Maximizing Your Thru-The-Mail Success Rate

By Bryan Petrulis

Every month I receive e-mails from readers asking me how they can maximize their success rate when receiving autographs through the mail. Here are some helpful tips and things to keep in mind when writing to athletes or celebrities for their signature:

Popularity Plays A Part

The biggest rule of thumb when writing to players is that generally the more popular a player is, the less likely they will answer their fan mail. Some players are overwhelmed by the volume of requests, some just do not like signing autographs, and some are fearful their autograph will be sold. Many stars do not even see their fan mail. That is not to say, however, that all-star players and celebrities refuse to answer any fan mail. Some do sign via mail. For example, I have personally received great autos from Jim Thome, Garrett Anderson, and Mark Buehrle through the mail. If you are collecting on a budget and do not want to gamble with your item and stamps, stay away from top-of-the-line players. Unfortunately, you will not likely get them back.

Write A Letter, You’ll Do Better

Always enclose a letter or note to the player. A letter lets the player know why you are sending to them. Always be polite and make it sound like a letter you would like to receive if someone was asking you for something. Make sure you use “please” and “thank you” in your letter as well. Players are busy and are not mind readers. They may be unsure what you want them to do with the cards or items you sent them if there is not a note enclosed. It’s about maximizing your success rate.

Give It A Personal Touch

Another way to increase your odds is to always enclose a hand-written letter. I say hand-written because this shows the players that you actually took the time to sit down and write to them and are not just churning out a form letter. I do understand that some people have illegible handwriting and/or trouble writing, so typing out a letter would be much easier. In this case, always put something personal into the player in your letter that will convince them that your note is not a form letter. Something like, “I saw you play in the 2002 World Series,” “It must have been an honor to win the MVP,” or “It must be great having played on five All-Star teams.” You should also do this with hand-written letters as well.

SASE Or Forget About It

In order to receive your item back, always enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Since it is you requesting the autograph, it is your responsibility to provide the postage to send your item back.  Also, make sure you put the proper postage on the envelope that will get your item back to you. The more items you send and the more padding you add to protect your item(s), the higher the postage will be.
Always watch out for postage rate increases as well. I suggest using the forever stamp on your return envelope because some players will take forever to return your item. Believe it or not, I’ve had cases of players answering 17 years later. The forever stamp will help you get your item back – should a player take several years to get to it. When sending to foreign countries, make sure you put the postage from that country on your return envelope or your item definitely will not get back to you.

Leave No Doubt
Some collectors enjoy getting their item signed in a particular type of pen or pen color. I suggest sending that type of pen along with your request instead of putting the burden on the player. Basically, players will sign with whatever they have laying around. So in order to ensure a good autograph, spend a little extra and send your own pen.
Finally, when building a collection of autographs through the mail, keep in mind that it is your collection. You can send what you want (within reason), to whomever you want, when you want. However, in order to maximize your odds, you have to make the experience as easy as possible for the player or celebrity. Do not make too many demands, do not have them assume any financial responsibility, and provide all the necessary tools for them to grant your request.

While there are no guarantees in this particular niche area of collecting, follow these rules of thumb the best you can and you’ll undoubtedly see an increased success rate. SCM

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