Obtaining autographs through the mail, or TTM as it is commonly referred to, is something I have done for over 20 years and I’ve decided to share some of my tips for success. I’ve realized that many collectors wishing to use this method to pursue autographs may not know exactly where to begin. While there is no right or wrong way to obtain autographs TTM, there are certain things that can make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and the athlete or celebrity whose signature you are requesting.
This may not be the best way, but here’s my list of TTM tips for achieving success.
Step 1: Pick Your Player
Picking the player you’d like to send an autograph request to is probably the most important step in the entire process. This type of collecting is supposed to be fun and the goal is to have a high success rate. The best advice I can give anyone sending TTM requests is to aim low when hoping for a high return percentage. I try to send to guys like Mike Mussina, Donald Driver, or Tim Salmon…guys who aren’t being bombarded with fan mail and that may actually take the time to read some of it. While I will occasionally send a request to a Mike Trout or a Ben Roethlisberger, I don’t assume they’re going to return the request fulfilled. That way, if they do, I’ll be even more surprised. If I were to wait patiently every day for a high profile TTM autograph to show up in my mailbox, I’d most likely be upset nine times out of ten.
A great way to check on an athlete to see if they return their autograph requests is to look at other collectors’ websites. There are tons of other collectors that send TTM requests and many of them track their successes and failures so that others don’t waste their time and money. A great site to check is Sports Card Forum. They have a section dedicated to TTM attempts and it’s easily searchable.
Sidenote: From my experience, the higher profile the player, the less likely they are to sign TTM. While, this is usually the case, it does not always apply. Stars such as Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr, Tiger Woods and others on their status level are usually considered “one in a million” when it comes to signing TTM. However, there are instances when these athletes will pick up a Sharpie and sign a few autographs for their fans.
Step 2: Where & When To Send The Requests
As a general rule, you want to send TTM requests to active players during the season and to the team address. For example, if I were sending an autograph request to Kurt Suzuki of the Minnesota Twins. I would address the envelope as follows:
c/o Washington Nationals
1500 S Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
However, if I were sending the request to Kurt Suzuki during the off-season, I would send it to his home address. Though, I RARELY send any fan mail to an active player during the off-season. Think of it as getting a work phone call when you’re off the clock.
Sidenote: In regards to to active players, I feel as if I’ve had more success with NFL players than with any other sport. I’ve always chalked it up to them having more free time since they have one game a week in comparison to the MLB, NBA, or NHL where they have 5-7 games per. I don’t know for sure if this is exactly the reason, but it seems plausible.
Sending requests to retired athletes has been the most enjoyable aspect of TTM autograph collecting for me as they usually take the time to sign everything you include (depending on the player) and sometimes even write notes back. In most cases, you can send these requests to the athlete’s home address, but those addresses are not always easy to find. As mentioned before, you can use Sports Card Forum’s database, which is free, but may not list everybody. Personally, I’ve recently discovered that joining certain Facebook groups focused on TTM autographs can be an excellent resource for obtaining addresses.
Step 3: The Written Request
This step is where my advice will differ from the next person you ask and so on. Many believe that every request should be hand written and essentially “schmooze” the player from whom you are requesting the signature. In my experiences, I usually only ask for the autograph and I don’t actually hand write every request. In general, I use Microsoft Word to type a simple request that goes something like this:
Will you please sign my enclosed card?
Yes, that’s all I ask. And since I used Microsoft Word, I can print out multiple copies at once, fold them neatly, and put into envelopes like an assembly line. Sometimes in addition to my name I will sign the note, but that isn’t required.
Step 4: The Materials Needed
For every TTM request, you need the following items:
- A #10 envelope. This is the envelope that will be addressed to the player and have your return address. Make sure your return address is on there (just in case they’ve moved or been traded, etc) and also make sure to include a stamp. In most cases, if you’re sending one or two cards to be signed, you will only need one First Class stamp to cover the postage. Also, make sure you are using peel & seal envelopes. Obviously, it’s up to you which type of envelope you decide on, but the peel & seals are a lot quicker to use.
- A #6 3/4 envelope. This is the envelope that will be used to send your cards back to you and should be smaller than the outer envelope so that it fits nicely inside the #10 envelope without bending or folding. This envelope should have your address in both address locations (yes, the to and the from). By doing so, just in case you didn’t include enough postage, it will be sent to you and you just have to pay the postage to be given the envelope. And again, use the peel & seals. In regards to the stamps to be used, if you’re sending one or two cards to be signed and returned, you’ll only need one First Class stamp to cover the postage. Just be sure to use a Forever stamp (more info on this below).
- The cards to be signed. This again is your choice. Many collectors will use trading cards because the player’s name and picture are on there. The preferred choice of many is to use cards such as Topps Heritage or Allen & Ginter because they have a matte finish which will prevent the autograph from smearing. Signing glossy cards (such as Topps or Topps Chrome) with a Sharpie will, in many cases, smear as the player puts the card in the return envelope. Another option that many people use is index cards or sketch cards. Index cards are extremely cheap and you can usually get 100 or so for less than $1. My only suggestion is to use blank, not ruled, index cards. Sketch cards are another option although they tend to be fairly expensive in comparison to the index cards. However, you can usually find standard trading card sized sketch cards on Amazon or at any of the big-box craft stores.
- Stamps. Use Forever stamps! I cannot stress this enough! Some athletes are not the most timely in regards to sending back their requests as I’ve had many requests returned after year or longer. Also, you want to be prepared for a USPS rate increase and by using a Forever stamp, you’ll never have to worry about that.
- Penny sleeves. This is a matter of preference. In my opinion, penny sleeves will provide little protection and increases the chances of the autograph smearing. Personally, I only include the card I want to be signed. No penny sleeves. No toploaders. The less the athlete has to fool with, the better. However, if you are sending something worth more than a couple bucks, feel free to use a toploader. I just wouldn’t make a habit of it due to the added cost.
- Address labels. While you do not need to print address labels at all, it will make the process quicker and prevent hand cramps you may get from writing your address a gazillion times. You can also use a pre-printed stamp. Just use something to save yourself some time!
- The actual request. Everyone has a different method in how they write their requests. Some write half-page letters. Some, including myself, keep it short and sweet. Find whatever method works best for you and go with that. Again, my only suggestion is do something that is quick and efficient.
My next to last piece of advice is to send to players early in their careers. Some of my better successes occurred when the players were rookies or even still in the Minor Leagues.
And finally, don’t mark the return envelopes with anything other than your address. This will add an extra element of surprise when you open the envelope since you didn’t leave yourself any indication of which athlete it’s from.
I’m sure I’m probably forgetting something. If you can think of anything, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.