Writing fan mail to celebrities and athletes is fun and easy, but a lot of questions about the hobby frequently come up. Certain aspects can be confusing: where to find addresses, which celebrities sign through the mail (TTM), and what are all of the acronyms? All of these questions and more will be explored on this post.
Table of contents
Frequently Asked Questions
Through the mail (TTM) autograph collecting is where fan mail meets autograph collecting. Fan mail is simply a way for a fan to reach out to a public figure to express their admiration or share their thoughts. In that way, TTM is the same, but with the additional request for an autograph.
TTM – through the mail
SASE – self addressed stamped envelope
• A SASE is what you include along with your letter. It’s the envelope that the recipient will use to send your items back to you. Therefore it will have your address in the center of the envelope (the destination address) as well as enough return postage to cover the trip back.
LOR – letter of request
• A LOR is the letter that you send to request an autograph. Your letter should always be polite and genuine. For the greatest chance of a response, avoid the use of form letters and make each LOR personal. And above all, always be kind and respectful.
HWLOR – handwritten letter of request
• Some collectors may specify that their LOR is handwritten. While I haven’t personally experienced an increased response rate between typed and handwritten letters, the majority of collectors still handwrite all of their letters.
PP – Pre Print (pre printed autograph)
• A pre print is a photo printed with a replicated signature. A pen never touched the photo in this case.
• A secretarial signature is an autograph done by the signers representative, usually a secretary who signs in their stead.
• Sometimes, a signers representative will choose to use a rubber stamp to replicate someone’s signature rather than attempting to mimic someone else’s signature style.
• An autopen is a signature done by a machine using a real pen. These make them look very real as they match a signers signature style and can appear to be hand signed.
Not every celebrity replies to fan mail, but many do. If you are writing to celebrities who are actively signing and using tested addresses, then your success rate should be rather high. As a general rule though, the bigger the celebrity, the more fan mail they receive. That means it will be harder for your fan mail to make it into the hands of some of the biggest celebrities, but it’s not impossible. There are lots that sign dependably—here are 30 of them!
The cost of shipping is largely determined by the dimensions and weight of your envelope/package. If you are sending a one ounce letter with small photos or cards to get signed, your letter will only require one forever stamp for domestic shipping or one global forever stamp for international shipping. You can calculate the cost of anything larger than that on USPS’s website.
The process for sending fan mail domestically is exactly the same as it is for sending to the U.K. with one big exception—postage. When sending your autograph request from the U.S., you’ll use U.S. postage on the outer envelope, but British postage for the return envelope, because U.S. postage is not valid overseas. To purchase British postage directly from the U.K., visit the Royal Mail’s website which offers international shipping.
The process for sending fan mail domestically is exactly the same as it is for sending to Canada with one big exception—postage. When sending your autograph request from the U.S., you’ll use U.S. postage on the outer envelope, but Canadian postage for the return envelope, because U.S. postage is not valid overseas. To purchase Canadian postage directly from Canada, visit Canada Post’s website which offers international shipping.
There are a lot of address databases and services—both paid and free. The best service is an inexpensive one called startiger.com. The list of resources for fan mail address offers good free and premium options to get you started sending fan mail.
Replies from celebrities can in rare cases take be as quick as a week or as long as a decade! In most cases though, if you’re going to get a reply, it’s usually in the first 3 months or so. However, getting a reply up to a year or more later is fairly common place.
Determining an autograph’s authenticity can be difficult, even for professionals. It is a holistic approach that takes all factors into consideration. Ink is examined to see if it was written by a human hand and if the type of ink is appropriate for the time in which it was supposedly signed. Comparative analysis to known authentic examples is really the most significant part of the equation. This can rule out many types of fake autographs. More details can be found in this in-depth look at autograph authentication.
