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.
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.
Sending Fan Mail to Margot Robbie, Requesting an Autograph TTM
The Toxic Avenger Director Lloyd Kaufman Responds to Fan Mail, Signs Autographs
Watch Harrison Ford's Autograph Change Over Time [Signature Study]
Elizabeth Olsen Responds to Fan Mail Sign Autographs TTM
How to Send Fan Mail to Sir Ian McKellen, Request an Autograph
Emilia Clarke Signed Comics Back in Stock!
November Fan Mail, TTM Autograph Round Up
Taylor Swift Fans Get $4k Surprise from Taylor
Robert Downey Jr Signing Autographs for Charity
Dan Aykroyd Signed Crystal Head Vodka – Ghostbusters Afterlife Autograph
Unboxing Signed Copies of Taylor Swift of RED (Taylor's Version) [Autograph Comparison]
Youngling From Star Wars: ROTS Puts Autographs on Sale
Signed Books at Barnes and Nobel [Black Friday]
Steve Burns From Blues Clues Checks Out My Autograph Collection
November brought some nice through the mail (TTM) autographs and fan mail responses as well as a few in person autographs from voice actors like Veronica Taylor and Megan Hollingshead at San Antonio’s Pokefest. I guess it’s been a good month for voice actors as I also did an interview with Sean Rey, the voice actor for Dani Rojas in Far Cry 6. You can read about it on retroinformer.com or watch the full interview below.
I’ve also been creating lots of new video content on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. While doing monthly round up posts like this is a great way to showcase all of the great autographs that come my way, doing short videos is a great way to show them off closer to real time. It also gives me a chance to show a bit of my process like I do in the video below.
I sent fan mail to Felicity back in June of 2020, right during the height of the pandemic. At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty about what celebrities would do with the fan mail they received, given concerns of the virus being transmitted by mail. It seems that, at least in this case, my letter and photos were set aside by her agent for her to sign at a later time as usual.
Before getting these back from Jones, I saw a lot of collectors received their items back first. So while I had hope that I would get mine back as well, I wasn’t so sure that I would. While I have sometimes had to wait for several years in the past, I think that this goes to show that you should never give up hope on an autograph request unless you get a return to sender.
McNeill is best known for his role as Lieutenant Tom Paris on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. I sent an email to the production office Resident Alien, which McNeill is directing, asking for their fan mail address so that I could request an autograph. One of the production assistants kindly provided me with the address for the show’s production office in Canada, to which I promptly sent the above photos for McNeill to sign. A few months later I got both of them back without a problem. McNeill inscribed the photos with “Live long and prosper” and “Best wishes”. Both will make a great addition to my small but growing Star Trek collection.
Paige VanZant had previously posted on Facebook that she responded to fan mail sent to her gym in California. That was a few years ago though and she now trains in Florida. I thought I’d give writing to her at her new gym a try and a few months later I received both of the 8×10″ photos I sent her signed.
Gavankar played Iden Versio in Star Wars Battlefront 2. She is currently filming season 2 of Big Sky so I wrote to her via the set. She signed one of the three items I sent.
The cast of DC: Legends of Tomorrow has been extremely good at responding to fan mail. Back in June I received a reply from Tala Ashe which goes well with this recent from Caity Lotz. She signed my index card and included a trading card and 4×6″ photo.
Independent Talent Group Ltd 40 Whitfield Street London W1T 2RH United Kingdom
I wrote to Daniel Craig via his agency in the UK. I sent a few index cards, but received this No Time to Die 5×7″. Léa Seydoux, Craig’s No Time to Die co-star, signed for me back in September.
Heather Langenkamp is best known for her role as Nancy Thompson on Wes Craven’s iconic 80’s horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street. I sent her two of the acid free archival quality index cards that I get from Amazon and asked her to both. After a 10 month turnaround, she obliged and signed both of them.
Veronica Taylor is the voice of Ash Ketchum from Pokémon. She signed for me TTM a number of years back so I thanked her for doing so and asked how much mail she gets now. Surprisingly she told me that she doesn’t get much, but that’s because her management company was apparently throwing fan mail out rather than forwarding it on to her.
Luckily, she told me that she recently set up a new PO Box for fan mail and welcomed her fans to write her, while mentioning that she did have a very busy schedule, so replies probably won’t come too quickly. However, her website does mention that the address is for “letters only” and she asks fans to “please not send personal items to be autographed [as] they will not be returned”.
Veronica Taylor Fan Mail Address
Veronica Taylor P.O. Box 291716 Los Angeles, CA 90029
Like Veronica Taylor, I met Megan Hollingshead at Pokéfest.
Earlier this month, I announced on my TokTok that Taylor Swift was selling signed copies of RED (Taylor’s Version). I purchased two copies and they arrived a few weeks later. Both came beautifully signed with what appears to be a slightly updated signature style with a very long loop on the “T”. As I’ve previously noted, Taylor is one of the best celebrities at providing fans with a chance to own something signed by them.
Even when dealing with reputable companies like Barnes and Noble, it’s hard to know if the autographs you buy are real, especially sight unseen, which is often the case with signed books. Unfortunately, I recently purchased a “signed” copy of Drew Barrymore’s new book Rebel Homemaker which turned out to contain a fake autograph. I had the book looked at by Beckett Authentication Services and they deemed it “unlikely to pass full authentication”. As I paid for a quick opinion and didn’t send my book in to be physically inspected, Beckett didn’t render a 100% affirmative verdict that it wasn’t genuine, but it differs so much from her usual autograph that it really wouldn’t be worth the cost or the trouble to do so.
You could say that acting is in Roy Beck’s blood with a family film heritage that spans over seven decades. Beck grew up in England, the son of Roy Beck Sr., who has an extensive list of credits under his name and was prolific in the business. He got his start at Denham Studios in 1947 appearing in ‘So Evil my Love’ and later had an ongoing role as Roger Moore’s stand-in and double on the first season of The Saint. He was also responsible for igniting a young Beck’s passion for acting that led to a long-standing career as a professional supporting actor in film and television.
Roy Beck Jr.’s very first experience of working in movies was in the early 1960s when Roy Beck Sr. took him to the ABPC Elstree Studios to meet with Roger Moore on the set of The Saint. It was an incredibly exciting experience for him and he even had the opportunity to sit in the famous Volvo P1800. As fate would have it, that day’s visit to the set would mark the beginning of Beck’s filmography as Roger Moore asked if he’d like to appear with him in the episode ‘The Golden Journey’ that was filming on the back lot that very afternoon. Beck recalled that he was “terribly excited and my very first take had to be cut because I was making so much noise running up and down the steps in the background that the director couldn’t hear Roger’s lines. Tremendous times that started my journey, paving the way to a future career in film and television.”
From his simple beginnings as a background actor, Beck went on to work on a great many feature films and television series, amongst some of the earliest were Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, Becket, Oliver!, Department S, The Champions, Man in a Suitcase, The Prisoner, Where Eagles Dare, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and many, many more. In fact, Beck’s IMDb page currently lists 108 productions that he’s participated in as an actor. However, one of Beck’s more enjoyable assignments was working on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark was Steven Spielberg’s first movie shot in the UK. The opening of the Ark sequence took around a week to film. Looking back at his experience on set, Beck recalled that “we worked very closely with Spielberg, particularly on the special effects scenes. These were fairly early days for SFX so a lot of experimental ideas were tried out. In particular, the use of highly reflective 3M tape and elaborately wired contraptions with high wattage projector bulbs that we wore under our uniforms and activated with switches in our palms. It was huge fun on set.”
Working on Raiders must have been an incredible thrill for Beck. One memory in particular that he shared which really captured the atmosphere of the set was “a very funny incident I can remember vividly. It occurred one afternoon when the tea lady came on her usual rounds through the set with tea and cakes. One of the soldiers put a piece of dry ice, taken from the Ark, and placed it into a polystyrene cup. You can imagine what happened when the poor tea lady poured the tea into it. She was horrified and we all shouted ‘that tea’s blooming hot..!’ A hilarious moment. Another interesting anecdote that has never come to light is that Anthony Daniels (C3PO) was cast as one of the German soldiers in that sequence, he was costume fitted at the same time as me.
