Here’s great TTM autograph advice from an all-star collector

This autograph hobby needs more Rich Hansons.

I included Rich in Baseball By the Letters for the first time in 2010. In the years since, I’ve sought his impressions of the hobby. He’s like the canary in the coal mine. When Rich is pleased with his hobby successes, we can all benefit from his experiences.

I asked him if COVID fears may be limiting his successes TTM autograph signers. Rich replied:

“I’ve been doing very well on autograph responses, but that’s because I have more time to do my homework to determine who is and is not signing. “TTM Autographs Galore” is a good resource site as is “Baseball autographs through the Mail. ” Current players, we’re pretty much out of luck with.  I’m hearing that most of the teams are just throwing away requests, using COVID as an excuse to jettison something they don’t want to be bothered with anyway.”

Again, I’m thankful for Rich’s comments. His answers should prompt two questions in everyone:

  1. When collecting TTM autographs, what am I doing well on? (Such as response rate, special requests, getting inscriptions, etc.)
  2. In what area could I improve? (Invalid addresses, getting non-responses, etc.)
Andy Messersmith autograph
www.baseballalmanac has an incredible variety of authentic autographs as illustrations.  Messersmith stopped signing in retirement, making his autograph a major rarity.

By non-responses, I mean the “I don’t sign autographs any more,” handwritten turndown from Andy Messersmith, or an unopened envelope that reads ‘Now with PastPros.’

Rich knows that TIME is the secret sauce collectors need. Check a site like to see if a retiree has been an invisible non-signer, or signing for free, of late. If Mister X hasn’t responded to a request in the last five years, don’t assume he’ll never sign again. Just know that your odds of a reply could be shrinking.

Join a Facebook group for collectors, just like Rich did. Keep track of your hits and misses, so you can give another collector a specific answer to “what kind of a response did you get from this guy?”

A journalism professor told me once, “If your mama says she loves you, check it out.” Or, in other words, trust but verify. Some of the victims of hobby burnout, those who’ve given up on TTM, may have survived by fine-tuning their methods. 

Save yourself. Save your collection.



Giving Photos to Players? Collector Rich Hanson Devises A Winning Game Plan

If it’s baseball-related, Chris Creamer
would be the first to spot the “symbolism.”
Check out his awesome collection

Why, or why not?

Which group of autograph collectors has more fun?
You mean, which collectors get more?
Rich Hanson is a throwback hobbyist. I wrote about him back in 2010, and have counted on him for classic hobby insights since.

I asked him about one practice that might shock some collectors. He takes pictures of minor leaguers who agree to pose. Then, he sends two copies and a SASE, in hopes that he’ll get one photo back autographed.

He doesn’t sell the photos to players or trade? Nope. I asked if he’s still sticking to his hobby plan for 2014. I’m grateful for the following reply:

“I’ll bet I’ve taken a few thousand pictures over the years.  I don’t have a fancy camera.  It’s mostly just close-ups (head shots).  I can’t carry a big camera and the cards that I want to get signed as well, so I’m content with my pocket camera.  Rarely do the players turn down my offer of an extra picture for themselves.  A lot of these kids are a long way from home and it’s nice to have something to enclose in a letter to mom and Dad.

“Mike Trout, Byron Buxton, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, even A-Rod I’ve gotten pics of.  I used to be the only one doing it.  Now there are two to four people doing it at every ballpark that I go to, and yeah, the dealers and EBayers have infiltrated this end of the hobby as well.  Just look at how many pictures you’ll find for sale on the site, both signed and unsigned.

“I donated a stack of about 60 [Burlington] Bees pictures to the Bees winter auction/fundraiser this year.  About half of them were signed.  I figured they’d bring in a decent price and was surprised when I didn’t see them on the auction table.  The Bees GM told me when I asked that they wanted to keep them for the team archives.  I felt good about it, that they appreciated them that much.

“It’s been fun to be able to give pics like an extra signed Miguel Cabrera to a friend.  At one time I made copies of the pictures that I’d take for two other autograph friends in Burlington, but one has since passed on and one has pretty much lost interest in the hobby.

“I’ve gotten some real appreciative notes back over the years when I mail the pictures to players.  I always save the notes too.  Over 24 years I’ve amassed a history of the Midwest League in signed cards, pictures and laminated magazine and newspaper photos.  It’s been a lot of fun.  That’s what the hobby should be.  FUN.  Not a money-making enterprise.”

Thanks, Rich. It’s nice to see a baseball fan who thinks of what he’s giving, not just what he’s getting. 

