As any hobbyist knows, there often comes a time, regardless of what item they collect, where they hit the proverbial wall. Either they run out of items to collect, the hobby becomes too expensive, or they tire of using the same methods of building their collection. This is the point where many put their hobby aside for a cooling off period, and many seldom return to their collection.
As a collector of sports autographs, this happened to me a few years ago, when going to the local sports card shops and picking up a few autographed items lost its appeal. That’s when I started looking for alternate ways to build by collection. Here are five ways that I was able to continue building my collection of sports autographs without becoming burned out:
- Visit Your Local Sports Card Store
A sports card shop will often present a variety of ways to obtain sports autographs. Since sports card shops deal primarily with, well, sports cards, there are often many autographed cards on display. Nearly all sports card companies feature subsets for collectors to chase, and most have an autograph line, leaving a variety of signed cards available for enthusiasts. Some companies such as Tri-Star even feature collections that only deal with autographs. Finally, many dealers will also have other various autographed items available for purchase, such as signed jerseys, basketballs, baseballs, hockey pucks, or other sports equipment. A sports card shop is often one of the best places to start when collecting sports autographs, because they feature many signatures and some signed cards can cost as little as a few dollars, opening the doors to nearly anyone looking to get into the hobby on a tight budget.
- Attend Autograph Signings
Another way to obtain autographs is to attend autograph signings. If you live in or near a major city, you can potentially find several of these per year if you look hard enough. You might also find national shows online or through sports card price guides where you can send items to be signed for you. Your sports card dealer is another great resource as they often know of any signings in your area. While this is another great way to build your collection, most athletes charge for signatures at these events, and often the cost can be quite high depending on the credentials of the athlete. If you are going to shell out in excess of a hundred dollars for an autograph at one of these signings, remember to bring items that are worth the price of the signature, even if you don’t plan on parting with the signature. If you are going to pay the money, have something signed that can become the cornerstone of your collection.
- Attend Games
While the chances of going to a major league event and getting the autograph of your favorite player are virtually nil in today’s day and age, attending a minor league game is a great way to build your collection. While not all of the players will pan out, it can be a great way to build your collection. Athletes are often willing to sign and some will even stop for a few minutes to have conversations and take photos. You might even be lucky enough to get the autograph of someone who will go on to have a great career. I grew up near the Syracuse, NY area, home of the triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. In my time attending games there, I was able to get autographs of Vernon Wells, Adam Dunn, Alfonso Soriano, AJ Burnett, Jose Canseco, and Dion Sanders. I was also able to see other great players, like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling, play in rehab games.
- Send Requests to Team Addresses or the Baseball Hall of Fame
Another, but riskier way, to obtain autographs is to look up the addresses of teams and send requests to the stadium in which the athlete plays. While this can be an effective way of getting autographs, it’s important to not send your most valuable items as there is no guarantee that you’ll ever see the item back if the player decides not to sign your item. I have built a good collection of trading cards this way, but I never send items that I’m afraid to part with. When sending to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, mail for the inductees gets forwarded to the players, so this can be another way of obtaining autographs. Another point to remember when sending any item through the mail is to include a return envelope with proper postage. You will never get the item back otherwise.
- 5. Send Items Through the Mail
The final way I obtain autographs through the mail is to research player addresses online and send items directly to the homes of current/former players. There are many forums on this topic and many in these forums are willing to share addresses and highlight the signing habits so you know what players will/will not sign. I have used this method to obtain signatures from former players numerous times with very high success rates. Some of the players I have obtained signatures from (although some have since passed on) include: Duke Snider, Bobby Thomson, Jim Palmer, Joe Dumars, Terry Bradshaw, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, and Whitey Ford. This is one of my favorite methods as it makes every day a fun day as you wait to see what great item the mail will deliver next! Again, if you choose this method, don’t forget the return postage!
Like any sports autograph, there is no guarantee that the autograph you receive back will be authentic. Forgeries have plagued the market for decades, and there are several websites that provide useful advice on the issue. So whatever method you choose, be informed and have fun as collecting sports autographs can be a very enjoyable and rewarding hobby!
Brandon Maxam is an avid sports fan and has collected sports autographs for over 15 years.