Collecting Autographs on Set
Since Tales From The Collection is all about autograph collecting, when I saw Beck’s signed 8×10″ photo of Harrison Ford, I knew I had to ask about his collection and what the experience of collecting autographs on a film set was like. He told me that he “inherited most of my extensive collection of signed photos from my late father. For over four decades he worked closely with Robert Mitchum, Roger Moore, Tony Hopkins, John Hurt, Rod Steiger, James Stewart, James Coburn, Edward Fox, Ryan O’Neil, Charles Bronson, George Segal and Lee Marvin to name a few. All of whom were very pleased to personally annotate production stills for him. These busy days though with increased security worries, and now COVID of course, stars tend to come to set only when required to work and there’s less opportunity to build on working relationships. When working more closely as stand-in or double for principal cast however, it’s a little easier.”
He continued to say that he “was very pleased to meet Harrison on location in London back in the early ‘90s filming ‘Patriot Games’. I had been cast as a London Police Officer. When we finally met on set he initially thought I was a real copper and we had a good laugh about that. It was fun to reminisce about those early Raiders memories with him and he very kindly arranged for his agent to forward the signed picture, of which I am extremely fond.
Roy Beck’s Work Behind the Scenes
While Beck spent a lot of time working in front of a camera, his mainstream career was spent behind the scenes in post-production as a film and TV editor. In the 70s and 80s he worked in Canada and the UK editing many light entertainment shows including The King of Kensington and The Frankie Howerd Show for CBC Toronto as well as the marriage of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips for the US ABC Network. Additionally, in what Beck considered to possibly be the highlight of his career in the UK, he edited Granada Television’s prestigious showcase drama Laurence Olivier Presents Come Back Little Sheba where he worked directly with Olivier and director Silvio Narizzano. Another career high for Beck was working with the legendary film director Michael Powell on a project to re-master his very first feature film The Edge of the World for the BBC. He later went on to head up many of London’s foremost post-production facilities.
After stepping away from acting to pursue work in post-production, Beck eventually returned to the craft in 2012. Since then, he’s been a featured supporting actor in many TV dramas and mainstream feature films: Downton Abbey, The Theory of Everything, Kingsman, Legend, Now You See Me, The Infiltrator, Fantastic Beasts, Sense8, Black Mirror, War Machine, Transformers, American Assassin, The Foreigner, Murder on the Orient Express, Red Sparrow, Christopher Robin, Harlots, The Crown, Killing Eve and The Batman.
Moreover, he’s had stand-in and doubling assignments for Oliver Reed, Joel Fabioni, Albert Finney and more recently Sir Michael Gambon, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Gatiss and, for a Japanese TV commercial, Tommy Lee Jones.
If you’re like me then you may have been drawn to Magic The Gathering (MTG), not by the addictive gameplay or its collectability, but by the incredible artwork that graces each and every MTG card. If you admire MTG art as much as I do, then you may be interested to know that many artists are happy to sign your cards through the mail (TTM). Sometimes artists request a small fee for their time and trouble while others are happy to sign free of charge.
This page compiles contact information for MTG artists to make reaching out to them as simple as possible. With any luck, you can start a nice collection of artist signed MTG cards right from the comfort of your own home!
Fan Favorite MTG Signers
If you head over to Randy’s site you can arrange to get your MTG cards signed by him. He charges $2 per card for normal single signatures and $4 per card for double signatures. The cost of return shipping is included in your purchase.
Tom Baxa offers a lot of services through his site like card alterations and commissions, but also signs through the mail. Send him an email to make arrangements.
Christopher Moeller has worked in the gaming industry in parallel with his comics work. He has done numerous illustrations for White Wolf Games, including covers for their Aberrant game books, and miniatures game. He has provided over 100 illustrations for the trading card game Magic: the Gathering. He has done illustrations for the World of Warcraft trading card game. He did the packaging art for the Axis and Allies Miniatures game.
Christopher Moeller 210 Parkside Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15228 USA
Terese Nielsen is a prolific MTG artist and one that has always been very good to her fans. For more than 30 years, her artwork has graced the covers of comics, games, and much more. She has made her place in the world of fantasy art, lurking in the upper echelons as one of the foremost female artists in the field, and has been honored in seventeen volumes of Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.
For complete instructions on how Terese would like you to send your MTG cards for signing, please check her website.
Terese Nielsen P.O. Box 4672 Carson City, NV 89702 USA
How to Send Fan Mail
Sending fan mail is easy. We walk you through the whole process in our comprehensive guide to fan mail that will have you writing letters to your favorite MTG stars in minutes! If you want to get straight to it though, make sure you always include a self addressed stamped envelope, a letter or request, and something to sign at a minimum. Good luck!
October was a great month for autograph collecting! There were some great through the mail (TTM) successes with autographs from Star Trek: Voyager’s Robert Picardo and the cast of Good Trouble to name a few. However, for every TTM autograph I got this month, I probably got two in person, either on the street or at Big Texas Comic Con from actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Tara Strong. A few friends and I also found our way to the set of Fear The Walking Dead near Austin, TX where we met Alexa Nisenson. There were also a few purchases that came in from Taylor Swift and Star Wars: Ronin author Emma Mieko Candon, as well as one failure from Lily Allen who declined to sign autographs while making her West End debut. Enjoy!
After Robert Picardo posted on his Twitter account that he would “gladly offer a free autographed photo to any unvaccinated Star Trek fan who gets a vaccination in the next 7 days”, I decided to reach out to him. I explained that I was already vaccinated, but requested an autograph anyway. I also thanked him for helping to encourage others to get vaccinated. It’s very important that those in the public eye use their influence for the social good as Mr. Picardo did in this instance and telling him that was as much motivation for me to write as was the autograph itself.
Fast forward two months later and I received a reply from him in the mail. He sent both of my index cards back signed and included a small note thanking me for the kind words.
Good Trouble Cast
I sent an email to the “Good Trouble” production office and within only a week or two, received this cast-signed photo!
“Good Trouble” is a show on the Freedom network that follows characters Callie and Mariana as they embark on the next adventure in their lives in Los Angeles. Mariana tackles the male-dominated world of tech, and Callie faces the harsh realities of the legal system as she clerks for a federal judge. After moving to The Coterie in downtown Los Angeles, Callie and Mariana realize that living on their own is not all it’s cracked up to be. Although they have new neighbors, new romances, and new challenges, the sisters must rely on each other to navigate the City of Angels.
Lynette Eklund & Terri Hardin
I wrote to Lynette Eklund for her role on Star Tours. She created the Ackbar puppet used in the Tokyo Disneyland version of the ride. I am currently trying to get autographs from all of the cast and crew that worked on the ride and the ride film which includes both Disney Imagineers and ILM employees and even some more contributors beyond that. Ultimately, I’d like to frame the autographs I’ve collected along with a poster from the ride.
Lynette also did some work for Nintendo which you can check out at Retro Informer.
I contacted Lynette and Terri Hardin around the same time to request their autographs for my Star Tours project. They both know each other as the Ackbar puppet was a joint project between them and after all these years they actually just wrote a book together called Giggling Pumpkins. At the original ride in California, she is credited with designing the “Vomit Seat”. It was a redesigned seat for the ride, better equipped to handle, well, vomit.
Terri also requested a small fee for signing which I was happy to pay.
John Tracy Kidder is an American writer of nonfiction books. He received the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Soul of a New Machine, about the creation of a new computer at Data General Corporation. His book was one of the inspirations for one of my favorite shows, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire.
Jay is a Model Supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic, specializing in hard surface modeling, texture painting and look development. He has worked at ILM for seven years, and has nine years of experience as a modeler. His credits include The Mandalorian, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, Rogue One, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. In addition to his work on feature films, Jay has worked on music videos, commercials, AAA games, and amusement park rides. He is also exploring physically based rendering, VR, game development, and 3D printing outside of work. Be sure to check out the interview I did with him and other Star Wars VFX artists.
I wrote to Mr. Singer due to his work with Hanna-Barbera on classic animated series like Godzilla and Pac-Man. The latter was the first of its kind to take a video game property and turn it into a TV series. It started a larger trend that would grow in the 80’s and really hit its peak in the 90’s. In addition to sending a few index cards to sign, I also sent a Q&A with 5 questions of which he only provided the following answer for one of them.
This month, like every other collector I’ve seen who wrote to Lily Allen during her debut appearance on the West End, I got a note saying that she was unable to sign due to the high volume of requests she received. It’s a bummer considering it seems to be a pretty poor excuse considering she seemingly replied to no one at all. That’s the way it goes sometimes though.
