Kevin Elster, Reggie Cleveland, Larry Gura Remain Bargains For TTM Autographs

Appreciate the facsimile sig.
This cup-of-coffee pitcher
now demands more than
$2 per letter for his last name!

 When in doubt, ASK!

One of the great parts of this hobby is knowing that veteran collectors will share their experiences with you. I called upon hobby veteran Rich Hanson for his impressions of former players charging for their autographs. I’m grateful for his words of wisdom:

“What do I look for in deciding whether to pay for a signature?  How tough the signer is otherwise, and how reasonable the fee is.

 One can find some good bargains in Harvey Meiselman’s list of signers.  HOFer Don Sutton @$5 a card, Reggie Cleveland and Kevin Elster @ $1 a card, Larry Gura $2 per.
 I’ve never had a problem sending cash by mail, but I don’t send large amounts.  Anything bigger merits a money order or check if they’ll accept it.
 I weigh the price on the player and how bad I want him in my collection.  Quite a few years ago I paid $5 each for two Dom Zanni autographs.  Now he’s charging $30.  Now I’d pass. 
Even worse is Bob Giallombardo’s $25 (double his amount of major league games, and Bob Allen’s $100 fee to sign a card (postal money order only).  This is either a joke gone awry or an extremely unrealistic request. 
 I can buy three Nolan Ryan signatures for what he’s charging.”

Tomorrow: The amazing mission of pitcher Larry Gura!

Pitcher David Nied Issues Wake-Up Call

Fast reply,
no details…

In today’s mail, I found a partial reply from David Nied.

Yes, the first pick of Colorado’s expansion draft. While he added his #17 to his signature (on my letter) in this one-week turnaround, I did not get any questions answered.

That’s when I keep mulling over the eternal hobby question: typed or hand-written letters?

In my January post quoting hobby buddy Rich Hanson and his “thanks for making the effort to write me by hand” reply from 1960s pitcher Larry Miller, I’ve kept this choice fresh in my head.

Here’s one possibility: even though you can’t throw a 100 m.p.h. fastball or hit a 500-foot homer, you still might scare retired players with your power.

Your computer power!

Someone in their 70s might believe that you’re churning out hundreds of autograph request letters nightly. You’ve programmed your computer to act in evil-robot fashion and fool the recipient into thinking this is personal correspondence.

I had a pompous high school college prep English teacher. He warned, “A whiff of the Cliff and you’re dead!” Meaning: if he had any inkling that a student used the Cliff Notes synopsis to save time on a report, he’d issue an F.

I think a few retired players resemble my teacher. They’re seeking a reason NOT to reply. Other times, a spouse or family member might help sort the mail.

Is your letter different than all the others? I say, if it’s legible and personal, someone will want to read it — no matter what the format is. If you want to receive, first GIVE. If you have even one personal sentence about yourself and one more about that player or retiree, that may be the competitive difference you need.That’s why I haven’t abandoned typing.

I’m averaging only a letter of day mailed. I don’t want to do more. I’d rather spend the time researching each individual and writing the best, most personal letter possible.

Do Hand-Written Letters Get More Autographs?

Typed Letters Don’t
Make Him Smile!

Collectors know that “tastes great” or “less filling” isn’t the only debate these days.

After the Sunday post, I fielded a reader question:

Do you write or type your letters?

This is an on-going discussion on the forum. Speed for typing.

Sincerity for hand-written.

I’ve chosen typed for another reason. Legibility.

I’m asking specific questions. If a retiree can’t read my handwriting, then I’m doomed.

Only once did I alter my game plan. That’s when I contacted former Mets pitcher Larry Miller. Thanks to collector pal Rich Hanson, he tipped me off that Miller had replied how he appreciated a collector who took the time to write by hand.

I think some collectors worry that a player might suspect a form letter if its printed from a computer. I differ on that concern. I do address envelopes by hand. (Businesses TYPE envelopes. Bills or junk-mail solicitations come in typed envelopes.) Once I’ve convinced someone to open my letter, that’s a major victory. Then, I hope my personal appeal makes my case, even without my iffy penmanship.

I believe that content matters most. If you’ve researched someone’s career (or can tell about seeing him in a specific game) you’ll make your point. You’re being personal and easy on the eyes.

What do you say, readers? Do hand-written or typed letters work best for you? Ever field complaints from signers?

Tomorrow: a 1940s Brooklyn Dodger shares the nickname Leo Durocher gave him.

Rich Hanson, TTM Vet: part 2 of 2

Yesterday, Rich Hanson noted his beginnings as an autograph collector. Today, he has some advice:

Q: Do you think you have more luck with minor leaguers than retired big leaguers?

A: I’ve had a lot of good minor league responses. I still have the note that Jason Isringhausen wrote back along with the cards he signed; a real kind note telling me how much my letter moved him. Many times, a player will include a minor league team issue card or a short note at the minor league level. I regret that’s becoming rarer and rarer though. Between dealers selling autographs on EBay and TriStar hosting prospects at shows and charging major league prices; even at the college level a player may not sign now. I struck out with both Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State and Bryce Harper at Southern Nevada. The hobby has become a business for many people.

Q: Do you have hobby advice to share?

A: For through-the-mail collectors, do your homework and be creative. A player is more apt to sign if you send him something unique and/or homemade like an 8-by-10 collage or homemade card. He knows he’s not as likely to see it on Ebay.

Hand-write your letters. I firmly believe you get a better response. Don’t send anything out you are afraid to lose. Odds are that’s the item you won’t get back.

TTM is fun, but it doesn’t match getting signatures in person. Minor league baseball is affordable and fun. Support your local minor league team.

Every autographer, whether TTM or in-person, should have Baseball America’s Baseball Directory in their possession. Next to your pen and address book, it will be your most valuable resource.

Last of all, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this hobby as much without the following: the players, coaches and managers who are kind enough to take the time to accommodate our requests. My wife Nancy, who helps me immensely and never (ahem, rarely) grumbles. She’s wise enough to realize that there are worse places for a guy to want to hang out than in a ballpark. Mike Kirkman and Dale Roberson, both of whom taught me a lot of fine points of the hobby. The Burlington Bees staff. They usually give me a heads-up when a roving instructor shows up. Rick and Jennifer Ryan and the graphers in Des Moines, who always are helpful and make me feel welcome at Sec Taylor Stadium, and Angie, Chuck and Joyce, who are just as helpful in Clinton. The OACC autograph ring that I belong to is very supportive and knowledgeable as well. So many more, Ian in Cedar Rapids, Dave Malamut and Tom from Kane County. You get the idea.”

The idea is simple but powerful. Share this hobby with anyone you can. Work together. Build your team. When your hobby teammates come through, thank them in word and deed. Thanks for the insights, Rich!

(That’s Mr. Hanson, complete with “Otis Campbell’s” T-shirt, on the bottom row at a Burlington Bees minor league game. His baseball buddies have dubbed themselves “The Family Section.”)

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