2013 In Autographs: Collector Rich Hanson’s Review

This autograph is
on display at
It’s a great site to find
tons of  choice signatures.
Happy spring training, everybody!
Before looking ahead to the 2014 season, I wanted one last look at 2013 through the eyes of a hobbyist.
One of the smartest, most talented autograph collectors I know is Rich Hanson. Here’s his take on the hobby year that was.
“Regarding baseball, my first love:  Autographing through the mail is getting tougher and tougher with more and more players charging fees for what used to be a fan-friendly courtesy.  TriStar was one of the early culprits, charging hefty fees for top prospects signatures, and now Chris Potter has lined up an impressive stable of retired players.  
Don’t get me wrong;.I’ve done business with Potter and find him professional and accommodating, and I’ve used him to fill in some of the fan unfriendly players who would never sign before and now only do so for a fee.  The trouble is, the formerly good signers see these guys getting paid and say “why shouldn’t I?”  Overall, it’s been bad for the ‘through the mail’ autograph hobby.
I’m having a great deal of fun writing to authors and poets, putting together double-sided 8x10s about them and their work.  I get a lot of real nice, personal responses.  The one that blew me away was a lady (whom I won’t mention to spare her mailings in hope of receiving the gift that I did) who was one of the finalists for the National Book Award in poetry.  Not only did she sign my sheet, but she sent me an inscribed hardcover copy of her newest book.
My favorite baseball response was Eddie Gamboa’s. I put together a double-sided 8×10 about him and his feat of hurling a no hitter.  Not only did he sign the sheet I sent him, but he sent me back the lineup card from the day of the no-hitter.
My favorite baseball autograph of the year.  The Christmas present of the paper signed by Gabby Hartnett and 5 other 1930 Cubs that Nancy got me for XMAS.”
Thanks, Rich! 
Rich didn’t mention the poetic irony of Hartnett’s 1930 signature. The next year, photographers caught Hartnett signing an autograph for Al Capone. The commissioner warned the catcher about having his picture taken with shady characters. Today’s players may have sworn off signing all autographs (at least freebies).
Speaking of spring training, now is the time to fine-tune your letters. While it’s unlikely you’ll get a bonus hardcover book of poetry from any players, your letters make a difference. First, they convince someone from baseball’s family that a response matters. Secondly, your quality letters keeps the readers reading. They’ll keep opening more envelopes, wanting to keep the good feelings flowing

Saying Goodbye To A 1954 Cub

Don Robertson missed
out appearing in any
card sets. Trying to
any hopeful facts about
the 7th place Cubs, I
discovered Al Yellon’s
fun slugfest recap. Yea
for Bleed Cubbie Blue!

Rich Hanson is a collector role model for me. He seeks out baseball history in all shapes and sizes.

He got Don Robertson, a cup-of-coffee outfielder with the 1954 Chicago Cubs, to sign an index card this month. However, it wasn’t the typical autograph.


Rich added:

“This one was a sad response.  A note from his wife accompanied it saying ‘This is my husband’s last autograph.  He is 83 years old, has lung cancer and is in hospice now.'”
The 24-year-old was hitless in six plate appearances. His final kindness to one more collector counts as a game-winner in my eyes.
Please, subtract Mr. Robertson from your address list. Thank you for the update, Rich.

Orioles Pitching Prospect Eddie Gamboa Wows Collector

Collector Rich Hanson may baffle some of you.

I spotted this gem at
The Great Orioles
Autograph Project blog.
Check out Ryan’s cool,
never-ending chase to
collect every O in history!

Some might think he gives more than he gets. He stays busy summers by photographing minor leaguers, then sending 2 prints, one for them with the request for the other one to be autographed and returned in the SASE. Yes, some keep both and never reply.

What about making a double-sided 8-by-10 laminated collage of someone’s highlights, saving clippings, box scores and other details? Such hustle can bring awesome results. Look at what the effort brought this enterprising hobbyist. Rich recapped:

“Eddie Gamboa signed the double-sided 8×10 that I put together about him and the no-hitter that he pitched.  Not only that, but he wrote a note on a large piece of white cardboard thanking me for writing to him and saying that now I have the card from the no-hitter.  Not certain what he meant, I opened up the cardboard that he had folded and wrote on the back of, and discovered that he had sent me his team’s line-up card from the day of the no-hitter that he had pitched.  Wow!  If I had done something like that(pithcing a no-hitter in AA ball), I’d hang on to that for the rest of my life.

“For him to send it to a fan as a “thank you” for writing to him, is really quite a gesture. I have written him a thank you note, offering it back to him if he reconsiders and wants to save it for his family, but the gesture was really something.  Very generous and totally unsought.  If he does not reconsider, it will certainly have a hallowed place in my collection.  Remember when you read about cheats like A-Rod and Ryan Braun, that there are guys like Eddie Gamboa out there too, guys who care about more than just themselves.”

Thank you for the sterling example, Mr. Hanson! Sure, you can count the misses. Except, when you connect like Rich does, who cares about the occasional out?