Autograph Collectors Share Fan Mail, TTM Autograph Collecting Methods, Habits

Autograph Collectors Share Fan Mail, TTM Autograph Collecting Methods, Habits

Getting to Know TTM Autograph Collectors

I wanted to get my finger on the pulse of the through the mail (TTM) autograph collecting hobby to see what was working for collectors and how they are currently participating in the hobby. The results were pretty surprising, even for a seasoned collector like myself. To reach the most collectors, I put out a survey to some of the largest TTM and fan mail groups on Facebook. 82 collectors responded to my survey, with some collectors having experienced the hobby for over five decades while others had only just about a year’s worth of experience. The wide range of collectors made for some interesting answers.

How Long Have You Been Collecting TTM?

Of the 82 individuals surveyed, 13% were brand new to the hobby. To me, that indicates that the TTM hobby is still growing as previous analysis by Tales From the Collection has shown. Despite the newcomers, nearly half of those surveyed had been doing it for a decade or longer. I think that really speaks to not only the dedication of TTM collectors, but also the fun and excitement of the hobby that keeps people interested decade after decade. 

How Did You Learn About TTM Autograph Collecting?

Just by looking at the graph of how TTM collectors learned about the hobby, you might be surprised to see how the more traditional print media and word of mouth seem to be the predominant drivers, but that is largely thanks to the population of individuals who have been doing it for decades. Of the 11 collectors new to the hobby, 64% of them found out about TTM autograph collecting from Facebook with only one individual discovering it by word of mouth and none from print media. The days of reading about TTM collecting in a magazine seem to have come and gone.

How do You Engage With Other Collectors?

TTM collecting is largely an independent hobby, but that doesn’t mean that it is devoid of any aspect of community. In fact, sharing the autographs and responses that collectors get back is often the most enjoyable part. There are many ways that collectors engage with each other, forums like Reddit, address database sites like Startiger, and of course Facebook groups. As I mentioned, this data was collected largely from members of TTM Facebook groups which introduced a lot of bias to the data, which is particularly apparent on the graph below. So even though we would expect it to be skewed in favor of Facebook, I think it’s interesting to note how it is apparently the only way that many collectors engage with others in the hobby.

Collecting Habits

What is Your Primary Source For TTM Addresses?

When it comes to where collectors go to find addresses, there are two clear winners: StarTiger.com and SportsCollectors.net (SCN). In my guide to finding fan mail addresses, I listed StarTiger as the #1 resource and that assessment has bared out in the survey as well. Despite the minor paywall to access StarTiger, it came out miles ahead of the competition. I credit the site’s admin team who quickly fill members requests for addresses as well as the members themselves who keep the site’s database up to date by inputting their own successes, failures, and addresses into the system. SCN on the other hand is free, but it also benefits from the large subset of TTM collectors who focus primarily on sports autographs. It’s also apparent that valuable resources like Production Weekly are underutilized, almost certainly due to their prohibitive cost.

Do You Hand Write or Type Your Letters?

The age-old debate: do you hand write your letter of request (LOR) for the most personal feel or do you type it out for legibility and expediency? I almost exclusively type my LORs but it would seem that I am in the minority with a whopping 68% of collectors electing to write out their fan mail by hand. I admire the dedication, but having tried both, I can’t say that I’ve experienced greater success doing it one way or another. However, if your handwriting is good and time isn’t a terrible concern, I would have to agree that handwriting would be the way to go.

What Type of Address are You Getting the Most Returns From?

The survey results surprised me here. I would have expected more people to be utilizing via venue and business addresses. I expected that agency addresses would not be well represented because many agencies are hit or miss with passing on fan mail to signers. However, I didn’t expect the focus to be so predominantly on residential addresses.

What are the Most Items You Usually Send?

With TTM, I think the old phrase “less is more” holds true. I’ve seen many celebrities post on Instagram and Twitter about their disappointment with collectors who send stacks of items for them to sign for free. To ensure that your stuff isn’t trashed because the signers think you’re trying to make a quick buck off of them, it’s best practice to limit your request. The overwhelming majority of collectors limit the number of items they send to 2-3 items.

What do You Usually Send to Get Signed TTM?

Photos are usually the preferred item to get signed among many autograph collectors. However, due to the unique considerations of TTM autograph collecting, perhaps it’s no surprise that trading cards which offer photo quality images in a small, easy to ship form factor are the preferred choice of collectors. Their small size means they are inexpensive to ship and fairly cheap to purchase in the first place. Storage is also a cinch.

The second most popular option, 8×10″ photos, on the other hand cost $1.79 if you buy from Amazon Photo and about the same to ship each way. The cost of doing this can add up over time though, which is probably the main factor that is keeping it from being what collectors get signed most often.

How Many Requests do You Send per Month?

I tend to send about 30 requests per month, but if I’m really hitting it hard, I can get out closer to 50. It takes a lot of time and dedication to send out 50 requests, so I was blown away to see several collectors hitting not only 100 requests per month, but 150! Wow, that’s some serious commitment to the hobby there. It would seem that the typical range for most collectors is somewhere between five and 30 requests per month though.

What are You Most Concerned About in the Hobby?

By far, TTM autograph collectors were most concerned about their peers not following the best practices for TTM autograph collecting. That likely includes not sending return postage, sending an excessive amount of items, using form letters, spamming signers, and other faux pas. Interestingly, there was very little concern for a lack of signers willing to respond to fan mail. To me, that indicates that the hobby is still in a good place with a lot of opportunities for collectors to get their items signed.

Note: If you would like to participate in the survey yourself, you can still access the Google form here.

Published by Tim Santens

I am a gamer and autograph collector. I love writing about both and sharing the stories I find.

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