In Person Autographs / Purchases
I met Giancarlo Esposito on 10 October at Big Texas Comic Con here in San Antonio, Texas. I brought him a poster for Far Cry 6 which had only come out three days prior. After pulling out my poster for him to sign, we had some small talk about the game and he mentioned how he had been having fun doing the promotional videos. I also asked him about doing the voice recording and he said he went up to the Ubisoft HQ in Toronto, Canada to record his lines. He mentioned that it had not yet been decorated for the game’s launch at that point, but they did some pretty amazing Far Cry 6 inspired set building inside the Ubisoft HQ.
I also helped a friend get a few items signed, including the Moff Gideon shot from The Mandalorian.
I received these signed index cards from Giancarlo back in January after writing him TTM. They match up nicely with his in person autograph.
Tara was the last guest I saw at Big Texas Comic Con. I almost missed her as by the time I got to her table, they were packing up her table photos as she had a flight to catch. As she was in a rush, I didn’t have too much time to talk, but she signed her name under Miss Minutes and inscribed the character name above it. I was supposed to have Owen Wilson on it already, but he canceled his appearance at Celebrity Fan Fest which was scheduled for July.
Emma Mieko Candon
After seeing the new mini-series Star Wars: Visions that debuted last month on Disney+ it was clear that the first episode “The Duel” was the best by far. Ronin, a new novel by first time author Emma Mieko Candon expands on the 13 minute episode, flushing the story out into a 331 page novel.
The edition that I purchased was signed by Emma. It came with a signed book plate both in kanji on the left hand side and with her first name in the center. At the bottom she also added the following inscription “昔々あるところに”. It’s a common introduction to Japanese fairy tales which translates to “Once upon a time, in a certain place”.
Scott Hanna is an inker for Marvel Comics. I got him on a few books at Big Texas Comic Con. He charged $5 per signature.
Starlin is an American comic book writer and artist, whose career dates back to the early 1970s. Starlin is best known for “cosmic” tales and space opera; for revamping the Marvel Comics characters Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock; and for creating or co-creating the characters Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. He signed some of my comics at Big Texas Comic Con and charged $10 each.
Samantha Kelly and Kenny James
Samantha Kelly and Kenny James, the voices of Peach and Bowser both signed my copy of Super Mario Odyssey and answered some of my questions about the upcoming Super Mario movie which I posted about on Retro Informer.
The TikTok pretty much says it all, but a few friends and I went out searching for a production near Austin, TX and found the set of Fear The Walking Dead by coincidence. We got an autograph from Alexa Nisenson who stars on the show as Charlie. I spotted her on her between takes and asked if she’d be willing to sign some autographs for us. After clearing it with someone, she obliged and signed two for each of us.
Taylor Swift is one of the most prominent artists who sell signed merch. True to form, Taylor offered her fans a chance to grab signed CDs, opening up sales for just a few days. While she has also dabbled in digital autographs, these physical CDs are 100% authentic.
Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai
These cards came courtesy of my friend Joel, a fellow collector of signed Star Wars Galaxy cards. The Galaxy series began in 1993, but new sets are still being released by Topps, including 2021’s Star Wars Galaxy Chrome.
I collect full-size “one sheet” movie posters. They are quite large at 27×40″ or 27×41″ for older ones, so storage can be a challenge. Most people simply keep them in tubes, but it’s better for the poster if you lay it out flat. It also has the added benefit of saving you from having a pile of tubes laying around somewhere.
A few years ago I took all of my posters out of their tubes and moved them to Mylar bags and archival quality backing boards from Bags Unlimited. That solution was definitely a step up, but it was a very expensive solution and not easy to look through. What I really wanted was something similar to Itoya art portfolios, which are essentially the gold standard for print and autograph storage. Unfortunately, they don’t offer anything in a format as large as 27×41″. When it comes to portfolios of that size, really the only game in town is Baroque.
When I decided to pull the trigger and go with Baroque, I ordered a 27 x 41″ portfolio from them in April 2021. However, I didn’t receive it until mid-October. In the meantime, Baroque provided regular updates on shipping delays which stemmed from the cargo ship that carried the container with their portfolios having several delays.
If you would like to buy a Baroque portfolio yourself, you can use this link for a 10% discount. I don’t get a commission, just passing on some savings.
Black durable bi-cast leather exterior (Synthetic / Vegan)
Fully riveted construction for strength & durability
Full zipper enclosure protects your collection from dust and debris
Acid-free paper inserts in each sleeve
Black high strength metal multi-ring binder
Lightweight and easy to carry/transport with the included shoulder strap
Each portfolio includes:20 double-sided oversizedarchival and acid-free polypropylene sleeves sealed on three sides with a pocket size of 27.5 x 41.5 inches
Holds one sheet movie posters, artwork and prints up to 27 x 41 inches in size
Reverse compatible with both our 18 x 24 and 24 x 36 refill packs!
Transport – safely hold up to 25 sleeves (50 prints)
Storage (Flat) – safely hold up to 50 sleeves (100 prints)
Additional sleeve refill packs are sold separately!
Unboxing, Filling The Baroque Portfolio
Despite being out at sea for a month, my portfolio arrived in great condition. It was well packaged with plenty of cardboard, foam, and bubble wrap. It took me a few minutes just to get it all unwrapped and free from the packaging. Though, once you actually get the portfolio out, setup is simple. All that comes inside is a strap to carry the portfolio on your shoulder and 20 sleeves which can accommodate 40 posters. The sleeves are slightly longer than the rings so when you install the sleeves, there should be one empty hole above the top ring and one empty hole below the bottom ring.
Loading posters into the sleeves was easy. You did have to be a little careful to not get the corners of your poster snagged on the edges of the sleeves, but getting them in wasn’t a challenge. The only difficulty I had with installing and filling the sleeves came from the sheer size of the product. It could be a bit of a stretch to reach the opposite end of the portfolio, but that is to be expected and no fault of Baroque’s, just something to be aware of.
The one flaw I did find was with the rings themselves. Unfortunately, they don’t close all the way and even a small gap can cause big problems. When turning these very thin sleeves, they have a tendency to slip out of the rings. Having to readjust your sleeves after every turn of a page is a considerable time sink and makes flipping through your posters on a regular basis something that you are a lot less likely to do.
How to Fix Binder Ring Gaps
A post on the Star Wars Poster Collectors group on Facebook highlighted that gaps in Baroque’s binder rings were a common issue. One solution was to place tubes over the rings to close the gap. I took that idea and decided to use heat shrink tubing to help ensure a tight fit that wouldn’t just create a new problem with sleeves snagging.
I used 3mm heat shrink tubing which can be easily purchased from Amazon. I cut the tubing into 3/4″ segments and covered each ring. I then took a lighter and carefully applied heat to the tubing to shrink it around the ring. It created a tight fit and prevented the sleeves from slipping out when turned. Granted, it didn’t make turning the pages super easy, they are still large and unwieldy, but it was a big improvement and at least the problem of pages slipping out of rings was solved.
I asked Baroque to comment on the issue and their customer service was top notch. They offered to replace the portfolio when the next shipment comes in and told me that they have done so for other customers who have experienced similar problems. If you are experiencing this, you can contact them by email. They had the following to say regarding the issue.
UPDATE: True to their word, Baroque did indeed send me a replacement portfolio 100% free of charge. They didn’t even charge me for shipping. There was no fuss dealing with Baroque’s customer service and they went above and beyond my expectations to do what they could to resolve the issue.
Baroque Portfolio Review
Portfolio Build Quality: 10/10 – The portfolio itself has a very nice feel and appearance thanks to the synthetic leather exterior. It is sturdy and feels like a quality build. This thing is a little heavy, which is where the shoulder strap comes in handy, so while I wouldn’t want to lug it to a convention to add signatures to a poster, I see no reason why it wouldn’t hold up for a trip like that. Ring Build Quality: 4/10 – This is really the Achilles’ heel of the portfolio, which is a shame since it’s probably one of the cheapest components and Baroque could have easily gone for a better function binder ring. However, once you fix the rings with heat shrink tubing, it at least becomes serviceable. Sleeve Quality: 7/10 – The sleeves are made from acid-free polypropylene and contain acid free paper, so they are perfect for archival quality poster storage. My only complaint is them snagging on the rings and the way that the seams are sealed together, which can cause posters’ corners to snag. Storage: 10/10 – This is a great storage solution. I keep mine under a guest bed thanks to its low profile. It can store up to 100 posters if you purchase additional sleeves which makes this pretty future-proof for me. Form Factor: 10/10 – Although flipping through the pages could be easier, I think this is the best solution out there right now. It allows me to look through my collection, easier then I have ever been able to before, especially when everything was in tubes. This portfolio is necessarily large, but it’s made easily portable by the handle and detachable strap. Customer Service: 10/10 – Baroque’s customer service went above and beyond what was required by offering to send me a new portfolio when they come back in stock. You really can’t ask for more than that. Overall: 8/10 – Despite the drawbacks, I am happy with my purchase. At the end of the day, it is a storage solution that will keep my posters safe and will allow me to look through them better than I have before. It’s large capacity and expandability also make it a great choice.
