Obtaining autographs through the mail, or TTM as it is commonly called, is something I’ve done for more than 20 years and I’ve decided to share some of my tips for success.
I realize that many collectors wishing to use this method to pursue autographs may not know exactly where to begin. While there is no right way or wrong way to obtain autographs TTM, there are certain things that can make it easier for both you and the athlete or celebrity whose signature you are requesting.
Here is 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 could be 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, though, to avoid disappointment. I try to send to guys like Matt Williams, Ron Gant, Donald Driver or Tim Salmon . . . guys who aren’t being bombarded with fan mail and who 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 get frustrated.
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 plenty 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.
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 Trout, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods and others on their status level usually are 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. Rare? Yes. Has it happened? Yes.
Step 2: Where and When to Send the TTM Autograph 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 Washington Nationals, I would address the envelope like this:
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, although some players simply won’t sign items sent to their homes. Others don’t mind it. But 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 at home.
In regards to active players, I feel as if I’ve had more success with NFL players than with any other sport. I’ve always assumed it may be a case of them having more free time since they have one game a week in comparison to the MLB, NBA or NHL where they have five to seven games per week. I don’t know for sure if this is exactly the reason, but it seems plausible.
Sports League Team Addresses
Looking for where to send TTM requests to teams? The following links cover several sports leagues:
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. Personally, I’ve 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 may 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 an autograph and I don’t actually hand write every request. Typically, I’ll use MicrosoftWord 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 MicrosoftWord, 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. Remember, simple courtesy goes a long way.
Step 4: The Materials Needed
For every TTM request you send, you will need the following items:
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, 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.
#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 “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 required additional postage to the USPS to be given the envelope. And again, use the Peel & Seals. In regards to the amount of 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).
Cards to Be Signed
This, again, is your choice. Many collectors will use trading cards because the player’s name and picture are both 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 should prevent the autograph from smearing. Signing glossy cards (such as Topps or Topps Chrome) with a Sharpie will, in some 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.
Use Forever stamps whenever possible. I can’t stress this enough. Some players sign requests quicker than others. I’ve had requests returned after a year or more. Also, you’ll want to be prepared for a USPS rate increase and by using a Forever stamp, you’ll never have to worry about that since they’ll always be equivalent to the current First Class stamp value.
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 top loaders. The less the player has to fool with, the better. However, if you are sending something worth more than a couple bucks, you may want to use a top loader. That value perception is up to you.
While you do not need to print address labels at all, it will make the process quicker rather than 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 it. Again, my only suggestion is to do something that is quick and efficient.
I would also suggest you send to players early in their careers. Some of my best success stories – including getting Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Mauer – occurred when the players were rookies or still in the minors.
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 player it’s from.