Sending something to get signed, weather it be a photo, trading card, or index card, is always a good idea. Some celebrities don’t have photos on hand and if there is nothing for them to sign then you are likely to miss out. Therefore, it is always best practice to send something when requesting an autograph. At a bare minimum collectors should have forever stamps, archival quality index cards, as well as #9 and #10 envelopes—all available from Amazon.
Generally, you don’t need to pay for autographs obtained through the mail. Celebrities and athletes tend not to charge for their autograph when signing TTM, even when they might do so at conventions! In the rare case that they do ask for a signing fee, that information can usually be found in their respective websites. Otherwise, you’ll likely get a reply with instructions on how to proceed with payment.
The autograph forum is the perfect place to share your latest successes with like-minded collectors! It’s also a great place to go to get help with addresses and the hobby in general.
When sending items through the mail for signing, it’s best to send no more than three. Individual signers may have their own policy on how many items they sign. Sometimes this is stated explicitly on their website or it may just require trial and error to find out how many they are willing to sign.
Google image searches will help you find photos of your favorite celebrities and athletes. Unfortunately, not every image is suitable for printing, especially for large format photos. To ensure that your prints aren’t pixelated, 8×10″ prints will require photos that are at least 2400 X 3000 pixels (see the chart below for other sizes). Once you have a suitable image, you can order prints of high quality on Amazon. An in-depth look at ordering photos can be found here.
Sending 8×10 photos through the small safely requires a few supplies: cardboard backing, painter’s tape, and envelopes. A sturdy piece of cardboard backing is essential for keeping your photos from being bent or folded. Amazon carries 8×10 pieces that can be secured to a photo by painters tape which doesn’t damage the photo when removed. The outer envelope will need to be 9.5×12.5 inches while the inner return envelope will be 9×12 inches. Pack your SASE, LOR, and photo in the larger envelope and send it off!
Matte photos are always best for autographs because they hold ink better. Some pens are worse than others, but glossy surfaces can sometimes repel ink and paint, leaving you with a messy looking autograph.
It’s not just actors, athletes, and musicians that respond to fan mail. There are people in all walks of life who are known to reply to fans and sign autographs through the mail. They can include: artists, authors, video game developers, and even prominent scientists.
Sending an autograph request through email is completely possible! There are several tools and resources for doing this. Sometimes email is used to help facilitate the standard process i.e. making sure fan mail is accepted at a given address or to get permission to send oversized items. Sometimes, the whole process can be done through email. By sending a message to the signer or their representative asking for an autograph, sometimes they will simply send you one with no further action required.
Sending fan mail via venue means sending a letter to a temporary location where a celebrity will be for short periods ranging from days to months. These can include appearances on Broadway, at scheduled events, movie and TV sets, etc. You can find via venue addresses in a number of ways to include production alerts, government listings of current productions, and on social media.
Useful Fan Mail, TTM Autograph Resources
Pixels to Inches Conversion Chart
|SIZE IN INCHES||SIZE IN PIXELS|
|3 X 5||900 X 1500|
|5 X 5||1500 X 1500|
|4 X 6||1200 X 1800|
|5 X 7||1500 X 2100|
|8 X 8||2400 X 2400|
|8 X 10||2400 X 3000|
|8.5 X 11||2550 X 3300|
|9 X 16||2700 X 4800|
|11 X 14||3300 X 4200|
|11 X 16||3300 X 4800|
Autograph Tracker Template
The autograph tracker is very easy to use! There are 8 columns to fill out for each request which will help keep you organized and prevent you from potentially losing mail or misidentifying an autograph. Below is a description of how each field should be filled out:
Name: Fill in the signer’s name
Date Sent: track the date you sent your letter (mm/dd/yyyy)
Address: The address you sent your request to
Date Received: track the date you received a response (mm/dd/yyyy)
Duration: Number of days from date sent to date received is automatically calculated.
Notes: add any notes about your particular request.
Envelope #: Write this number on your self addressed stamped envelope instead of the signer’s return address. That way, your letter can’t be returned to sender and will have to go to you. That could happen if your return envelope had insufficient postage for example.