Michael Tomczyk is a futurist, technology pioneer and a leading authority on best practices and strategies for developing/launching radical/disruptive innovations. He is a popular author, speaker, and consultant to corporations and government agencies. However, he is perhaps best known for his early work at Commodore for his role in guiding the development and launch of the first microcomputer to sell one million units. He did this as the Product Manager of the VIC-20, the predecessor to the better known Commodore 64. He authored the 1984 book The Home Computer Wars which compiled his own recollections and impressions of his time working at Commodore.
Michael is also an authority on nanotechnology. He is the author of the 2016 book, NanoInnovation: What Every Manager Needs to Know and during that same year served on the NNI Review Committee (National Academy of Sciences) which reviewed the billion-dollar US National Nanotechnology Initiative, to recommend changes and improvements to this initiative. He has also written book chapters and articles on the future of biosciences, gene therapy, and medical innovations.
I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Tomczyk some questions over email regarding his career, to include some about the development of the VIC-20, his friendship with Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and what he’s been up to in the decades since the VIC-20’s launch.
TFTC: You became hooked on Star Raiders for the Atari 800, which opened your eyes to the possibilities of computers. Did you continue playing games after that?
Tomczyk: In 1979 I was general manager of a company called Metacolor based in San Francisco, that did special graphic effects for Hollywood movies and for Atari video games. To create our graphics we used a modified piece of surplus NASA gear called a Quantizer. Atari made us a beta site for the Atari 600 game computer and my team wouldn’t stop playing a cartridge game called Star Raiders where the player pilots a spaceship while enemy ships keep attacking. Star Raiders was the first video game that had 3D star fields that gave the realistic illusion of traveling through space and allowed objects including enemy spaceships to move toward and away from you. It took me 3 nights to reach the highest level. I recall looking up one morning at 6 a.m. to see a thin shaft of light streaming in through the living room curtains and realized I had been up 3 nights in a row playing this game. I got an average of one hour of sleep each night and realized that I was totally hooked on personal computing.
Star Raiders got me hooked on computing and led me to quit my job to find a way to enter the personal computer industry. I was 31 years old and before this I had been a journalist, a captain in the Army, a management consultant in Beverly Hills, and I had an MBA from UCLA. I started taking computer classes at night to learn to program in BASIC and get familiar with word processors and spreadsheets. One night we had a Commodore PET and the next night an Apple and I became ambidextrous, which gave me some keen insights into the advantages and disadvantages of Commodore and Apple.
My first article after leaving Metacolor was an interview with Doug Neubauer, the creator of Star Raiders who was a chip designer. With one article published, I was able to get interviews with Steve Wozniak and I started hanging around Apple in my spare time.
TFTC: What was your favorite game on the VIC-20 or C64?
Tomczyk: I actually didn’t play many games after I started product-managing the VIC-20. I was busy writing manuals, evaluating games to license and defining the computer features. Jack Tramiel had made me the “VIC Czar” and I was responsible for major decisions affecting the new computer. Sometimes when we were at the office printing out a manual or some assembly code (which took a long time on a dot matrix printer) I would play a “rain” style game – avoiding falling rain – and we all tried to get higher and higher scores.
TFTC:The C64 Mini has brought commodore games back to American homes once again. Were you consulted for its development or have you had a hands-on experience with it?
Tomczyk: I had no involvement with the C64 mini.
Impact of the Video Game Crash on Commodore
TFTC:You left Commodore in 1984, a year after the video game market in the U.S. began to crash. Did that impact Commodore’s sales or were the Vic-20 and C64 completely insulated from that due to them being home computers?
Tomczyk: When Jack Tramiel was ousted from Commodore (by Irving Gould, supported by a group of grey-haired executives who argued that “professional management” was needed) – most of the “family” departed within 6 months. In one week in May 1984, 35 top people left the company – these were what Jack called the “family” – the trusted insiders who understood his tough business philosophy which he called “the religion.” As soon as Jack departed, the remaining Commodore executives, who did not understand the concept of a full-spectrum product line, started dismantling and disabling the home computer line including cancelling products like the Commodore 364 which was announced but never produced, and the Plus 4 which had built in software but was not supported.
My contribution as Marketing Strategist – which was part of my official job title – was to help Jack develop a full spectrum product line including 1) the VIC-20, the low-end entry level computer that poor families, elementary schools and virtually anyone could afford, 2) the Commodore PET developed in 1976 that was a favorite in schools, and 3) the Commodore Business Machine (CBM) which was a business-capable personal computer. This set up a progression where a Commodore customer would get into our computers in grade school, graduate to a PET in middle and high school, and move up to a CBM in college or business.
When Jack left Commodore his culture of innovation left with him and the product line lost its cohesion. Also, the grey-haired executives who took over were cliched business managers who saw that R&D was the largest cost center so to reduce expenses they started downsizing R&D staff and projects at exactly the time when R&D needed to be increased – it was a fatal error.
Speaking at VCF East
TFTC:You were one of the keynote speakers at VCF East, scheduled for October 8, 9 & 10th. Which other speaker were you looking forward to hearing from the most?
Tomczyk: At VCF I had a chance to spend a few hours with Scott Adams, who is still a great friend after all these decades. When I desperately needed games for the VIC20 I called Scott and asked if he could port over half a dozen games to help us launch the computer. His text based games didn’t use much memory and were perfect. We sold them on cartridges and they helped launch the computer. Scott and I stay in touch on Facebook and it was great catching up in person.
I also had dinner and spent time chatting with Bill Mensch, a true guru who designed the 6800 Motorola chip and 6502 chip – Bill and I had a great time catching up and he said he was kind of surprised to learn about all the things that happened behind the scenes at Commodore that many people, even Commodore insiders, never really knew about.
Friendship with Woz and Steve Jobs
TFTC: You were friends with both Steve Jobs and Woz how did your friendship start?
Tomczyk: My first Apple article was a review of an 80 column add-on board for the Apple II, which had a 40 column display. I interviewed Woz and Andy Herzfeld, and met Jobs. After that I started hanging out at Apple, mostly sitting at Woz’s cubicle which was right behind the main entrance. One day I was chatting with Jobs and Wozniak and I said, “Hey, I’m not doing this for my health, I’m looking for a job in the industry” to which Jobs replied, “Ok, Michael. Go in the cafeteria, look at the job requisitions posted on the board, pick something you’re qualified for and we’ll hire you for that.” I looked at the job requisitions but they all looked so sterile and official, on pre-printed forms, and Apple also required me to sign in when I visited even though everyone knew me and I had the notion that Apple was kind of bureaucratic.
I also felt that I had to choose one of the “three bears” in personal computing. Apple was the papa bear. They had too many geniuses. Atari was baby bear. They didn’t have enough geniuses. I got an interview with Conrad Jutson VP of Consumer Electronics at Atari and was offered a job as Director of Software. Jutson said he felt computers were going to be like stereo systems. Atari really WAS the baby bear – most people don’t realize that Atari LOST more than a billion dollars in five years. They were not well managed.
Commodore was “mama bear.” Commodore had half idiots and half geniuses. So I got myself an interview with Jack Tramiel at Commodore’s offices in Santa Clara, CA. I told Jack about 20 things that I felt were screwed up that I could help fix – bad PR, poor user group relations, 1940s style packaging, essentially no advertising—to name a few. Jack hired me as Assistant to the President and Marketing Strategist.
Apple and Gaming
TFTC: Steve and Woz both got their start working on arcade games for Atari and Woz later held a record high score for the Game Boy version of Tetris. Did video games ever come up in your conversations?
Tomczyk: I never discussed the development of the Apple computers or their involvement in video games with the two Steves. After leaving Commodore I used Apple computers mostly and at one point got hooked on a great Apple game called Mech Warrior which places the player inside a large robot that looks like the giant robots in the Transformers movies. Today there are robot prototypes that are operated by human pilots, and several types of exoskeletons that are essentially wearable robots. I talk about these in the new innovation book I just completed.
