letters, make sure that you personalize each one. However, if you are writing to actors on TV series – don’t talk about plot points, just talk about why their character is one you enjoy. Make sure that in your letter you ask the person to sign your item! That is a rookie mistake that made more than once growing up.
4. Send you letter
Before you mail your letter go through this simple checklist to make sure that you included everything you wanted to send.
- Letter of Request (written in step 3)
- Item to be signed.
- A Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (very important to get your item back)
- The signing fee required (if applicable)
Then double-check the address on your envelope, apply postage, and send it off. Do not send items that cannot be replaced through the mail. Damaged, lost, or otherwise switched items occur with the volume of mail the post office handles.
5. Be Patient
In this world of find information fast on Google, and Amazon.com’s guaranteed 2 day delivery, it’s easy to become impatient. However, one of the glorious things about TTM autographing is that your mailbox can fill up quickly. Enjoy the suspense of getting to open your mailbox and see what is inside. This hobby is not one for people with a lack of patience, because even an item that you wrote off can show up one to two years later.
Godspeed and may all your envelopes come back with a bounty.
P.S. the above links for BallQubes and Ultra Pro Baseball Holders are through the Amazon Affiliate program, so if you purchase from those links, I do get a percentage. (full disclosure)
P.S.S. If you like what I’m doing, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee.