The Collector's Corner Vol. 3

I’m back this month with more autograph talk. This time I’m giving some pointers to getting autographs in person (IP) at sporting events, start a TTM project everyone can follow, and I want your autograph stories.

I’ve been going to baseball games getting autographs for 5 years now. I started with just baseballs, but have moved on to mainly cards; cards are actually a lot cheaper for autographs (but I’ll get into that later). I have close to 1000 baseball autographs, ranging from big names (Lance Berkman, Jake Peavy) to nobodies (Neifi Perez). My basement is basically a baseball shrine.

I go to anywhere from 10-40 games a season (this year less because of my daughter) and try to get autographs at most of them. I’ve hit up teams in Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Florida among others.

The number on thing about getting autographs is to make sure the kids get them first. Too many times, adults (and normally E-Bayers) will not let the kids get autographs. If a kid is near me, I tend to let them slide in. It’s also fun to watch them light up when a player signs their ticket stub.

Always go prepared. I always have spare pens and sharpies with me. I’ve been face to face with John Smoltz to have my sharpie die as he was signing my card – luckily he’s a professional and keeps one on his key ring.

Learn what works best. If you want a baseball signed, don’t use a sharpie. Sharpies on baseballs bleed or fade with time. On Major League Baseballs (ROMLB), ball point pen works the best. I prefer blue, but it doesn’t really matter. ROMLBs normally run anywhere from $12-20 depending on where you go. If you go with the cheaper balls, the ball point pens fade on those. I’ve had good luck with the fine point sharpies – they can still fade if the ball is sitting in direct sun light, but they’ve tended to last longer in my experience.

The best place on a baseball to get an autograph is the sweet spot – the narrow part of the laces, opposite of the Rawlings logo (or who ever makes the ball). A lot of players won’t or can’t sign the sweet spot; some suspect that the baseballs will be sold for profit or they have signed a contract with a company that prohibits it (like Tristar or Steiner). Most people will get special balls signed on the side panel, or the area where the space between the laces is the biggest. You can normally ask for the sweet spot; most players will tell you if they can’t sweet spot or completely ignore your request. Also, some players will inscribe stuff on a ball. The standard inscription is some bible verse that has meaning to a player. Other times, players will inscribe milestones – ROY, MVP, a specific stat. I normally ask if they will inscribe something like that; again, they will tell you if they can’t or ignore the request.

For other sports, most people will get autographs on balls/pucks, mini-helmets, or floor boards (at least for basketball). A sharpie is best for these; color is really an opinion. For hockey pucks, silver sharpie or paint pens show up the best. I think black works best for basketballs, footballs, and golf bals, but that’s just my opinion.

On sports cards, sharpies work on most cards. The new Topps and Upper Deck cards are somewhat glossy and don’t hold autographs well, much like the chrome cards that are released (Topps and Bowman normally have chrome cards). The sharpie tends to bubble on these cards. One way to avoid this it to rub baby powder on the cards with a cotton ball; the baby powder fills in un-seen wholes that from in the glossy/chrome finish on the cards. The other way is to use a Staedtler Lumocolor – they are a better version of a sharpie that dries faster.

I find the best way to have cards ready to be autographed is to keep them in a binder. I’ve bought card stock pages and attached photo corners for the cards. You can get up to 9 cards per page like this. It’s easy to hold the book out and for the player to sign. Some times, handing individual cards to players works well; just beware that after you get the card back and put it on the stack it could smear on other cards.

Here are some examples:
Travis Hafner sweet spot.
Brad Ausmus side panel Baseball.
Lee Smith 478 Saves inscription.
Curtis Granderson bubbled card.
Mike Hampton faded sharpie.
Carl Everett bleeding baseball – a cheap ball signed in ballpoint; it should have been signed in a Fine Tip Sharpie to last a little better.
Steve Kline bleeding baseball – a good ball signed in red sharpie; it needed to be in ball point pen so the signature would last.

A word about the last column:
Last time I wrote about getting TTM autographs. I’m going to chronicle my latest batch I’m sending out. I’ve decided to get 2 books of stamps and send out 2 cards per player. I will also be typing a letter with some questions that I’ll print here if I get them back. I’m sending to the players listed below:

Jay Bruce – Louisville Bats
John Danks – Chicago White Sox
Todd Frazier – Dayton Dragons
Jon Jay – Springfield Cardinals
Ubaldo Jimenez – Colorado Rockies
Jon Knott – Rochester Red Wings
Matt LaPorta – Huntsville Stars
Fred Lewis – San Francisco Giants
Mark McCormick – Palm Beach Cardinals
Joe Nathan – Minnesota Twins
Ross Ohlendorff – New York Yankees
Jerry Owens – Charlotte Knights
Dustin Pedroia – Boston Red Sox
Chris Perez – Memphis Redbirds
Joe Smith – New York Mets
Miguel Tejada – Houston Astros
Jarrod Washburn – Seattle Mariners
Jordan Zimmerman – Potomac Nationals

I’ve checked around and all of these players have signed TTM this season. Here are some of the trends I’ve noticed:

– I’m a little worried about Bruce and Owens. I know as soon as I send them, they’ll get promoted.
– Lewis wouldn’t sign anything when he was in St. Louis recently; I always find it funny when a player won’t sign IP but will TTM or vice versa.
– LaPorta will sign, but it’s hit or miss. I attempted him in Spring Training and never got anything back.
– Washburn is about as automatic as you can get; I’ve never read someone not getting their cards back signed.

As I get cards in, I’ll supply what they signed, how long it took, and pictures of the signed cards.

A question for everyone…
I want to get together stories people have about getting autographs. They can be good, bad, unusual, what ever. Sent them to me here.

Tags: , ,