One interesting thing that happened while I was chatting with Jobs and Woz in early 1980, Apple’s president Mike Markulla came up to Woz and asked a question about something on a system software entry which was extremely technical and surprised me that the CEO was that much into the software.
Additionally, Woz and I were friendly and chatted during computer trade shows, after I joined Commodore. I also knew Bill Gates and we were friendly and also chatted at trade shows. Later I got to know Adam Osborne and Clive Sinclair, all true gurus and wonderfully charming, intelligent and friendly. Steve Jobs never forgave me for joining Commodore instead of Apple and he never spoke to me at computer events, even when I walked up to him, he turned his back on me! He was not a particularly friendly guy.
Tomczyk and Commodore
Starting Out at Commodore
TFTC: What were those early days like working at Commodore?
Tomczyk: My first day was in London around April 1—I flew to London sitting next to Chuck Peddle, Commodore’s Chief Engineer and a true computer guru. Chuck told me what I needed to succeed in a very tough business environment. He told me a meeting with Jack was called a Jack Attack because Jack was so tough on everyone. I said I don’t care about that because I had been a consultant to some very tough CEOs and in the Army I worked mostly for tough general officers. In London I made friends with Commodore’s general managers in Canada, Germany, the UK and Japan. Tony Tokai (Japan) and Kit Spencer (UK) and I especially hit it off.
At the meeting, Chuck Peddle presented a new color computer shaped exactly like the Apple II – the form factor was identical. Jack said he preferred to launch a small introductory computer first. He knew that a young engineer named Bob Yannes had developed a prototype based on a chip developed by our MOS Technology subsidiary in Valley Forge. During the debate about which computer to produce first – the Apple II style “ColorPet” or the small home computer – most of the 20-plus people at the meeting argued for the ColorPet. I argued passionately for the intro computer because we needed it to fill out our product line and provide an affordable path to the other computers. Kit Spencer and Tony Tokai joined me in making this case. Jack had left the meeting and the next day he came back, listened to all the arguments on both sides, then stood up, banged his fist on the table and declared, “Gentlemen, the Japanese are coming – so WE will become the Japanese!” Everyone had to buy his logic because he was right.
Becoming “Japanese” had more meaning than anyone realized at the time, because Chuck Peddle didn’t want to develop the new computer, he had several contentious exchanges with Jack and wound up leaving the company several weeks later, along with some key engineers. Yash Terakura and the Japanese engineering team had to do a lot of the work to make the new computer.
Building the VIC-20
For me personally, the next few weeks were like a whirlwind. After London we went to Germany and asked the government for some concessions so we could take over a failing electronics plant, to make Commodore computers for Europe. I was in the meetings. The Germans said, “Why should we give you concessions?” to which Jack replied, “You owe it to me – I’m an Auschwitz survivor” – then he added – “Besides, it will be great PR for you.” They accepted his logic and gave us the plant which was in Braunschweig, West Germany.
I asked Jack if he held resentment toward the Germans to which he replied, “The German people didn’t kill the Jews. The rules killed the Jews. Germans always follow the rules and if the rules are made by madmen, they still follow the rules.” Another time I asked him how he dealt with the memories of Auschwitz and he immediately replied, “I live in the future.”
After we got back to California Jack asked me to check out the Marketing Department which I had criticized in my first interview. I interviewed 12 people in the department and reported my findings to Jack. One day I came back from lunch and the marketing offices were empty. I asked the secretary where they were and the secretary said, “Jack fired them all just before lunch.”
I scrambled to Jack’s office and said, “Jack, what did you do?” to which he replied, “You said you hated our Marketing Department, so I fired them.” Talk about a guilt trip. I had to admit that they deserved to go, however. A few days later he announced that I would be serving as temporary US Director of Marketing. “You hire a new Marketing Department, who you think we need, and I’ll hire a Marketing Vice President. We’ll divide up the tasks like that,” Jack told me. This was only my THIRD WEEK with the company.
Becoming the “VIC Czar”
The best known story about how I was put in charge of the VIC-20 involves my famous memo. I wrote a long single spaced memo and put a happy face with a beard and mustache on the cover and tossed it on Jack’s desk. “What’s this?” he asked. “That’s everything that needs to be done with the new computer. Make sure whoever’s in charge does all these things.” A week later Jack threw my memo back on my desk. “What’s this?” I asked. “That’s everything that needs to be done with the new computer. I told everyone that nothing gets done on the new computer without your approval, but none of the people involved reports to you so you’ll have to do this mostly by persuasion.” I told him I could do that.
I wound up giving the VIC-20 it’s name, set the price at $299.95, forced engineering to use full size typewriter style keys instead of a flat membrane and after a visit to Japan where I saw a prototype (from NEC) with programmable function keys, I added function keys to the VIC-20. I also asked Jack if I could be VIC Product Manager and he said, “I don’t believe in product managers.” “So what can I be?” I asked. At this time we had a gas shortage and the President had appointed an Energy Czar. Jack smiled and said, “You can be VIC Czar.” “Can I put that on my business card?” I asked. He nodded. And the rest is history.
The VIC-20 was introduced as the VIC-1001 in Japan at Seibu Department Store in September 1980. I had been working very closely with Tony Tokai and I was there for the launch. I recruited a product team I called the VIC Commandos. Our motto became Benutzefreundlichkeit which means User Friendliness in German. I licensed a half dozen Adventure games from Scott Adams and bought some other games such as Jupiter Lander from hobbyist programmers.
The VIC-20 was introduced at the January CES Show in the US. It became the first full-featured color home computer and the first microcomputer to sell 1 million units. I became known as the “marketing father” of the home computer.
Commodore in Popular Culture
Commodore’s Lasting Impact
TFTC:In John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) the Vic-20 was shown to provide security through obsolescence, for a secret organization of assassins. What are your thoughts about the computer’s continued presence in popular culture?
Tomczyk: I keynoted the Vintage Computer Festival East in October and several people told me they are still using VIC-20s for various functions, which surprised me. Of course hobbyists and retro computing enthusiasts in many countries keep their VIC20s and Commodore 64s up and running. I am also gratified (and humbled) to receive one or two emails or chat messages EVERY MONTH from someone, somewhere in the world thanking me for fighting to get this computer made, because it changed their lives.
Commodore and William Shatner
TFTC: When you showed Shatner the Vic-20, did he try out Star Trek and if so, what was his reaction?
Tomczyk: I was at the first Shatner TV ad shoot in New York and Shatner was friendly, cordial, warm, professional and cool. We sat next to each other during lunch and he told me he should have been a technology spokesperson after Star Trek, instead of becoming a spokesperson for margarine! Actually the VIC20 wasn’t connected to the monitor in the photos of us together because to get a clean screen image we had to do a different type of video feed to the monitor to avoid scan lines. I hold the distinction of being the first person to actually show Bill Shatner a real computer because the Star Trek TV series computers were fake. Also, Bill was so impressed by how we described home computing that he wanted a system so we gave him a CBM computer system and I believe that’s what he used to write his first scripts and novels. We had a CBM delivered to his home with someone to show him how to use the software.
Two years ago I asked Bill’s assistant if he would autograph a photo of him and me and Bill invited me to send several photos – he signed three. I kept one for my wall, sold one, and am keeping one for the future.
A couple of months ago I sent a message telling Bill that I’m dedicating my new innovation book to him and included the dedication page. He sent me an email back that began “Thank you for your excellence!” That was very touching. I am totally blown away by how “fan friendly” Bill has remained over the decades, and he even made a trip to the edge of space. He feels obligated to keep promoting space travel and also promotes green energy and climate control which he feels are not incompatible. I feel a similar obligation to keep innovating and I’m still pioneering new technologies because it’s an obligation, I think.
TFTC: While working for Metacolor, I read the company used “NASA space technology to do special effects for motion pictures”, like Logan’s Run. Can you elaborate on that and talk about which effects you worked on?
Tomczyk: NASA apparently had a piece of surplus gear called a Quantizer that converts black and white images to color and can layer colors, which the founder of Metacolor adapted to create creative graphics for movies and video games.
The C64 Community Today
TFTC: The C64 has a vibrant community of enthusiasts who update the system with mods like USB ports and Raspberry Pi based floppy emulators. Do you keep an eye on how your computers are being used today?
Tomczyk: I am the co-moderator (with Dave McMurthie) of the International Commodore Historical Society on Facebook and also associated with VIGAMUS the Videogame Museum in Rome. I stay connected with several retro computing groups and collectors, and I try to make items available now and then from my own collection, to preserve and archive them.
