Tips for better Thru-The-Mail success

Get your items signed for free

By Gary Crouch
  
In a recent issue of Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly, Bryan Petrulis authored five easy steps to increase your Thru-The–Mail autograph success rate. The following will take you five steps further in increasing the quantity and quality of your mail successes.

Research

Before you mail your requests you may be able to predict your success. 
Keep a record of your results including the addresses used, number of items sent, and number signed. Also note what items they will or won’t sign and if a fee is requested. Talk with other TTM collectors and share your information with them. 

There are some excellent websites including www.tuffstuff.com that serve the same purpose. They offer those details through members that report their successes and failures. Successes typically include the address used, how long it took to receive the items back, and how many items were signed. Additional comments can explain if the person adds extra items or if a fee is requested for the autograph. By reviewing the TTM failures you can save time, money, stamps, and not risk having items not returned. Some of the sites don’t charge for the information and some may limit what can be obtained for free.

Other free sources of information are Yahoo groups, where 488 groups that cover collecting autographs are offered and 123 that include sports specifically.

Updated autographed lists can also be purchased from several sources.  TTM collectors don’t have to throw good money after bad. 

More Research

This might end up starting to sound like work but doing some more research can help you create a sincere, interesting letter that can help you get positive results.

Although a hand-written letter may imply that it’s not just an insincere form letter, a typed letter with good content may work better and will be easier to read. Although I type my requests, my autograph requests show that I know a bit about the person as well as really appreciate receiving a signed item. If you can’t think of anything to say, bio pages and HOF induction speeches offer information that could help. I usually ask a question or two about the person or his career and receive many written replies. A star player may not take the time to respond to questions, but a player from the 1960s or an Olympic medal winner may really appreciate you asking.

It may also help if you offer something. I commonly hear of extra cards offered or $5 or $10 dollars offered to older veterans who played before players made millions of dollars.

For example, I discovered that a Hall of Famer I was chasing had a fondness for chili. In exchange for a couple autographs, I bribed him by telling him where to get the best chili in Cincinnati, the “chili capital of the world.” I received my two cards back with nice signatures.

Personalization
If you ask for a celebrity to personalize your items that may aid in getting them signed. He may not personalize them but your willingness to accept it shows less likelihood that you intend to sell it. Besides, if it’s for your collection or for a gift, you wouldn’t mind the personalization anyway.

Ask if you Can Send Something
Before you send an expensive item or something that you don’t want to lose such as a photo or program already signed by others, send a letter asking if your item would be signed. Don’t send the poster, photo, ball or program that already has some nice autographs on it without checking to see if the next guy will sign it. You can also ask what the charge will be if there is one.

The SASE

If you want to send a request to another country and don’t know where to get postage stamps of that country for your self-addresssed stamped envelope (SASE), use an international reply coupon (IRC). An IRC is a coupon that can be redeemed for the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country. Although USPS.com lists them for $2.10, some post offices may not have them available or even know what they are. They may have to be ordered for you.  I’ve used them successfully for celebrities in New Zealand, Germany, and England.

Also, be sure to put your return address on your SASE. If there’s a postage increase or something makes the address illegible, you’ll want your items to be “returned” to you instead of the celebrity.

In 2007, my success rate was over 80% and I received at least 56 autographed items, but last year my thru-the-mail success rate increased to over 87% and I received 126 autographed items. Remember, there are no guarantees when dealing with TTM requests but hopefully these tips will help your success rate increase. They certainly won’t hurt. SCM

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