The Lesson of Pirate Frank Thomas

Q: When is a fee not a fee?

A: When it’s an admission ticket.


My efforts to get Yoda to do a guest post were futile. However, I think I’m starting to speak his language and decode such riddles. It’s a variation on banks calling loans “products” and not “services.”

I hope I’m making sense of some retirees are charging a “fee,” but are wowing collectors with quality responses that might include a card, note or other bonus. Think Frank “The Original” Thomas.

(Wait…I just heard thunder from Pittsburgh. Frank wants me to stress he’s asking for DONATIONS to his charities, not fees.)

In his case, it’s still an admission ticket.

The potential signer sees the intent of the request that includes money. A dealer would hope to maximize profits, taking advantage of a FREE autograph. That’s the conventional thinking.

Once the fee/donation appears in the envelope, your letter gets treated like a message from an old friend.

Of course, there’s the other category who charge. You are buying a product from an autograph factory. A family member or paid mail handler processes your request. The item is presented for a signature. Joe Cool signs it, never knowing anything about the collector getting the ‘graph. Assembly line stuff.

Therefore, if you’re intent on getting a signer in the $5 to $10 range, take a chance. Include a question. You’ll still get your autograph, even if the request is ignored. Asking is free.

Join and study the “successes” forum. The posting collector usually tells how much the required fee was, and if any extra items came with the response. As you decide whether you want to pay for a signature, ask yourself two questions.

1. How much?
2. Why are they asking?

Coming Wednesday: A Review of Wherever I Wind Up, by Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey

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