The VIC Modem
TFTC: You helped develop the first modem to sell over a million units. How would you describe the pre-internet CompuServe experience to younger readers who really only know the internet as it is today?
Tomczyk: In 1981 we were getting swamped by customer service calls, mostly from users, so I thought if we could connect user groups on CompuServe, AOL or the Source (the first telecomputing services which were like pre-Internet communities) then users could help each other. Our engineers were too busy to design a modem so I contracted a small industrial modem company and told them it had to cost less than $33 so we could retail it for $99. The key was to make it affordable just like we made the VIC20 affordable.
One night I came back from a convention in Las Vegas and the engineers were sitting in front of my hotel room door. It was past midnight. “We can’t get it under $33” they said. They showed me a drawing of an acoustic modem. “Why can’t we do a direct connect modem and put it on a large plus in cartridge, like a video game cartridge?” I sketched something on a notepad. They kind of screamed “Eureka!” and scrambled down the hall like a bunch of meerkats. The result is the Commodore VICModem – first modem priced under $100, first to sell 1 million units. Then I negotiated free computing time which totaled almost $200 in free service, and put a sticker on the box advertising that. I also trademarked the phrase “The Friendly Computer” and put it on boxes, in ads and on a poster I asked an artist to design. I still have that poster and made a few copies for collectors which have been very popular.
Commodore For Learning Programming
TFTC: When it comes to learning programming, do you think that the VIC-20 with BASIC so central to its operation is still a viable tool for introducing programming to young learners?
Tomczyk: Today I think it’s interesting that so many retro computing fans keep working with vintage Commodore computers. While programming was essential to operating the first home computers, software has evolved so far that we now have user interfaces that do not require programming, per se. Today most apps are written with development apps and tools rather than programmed from scratch.
Of course, we still use spreadsheets and word processors and those are pretty much unchanged except now our data and files are portable thanks to the Cloud and wireless telecom. My smartphone is my favorite device and I use it for everything I used to do on my laptop.
Michael Tomczyk Today
TFTC: You are also known for being a futurist, where do you see technology going?
Tomczyk: I talk about emerging technologies that are giving us the powers that used to be reserved for gods, in my new book, which I just completed.
I think we’ve gone FAR beyond home computing and computing as it was originally developed, in standalone devices. We are now in the era of convergence. The cloud has made the Internet a computing base. The Internet of Things links devices with computing. Elon Musk is developing Neuralink to integrate computers with the human brain. Humanoid robots exist today and they are being designed to look and talk like real people. We have so much bandwidth and speed now that we have handheld devices that can translate dozens of languages like devices we used to see in science fiction movies. Autonomous vehicles are actually robot vehicles with computers connected to the Cloud that can navigate virtually anywhere and adapt to a variety of situations. Nanotechnology allows us to use atoms and molecules like LEGO building blocks – I wrote a book on Nanotech in 2015 (NanoInnovation: What Every Manager Needs to Know) published by Wiley VCH. Computers have also allowed us to map the Human Genome and carried us to a point where we can now edit genes to cure disease.
Our cell phones have morphed into futuristic devices. We use our phones to take pictures more than we use cameras. Who would have predicted or guessed that would happen? We are all videographers now, and we are all cartoonists, using emojis and bitmojis. There is more computing power in our phones than supercomputers had a couple of decades ago.
Recently at my Vintage Computing Festival presentation, I held up a tiny jump drive on my keychain that is half an inch long and holds a TERABYTE of data! I joked that if you swallowed this little jump drive by accident, you could choke on a Terabyte. That’s a scary thought.
Fintech Corporation IPO
TFTC: You have said you adopted Jack’s mantra, to “live in the future?” and you use that phrase to justify your lifelong involvement in emerging technologies. What are you doing now in that space?
Tomczyk: Today I am on the senior management team and a founding member of the board of directors of Fintech Ecosystem Development Corporation. On 19 October 2021, we went public with an IPO and NASDAQ listing (stock symbol: FEXDU). We are bringing a variety of innovations to emerging economies such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Brazil, etc. as well as to the U.S. and other industrialized markets. This venture involves a great deal of radical innovation, multitasking, negotiation, and business-building—which are my strong points I think.
Join Robinhood with my link and we’ll both get a free stock 🤝
I got in touch with three veteran Star Wars visual effects (VFX) artists to ask them about working on Star Wars and the role of VFX. Their work spans much of the Star Wars’ history going back to Empire Strikes Back and going right up to the present day.
Trent Claus is a visual effects supervisor at Lola VFX. A visual effects supervisor leads the effort to translate a director or producer’s vision to the screen through the use of visual effects. Trent has worked on over 120 films, with 20 from the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone. His work for Marvel includes: Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Endgame. Also, his stunning VFX work can be seen on The Mandalorian, Blade Runner- The Final Cut, and Prometheus.
Credits Black Widow (visual effects supervisor: Lola Visual Effects) WandaVision (TV Mini Series) (visual effects supervisor) The Mandalorian (TV Series) (visual effects supervisor – 2 episodes) It Chapter Two (compositor – uncredited) Spider-Man: Far from Home (compositor) Avengers: Endgame (visual effects supervisor: Lola VFX) Captain Marvel (visual effects supervisor: Lola VFX) Ant-Man and the Wasp (visual effects supervisor: Lola VFX) Solo: A Star Wars Story (compositor)
Jay is a Model Supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic, specializing in hard surface modeling, texture painting and look development. He has worked at ILM for seven years, and has nine years of experience as a modeler. His credits include The Mandalorian, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, Rogue One, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. In addition to his work on feature films, Jay has worked on music videos, commercials, AAA games, and amusement park rides. He is also exploring physically based rendering, VR, game development, and 3D printing outside of work.
Credits The Mandalorian (TV series) (Model Supervisor) Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (Video Game) (Lead Hard Surface Modeler) Transformers: The Last Night (Hard Surface Modeler) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Hard Surface Modeler) Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (Hard Surface Modeler) Transformers: Age of Extinction (Hard surface Modeler) Noah (Creature Modeler)
Dave Carson is an extremely talented artist who has held many different roles on multiple films within the Star Wars saga. He is an artist who started working on storyboards, transitioned to work in the Creature Shop as a sculptor, and eventually went on to be a visual effects supervisor at a time when computer effects were just beginning to make an appearance in film. His work has left a lasting mark on so many of the movies we love. From his start on The Empire Strikes Back to bringing the Gamorrean Guards to life in Return of the Jedi, he also worked on Star Tours and the Special Editions.
Credits Jurassic Park (digital artist – as David Carson) Hook (computer graphics) Willow (visual effects art director: ILM) Star Tours (Short) (storyboard artist: ILM – uncredited) / (visual effects supervisor: ILM – uncredited) The Goonies (visual effects art director: ILM – as David Carson) Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (visual effects art director – as David Carson) Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (visual effects supervisor – special version) Dragonslayer (dragon set designer: ILM) Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (model maker: miniature and optical effects unit) Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (visual effects supervisor: ILM – 1997 special version)
VFX Artists Q & A
How do you see the relationship between VFX and practical effects and where do you see that going in the future?
Trent Claus – The relationship between practical and digital effects is a collaboration and partnership – in the end, they are all effects trying to fool the viewer into believing in the reality of the story. The goal of the filmmaker should always be to pick the best tool for each particular challenge.
Jay Machado – Despite huge leaps forward in quality, CG VFX still work best when blended with practical effects. It isn’t just about realism anymore because CG has reached a pretty realistic look, but also audience taste. Practical effects have a certain character to them that audiences still enjoy even if it doesn’t look real which is why the puppet of Grogu is so beloved and so much effort was put into the CG version to match the motion of the puppet. Stagecraft has really facilitated that blend of practical and CG with practical props and set pieces in the foreground and digital backgrounds that not only provide actors with context and improve their performance and the quality of lighting on them but also allows us to get final shots in camera in a way that wasn’t possible before. It’s been an amazing technology to be involved with and really makes the future of movies and TV very exciting.
David Carson– I think the industry is learning that certain effects are best done in the computer, others as practical, others as high-speed miniatures, etc. And the blending of effects and live action is becoming more powerful with the introduction of on-set LED screens.
What kinds of assets do you enjoy working with the most for the show?
Trent Claus – Like many, I not only worked on the show, but was also a fan. So working with anything is always exciting!
