Recently reader James sent me an email asking how I manage to obtain autographs from Rangers players. In particular he wanted to know how I get addresses for some less well-known retired players.
I don't know if Gerald Alexander is an example of the kind of player James is asking about but I tend to think he is. After all, he appeared in just 36 games for the Rangers over three years. I sent this 1991 Fleer card to him on January 9, 2009 and received it back with the autograph on February 9, 2009. Not a bad turn around time.
So, how did I get Gerald's address? Well, I really don't remember. I have two main sources so I'll just give everyone a quick tour of them both.
First has to be The Bench. I have mentioned this site before as a great trading site. It is. It is also a great site to pick up collecting tips, card news, through the mail (TTM) tips, and players addresses. In the forums section there is an area for TTM collectors. In that area collectors often show off their latest snag and will share addresses. There is even a guy who has a Harvey's book who is kind enough to supply addresses to those who ask. In addition, there is a separate directory of players' addresses with the latest success dates. Great resource. If you aren't a member of The Bench you should be. It's easy, free, and very helpful. Let them know Spiff sent ya.
While The Bench is my primary source I have also used Star Collector. This is a free site that has addresses for all major sports as well as other celebrities. It also has a starters guide to help get you going.
Those are my two main sources for addresses though I have picked up one or two elsewhere. I have also picked up lots of TTM autos off of Ebay. There is some risk of forgeries in this approach but that can be minimized by avoiding lots with large numbers of well-known players. There is a lot of motivation to forge Gaylord Perry's signature. Not so much to fake Gary Green's.
So, that's where the addresses come from. Once you have those the big part is done. Now to write the player and get his autograph. I do have a few rules that I follow to enhance the chances of success.
1. Always hand write the letter and address. (I do use return address labels.)
2. Always be polite. The title "Mr." and the use of "please" and "thank you" will get you far.
3. Be honest. Don't try to portray yourself as a huge fan of the player if you aren't.
4. Don't be greedy. I limit myself to two cards per attempt. If I want more autographs I send a second letter after the first cards are returned.
5. Keep records. I have a spiral notebook with three columns; players' name, date sent, date received. I also keep track of which addresses I have tried and which ones are "good" or have resulted in returns.
6. Never send cards you can't live without. They could get lost or damaged, a player may keep one or both, the address may be bad.
7. Never send cards in sleeves or toploaders. These guys are not making a mint on signing so don't make their end of things harder.
8. Always use a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you don't you just sent the player a free gift.
9. Never send to an active player at home, use the team address. These guys don't like to take work home any more than the rest of us do.
Well, I hope that answers some of your questions James and helps out anyone looking to write to players for autos. Best of luck in your attempts and I would love to hear of successes. Please feel free to hit me with any more questions.