Hobby Musings: TTM request returns a sentimental autograph – Like many collectors, I’ve taken part in the time-honored tradition of requesting autographs from athletes through the mail. At a time when my hobby budget wasn’t particularly large, it was a good way to add to my collection. It also made many a day more exciting by receiving something unexpected when I got home. Over the years, I was fortunate to receive responses from a number of notable athletes, including Mariano Rivera and Tom Glavine.

I had slowed down the practice considerably over the past decade. However, I still sent the occasional letter out here and there. In more recent years, my selective mailing has managed to net some notable stars, including Mark McGwire and Dirk Nowitzki a few short months ago. Most recently though, I received something in the mail that has instantly joined the ranks of my favorite autographs.

Hobby Musings: TTM request returns a sentimental autographI went to a smaller college in Pennsylvania called Clarion University. Despite being a Division II football program, the school has had a few players make the NFL. One of them was offensive lineman Alex Sandusky, who had a successful career with the Baltimore Colts. He also happened to grace a few football cards. Knowing this, I had hoped to get one signed over the years. With the help of a very nice dealer at a card show recently, I was able to procure one of Mr. Sandusky’s 1963 Topps football cards at a reasonable price.

With the help of a friend of mine and some cross-referencing at fanmail.biz, I was able to find Mr. Sandusky’s address. After putting pen to letter detailing our shared alma mater and requesting his autograph, I encased the card in a soft sleeve. About a week later, I received the card back in the mail. Along with his autograph, Mr. Sandusky included a personalization to me as well as a nice team inscription. I was elated…until I discovered that he had signed the soft sleeve instead of the card itself.

I don’t typically include cards in sleeves for reasons like this. This experience also gives me cause to caution Hobby Musings: TTM request returns a sentimental autographyou against doing the same. The only reason I did it this time was due to the card’s age. Undeterred by the setback, I went ahead and resent the card without the sleeve and a letter explaining what had happened. A little over a week passed until my return envelope came back. Any fears I may had had were quickly swept aside as Mr. Sandusky was once again gracious enough to sign for me.

If you try to send an autograph request, there are a few quick things to remember. First and foremost, you want to include a SASE, which stands for self-addressed stamped envelope. You need the first envelope to send your request. Your second one includes your own address so the person you send the request to can get it back to you. Athletes and celebrities can be generous with their time when it comes to autograph requests, but it’s a safe bet to say that not many would go to the extra trouble to add a stamp to send your request back.

It’s also good form to write a polite letter when asking for your autograph. I used to type mine. Over time though, I preferred to write them by hand to add a personal touch to my request. Once you send out your request, all you have to do is wait. Cliché as it is, patience is a virtue when it comes to through the mail requests. I’ve had requests return in as a little as four days, but I’ve also had requests take up to around two years to return.

You should also be cautious with what you send through the mail. There’s always the possibility that you won’t receive your item back. Over the years, I’ve lost many a card, along with multiple photos and even a baseball. No matter whom you write to, there’s never a guarantee. If you’re going to try and send an item that has more value, it may not hurt to write the person ahead of time asking if it’s ok to send your item.

With that in mind, it also won’t hurt to do a little research to see if  the person you’re writing to has a good or bad history of returning fan mail. While one can never say never, it’s highly unlikely that writing to LeBron James or Tom Brady among others will net you an autograph. One quick and easy way to do your research is by typing in the subject’s name along with the words “fan mail” after it. With any luck, you’ll receive a few entries with some information.

Thankfully in this case, my through the mail request had a happy ending. While it seems that the return rates on through the mail requests have slowed a little over the years, there are still plenty of current and former athletes who will accommodate requests. Even with the rising postage costs, it’s still a great way to add to your own collection and put some extra fun into your day. Email and social media aside, it’s a hobby trend that’s unlikely to die out any time soon.

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