Jay Machado – Spaceships! My career has really been so awesome because I’ve had the privilege of working on so many iconic spaceships from Star Wars. I’ve always loved spaceships in general and the legacy of Star Wars ships has always been fascinating to me. It’s been fun to work on them in a modern context because it’s a perfect mix of upholding that legacy, faithfully recreating the look and feel of those old filming miniatures and adding details to them to add to the realism and scale of them. Even new designs like the Razorcrest were super fun to be involved with. I really enjoy texturing these assets as well. The “lived in universe” of Star Wars and all the rusty, oily, grimy surfaces are super fun to paint.
David Carson– I’m retired now, but back when I was working I liked all of it. Practical, storyboards, sculpting, concept art – everything. I was very lucky to have a chance to work with all of those disciplines during my career.
Are there any unique challenges when working on a Star Wars property?
Trent Claus – There are always challenges on any project, but certainly one that can’t be overlooked with Star Wars is the exacting detail that fans scrutinize the work. Always keeps everyone on their toes!
Jay Machado – There is an aesthetic to Star Wars that I’ve seen people struggle with, but I think my close relationship with Star Wars from my childhood fascination to all of the research I’ve done on the subject in terms of what model kit parts were used in the original miniatures have really helped me understand it. As I mentioned before we do need to add realism and scale to some of the classic designs of the miniatures, often because the miniatures themselves are small and we need to see them up close. Finding that balance of adding detail and areas of rest is challenging. There’s a temptation to add more and more but it’s easy to get into Transformers territory in terms of complexity. Areas of rest are important, and that goes for texture painting as well!
David Carson- George [Lucas] was usually willing to spend what it took to get the work done. He was very money-conscious, but he knew where the money needed to be spent. The hardest things was knowing that the films were so popular and people had very high expectations
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you’ve probably thought about what it would be like to talk to one of the actors from The Wizarding World. Unfortunately, some of the cast can be quite elusive and as you’re not likely to run into them on the street, you have likely considered fan mail as the best option. Thankfully, many of the actors from the films have been very good at responding to fan mail over the years.
Writing fan mail is a great way to reach out to people who you admire or otherwise inspire you. It’s simple and anyone can get started in minutes if they read our guide on how to write fan mail and request autographs through the mail (TTM). Your chances are very good of getting a response from the MCU’s many visual effects artists or the writers who make it what it is, but if you choose to reach for the stars, you may find success there as well. While you’re at it, print out some photos and make sure to request an autograph too!
Fan Favorite Harry Potter Signers
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
Surprisingly Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, is one of the best through the mail (TTM) autograph signers among the whole cast. Although he is more likely to send out a pre-signed photo rather than signing the items that you send, he does give fans authentic autographs, and we all love him for it. After Harry Potter, Daniel played lawyer Arthur Kipps in the horror film The Woman in Black (2012); poet Allen Ginsberg in the film Kill Your Darlings (2013); the title character’s assistant, Igor, in the science fiction fantasy Victor Frankenstein (2015); Manny, a sentient corpse in the comedy-drama Swiss Army Man (2016); technological prodigy Walter Mabry in the heist thriller film Now You See Me 2 (2016); and FBI agent Nate Foster in the critically acclaimed thriller Imperium (2016).
Daniel Radcliffe Artists Rights Group Ltd (ARG) 4A Exmoor Street London W10 6BD United Kingdom
Miriam Margolyes (Professor Pomona Sprout)
Miriam treats her fans very well and is a dependable signer TTM. In addition to her work on Harry Potter, she won a BAFTA Award for her role in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993).
Miriam Margolyes United Agents Ltd. 12-26 Lexington Street London, W1F 0LE UK
Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell)
Harry Potter fans have come to appreciate Professor Quirrell actor Ian Hart for his dedication to fans. He is a dependable signer who happily signs the items that you send him. He is best known for his roles as Rabbit in the Channel Four drama miniseries One Summer (1983), Joe O’Reilly in the biopic Michael Collins (1996), Professor Quirrell in the fantasy film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Kester Gill in the E4 series My Mad Fat Diary (2013–2015), and Father Beocca in the Netflix series The Last Kingdom (2015–2020).
Ian Hart Artists Rights Group Ltd (ARG) 4A Exmoor Street London W10 6BD United Kingdom
John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick)
An English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer, John Cleese experienced fame long before Harry Potter. That has never kept him from being good to his fans though. Emerging from the Cambridge Footlights in the 1960s, he first achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Along with his Python co-stars Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, Cleese starred in Monty Python films, which include Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979) and The Meaning of Life (1983).
John Cleese c/o Creative Artists Agency (CAA) 2000 Avenue Of The Stars Los Angeles, CA 90067 USA
Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley)
Another actor that fans can always count on is Fiona Shaw. She is an Irish actress and theatre and opera director. She is known for her roles as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter film series (2001–2010), Marnie Stonebrook in the fourth season of the HBO series True Blood (2011), and Carolyn Martens in the BBC series Killing Eve (2018–present).
Fiona Shaw c/o Another Tongue 10/11 D’Arblay Street London W1F 8DS United Kingdom
Harry Potter Fan Mail Addresses A-B
Adrian Rawlins c/o East Riding Theatre 10 Lord Roberts Road Beverley HU17 9BE United Kingdom
Afshan Azad Desser & Company Ltd. 5 Bradstone Road Cheetham Manchester M8 8PS United Kingdom
Alfred Enoch Independent Talent Group Ltd 40 Whitfield Street London W1T 2RH United Kingdom
Andy Linden Komedia Entertainment Antrams 44-46 Old Steine Brighton East Sussex BN1 1NH United Kingdom
Anna Shaffer c/o MOT Models, The Stables, Ashlyns Hall, Chesham Road, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 2ST, United Kingdom
Arben Bajraktaraj Zona Talent Agency Skenderija 44 / IV 71000 Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina
Benedict Clarke T T A PO Box 860, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 9BR United Kingdom
Bertie Gilbert Matthew Harvey MHA 12-26 Lexington Street London W1F 0LE United Kingdom
Bonnie Wright c/o Next London Ground Floor Blocks B and C Morelands Building 5-23 Old Street London EC1V 9HL United Kingdom
Brendan Gleeson c/o Next London Ground Floor Blocks B and C Morelands Building 5-23 Old Street London EC1V 9HL United Kingdom
Bronson Webb c/o Sainou 14 City Lofts 112-116 Tabernacle Street London EC2A 4LE United Kingdom
Harry Potter Fan Mail Addresses C-D
Carolyn Pickles c/o The Joneses 2 Percy Street Fitzrovia London, W1T 1DD United Kingdom
Charles Hughes c/o The Joneses 2 Percy Street Fitzrovia London, W1T 1DD United Kingdom
Charlotte Skeoch c/o Andromeda Talent Unit 33066 PO Box 6945 London W1A 6US United Kingdom
Chris Rankin c/o Andromeda Talent Unit 33066 PO Box 6945 London W1A 6US United Kingdom
Christian Coulson c/o Coolwaters Productions 10061 Riverside Drive #531 Toluca Lake, CA 91602-2560
Ciarán Hinds 28 Cabul Road London, SW11 2PN United Kingdom
Clémence Poésy IMG Paris 20 rue de la Baume 7th Floor 75008 Paris France
Daniel Radcliffe Artists Rights Group Ltd (ARG) 4A Exmoor Street London W10 6BD United Kingdom
Danielle Tabor Colina Management 164 Windsor Drive, Chelsfield, Kent BR6 6HQ United Kingdom
Daphne de Beistegui Flat 1 22 Royal Crescent London W11 4SL United Kingdom
David Bradley c/o United Agents 12-26 Lexington Street London W1F 0LE United Kingdom
David O’Hara Industry Entertainment 955 South Carrillo Dr. Suite 300 Los Angeles, CA 90048
David Tennant Independent Talent Group Ltd 40 Whitfield Street London W1T 2RH United Kingdom
David Thewlis Shepherd Management 3rd Floor Joel House 17-21 Garrick Street London WC2E 9BL United Kingdom
Dawn French c/o United Agents 12-26 Lexington Street London W1F 0LE United Kingdom
Devon Murray Julian Benson Management The Production Suite 26 Upper Pembroke Street Dublin 2 Ireland
Domhnall Gleeson The Agency 25 Leeson Street Lower Dublin 2 D02 XD77 Ireland
