There are many ways for hobbyists to add to their autograph collections. Participating in private signings, attending personal appearances, visiting hotels where celebrities are staying and purchasing PSA-authenticated signatures from hobby dealers are all legitimate ways to build a collection. Collectors have also known for decades that collecting signatures through the mail (TTM) is a great way to reach athletes and celebrities and ask for signatures of people that they might otherwise have little chance of obtaining.
Participating in the TTM experience is easy to begin, and with dedication to a few simple rules, your chances for success can be very good. There are a few simple steps one must take to begin. Let’s review the following:
- Materials – There is not a lot that is needed for this part of the process. Packing materials, postage and of course the item you are getting signed make up the bulk of this stage of the game. Trading cards are the simplest item to get signed TTM, requiring only a couple of envelopes, stamps and a nice request note. The basic plan is the same regardless of what you are asking to be signed, but packing materials and postage (both to the signer and back to you) become more advanced and expensive as the item to be signed becomes larger or more valuable.
- Information – This begins with the addresses where you send your items, but also includes signing habits for various individuals, signing fees, etc. In my years in the hobby I have found that the single-best resource for comprehensive TTM information is the website SportsCollectors.Net (www.sportscollectors.net). SCN, as it is referred to in the hobby, requires a $15 annual subscription fee, but you receive access to literally thousands of athlete mailing addresses, information on signing habits and fees, information about public and private signings, and a message board used by some of the most knowledgeable ‘graphers in the hobby.
- Process – Simply put, how do you do this? It is quite easy, but there are some basics that should not be overlooked. First, include a well-written request letter and do not forget to include the words, “please” and “thank you.” Some people will debate whether a request letter should be handwritten or typed, but I do not believe that matters as much as the content of the letter. Remember that you are asking someone to do you a favor, and common courtesy is always important. Include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) or appropriate shipping vessel for the item to be returned to you. Make it as simply-used as possible. You might include a specific pen if you are particular about the signing apparatus. Lastly, include the item(s) that you would like signed, and signing fee if appropriate. Be sure not to abuse the kindness of the signer by including too many items in your request. Unless prior arrangements were made, two or three items should be your absolute maximum. Pack it all up, apply proper postage, and drop it into the mail.
The rest is simply a waiting game and realize that you NEVER TRULY KNOW how long it will take to get your items back. I’ve had cards returned to me in four days, and I’ve had requests take more than 10 years (literally) to come back. Things happen. Envelopes get lost in the mail, or fall behind desks. They get accidentally thrown away and are occasionally buried under stacks of paperwork. People get sick or busy, and their fan mail stacks up. Combat this reality by following a simple rule: never send anything out that you would be heartbroken over if it did not return. It is also helpful to keep a log of your requests so that you can track the amount of time each request takes to find its way home.
TTM autograph collecting is a fun way to build your collection, and one that offers the fringe benefit of forcing the hobbyist to learn something about the subject he is hoping to collect. Once you have built up a decent collection, share it with the hobby world by posting your successes on the PSA website via Showcases and other Set Registry listings.