Harry Potter Fan Mail Addresses E-F
Edward Randell c/o The Swingle Singers LLP Kemp House 152-160 City Road London EC1 2NX United Kingdom
Elarica Johnson c/o Public Eye Communications Ltd N303, Fulham Uncommon 126 New Kings Road London, SW6 4LZ United Kingdom
Eleanor Columbus 2622 Jackson St San Francisco, CA 94115-1123
Ellie Darcey-Alden Elev8 489 S. Robertson Blvd. Suite 206 Beverly Hills, CA 90211 USA
Emma Thompson c/o Hamilton Hodell 20 Golden Square London W1F 9JL United Kingdom
Emma Watson c/o Creative Artists Agency (CAA) 2000 Avenue Of The Stars Los Angeles, CA 90067 USA
Eric Sykes c/o Norma Farnes 9 Orme St London W24RL United Kingdom
Eva Alexander MR Management 67 Great Titchfield Street London W1W 7PT United Kingdom
Evanna Lynch c/o Independent Talent Group 40 Whitfield Street London W1T 2RH United Kingdom
Fiona Shaw c/o Aitken Alexander Associates 291 Gray’s Inn Road Kings Cross London WC1X 8QJ United Kingdom
Frances de la Tour SueTerryVoices 4th Floor, 35 Great Marlborough Street London W1F 7JF United Kingdom
Frank Dillane c/o Michelle Braidman Associates Ltd. 2 Futura House 169 Grange Road London SE1 3BN United Kingdom
Freddie Stroma c/o Waring and McKenna 17 South Molton St London W1K 5QT United Kingdom
Harry Potter Fan Mail Addresses H-I
Heather Bleasdale c/o The Artists Partnership 21-22 Warwick Street London W1B 5NE United Kingdom
Hebe Beardsall c/o Conway Van Gelder Grant Ltd 3rd Floor 8-12 Broadwick Street London W1F 8HW United Kingdom
Helena Barlow c/o United Agents 12-26 Lexington Street London W1F 0LE United Kingdom
Helena Bonham Carter c/o Conway Van Gelder Grant Ltd 3rd Floor 8-12 Broadwick Street London W1F 8HW United Kingdom
Henry Lloyd-Hughes SueTerryVoices 4th Floor, 35 Great Marlborough Street London W1F 7JF United Kingdom
Hero Fiennes Tiffin c/o Storm Models, 1st Floor, 5 Jubilee Place, Chelsea, London SW3 3TD United Kingdom
Ian Hart Artists Rights Group Ltd (ARG) 4A Exmoor Street London W10 6BD United Kingdom
Ian Kelly c/o 42 Management & Productions Ltd Palladium House 1-4 Argyll Street London, W1F 7TA United Kingdom
Imelda Staunton Artists Rights Group Ltd (ARG) 4A Exmoor Street London W10 6BD United Kingdom
Isabella Laughland c/o Bespoke Voice Agency Third Floor, 8/12 Broadwick Street London, W1F 8HW United Kingdom
I previously covered the emerging trend of artists like Taylor Swift and Camila Cabello who are promoting digital autographs as a marketing tool to help sell digital downloads. By switching up their standard cover art used for a song or album with a digitally signed version, they can effectively sell the same music over and over again by effectively just changing up the packaging.
Even celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger have embraced the trend and have been known to use digital autographs as a way to connect with fans online. However, it is very hard for many autograph collectors to understand the appeal of buying a digital autograph. But if it was hard to wrap your head around paying $5 for Taylor’s infinitely reproducible digital signature before, then autograph collectors should prepare to have their minds blown with the way the trend is escalating with the introduction of autographs into the fledgling market for non-fungible tokens (NFT).
What is an Autograph NFT?
To understand what an autograph NFT is, you have to get familiar with a few concepts. NFTs themselves have only recently come into the popular consciousness. Even more recently than that, autograph NFTs have arrived as the result of two trends. The first being the aforementioned trend of artists and celebrities creating digital signatures, which has collided with a second trend, and one of this year’s most popular buzzwords—”blockchain”. A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger. It’s the technology that makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work.
Blockchain isn’t just for crypto though, it’s also what makes NFT possible. An NFT is represented by data stored on a blockchain and is a unique digital asset that is not interchangeable. NFTs are often thought of as pictures, but can be used to represent a number of different items including: photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files. Therefore, an autograph NFT is a digital asset, usually a picture, that has been autographed with a digital signature.
Just as the speculative market has driven the price of cryptocurrencies “to the moon”, so has it skyrocketed the value of NFTs. Perhaps the first notable sale of an autograph NFT was that of billionaire Twitter founder Jack Dorsey who put up for sale a signed NFT version of his first ever tweet. It received offers as high as $2.5 million. No doubt seeing an opportunity for quick and easy money, many have seized on the new medium as an opportunity to cash in as others have already done.
Autograph.io Wants to Make Digital Autographs a Thing
One trendsetter in the field of digital autograph NFTs is Tom Brady, who founded the company Autograph to sell this unique commodity. Through his company, Brady has enlisted famous athletes like Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. According to Autograph, the Los Angeles-based company is an NFT platform that brings together the most iconic brands and legendary names in sports, entertainment and culture to create unique digital collections and experiences.
Autograph’s Board of Advisors
Brian Grazer (CEO & Chairman, Imagine Entertainment)
Dawn Ostroff (CCO/CABO, Spotify)
Derek Jeter (Executive, Philanthropist, National Baseball HOF Inductee)
Eva Longoria Baston (Actress, Producer, Director)
Jason Robins (CEO & Co-Founder, DraftKings)
Jon Feltheimer (CEO, Lionsgate)
Matt Kalish (President & Co-Founder, DraftKings)
Michael Rapino (CEO, Live Nation)
Naomi Osaka (Athlete & Artist)
Paul Liberman (President & Co-Founder, DraftKings)
Tiger Woods (15 Major Championships, 82 PGA Tour Wins – Tied for Most All-Time, 2022 World Golf HOF Inductee)
Tony Hawk (Legendary Skateboarder, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist)
Wayne Gretzky (The NHL’s All-Time Leader in Points, Goals and Assists)
Tiger Woods Signs for Tom Brady’s Company Autograph
Posting on his Facebook page, Tiger Woods shared a video of him using a tablet and stylus to sign 287 photos that would then be turned into NFTs. According to Autograph’s website, the autograph NFTs will be released in waves called “drops” which feature four tiers of rarity: Ruby Premier (unsigned with 375 editions at $100 each), Emerald (signed with 50 editions at $500 each), Sapphire (signed with 25 editions at $750 each), and Ruby (signed with 12 editions at $1500 each).
Shakira Sells Signed NFTs & Prints
Colombian pop-star Shakira also decided to get into the NFT game by collaborating with Kode Abdo(AKA Bosslogic) who is a graphic designer and digital concept artist based in Australia. Together they created GIF-style animations of the music icon to raise funds for environmental causes and Shakira’s personal charity The Barefoot Foundation. These short animations are backed by audio tracks created by Shakira. While the NFTs she had on offer via Makersplace don’t appear to have an autograph from the pictures shown, their site does state that each asset is a “signed and limited edition digital creation”. Additionally, some buyers were given signed physical prints to accompany their digital assets.
According to Makersplace, these NFTs will also have several editions similar to what Autograph is offering with their autograph NFTs. Winners of the 1/1 auctions will receive a one-of-a-kind signed artist proof of their purchased work. Each collector of a limited edition will be entered into a raffle to win a one-of-a-kind signed artist proof of their purchased work. Collectors may purchase additional editions to increase their chance of winning the artist proof. Furthermore, collectors who purchase all four artworks will receive a set of signed, physical prints (size 18 x 24 in).
Broader Digital Autograph Trends
Topps’ Digital Autographs
The fact that digital autographs are moving into the NFT space and that there are uncanny similarities to digital trading cards should come as no surprise. While not NFTs, Topps has been offering digital trading cards for many years now. Their digital offerings mirrored their physical releases with parallels and numbered cards to create artificial scarcity. Of course, the digital sets have long including digital autograph cards as well. Therefore, when Autograph and Makersplace use colored and numbered editions to create scarcity, they are simply drawing from the playbook of trading card companies.
Panini’s Digital Autographs
Panini is a trading card company like Topps, but their digital autograph offerings are something of a mix between those offered by Topps and Autograph. Similar to Topps, Panini offers digital versions of their autographed trading cards. What distinguishes them is that they come in the form of NFTs. However, unlike Autograph’s NFTs, each one is not uniquely signed on a tablet. These three companies are all offering similar products and it may just be a matter of time to tell which ones, if any, have lasting success.