We are often asked how to start an autograph collection. The easiest way is to collect the signature in person, by attending signing sessions or waiting back stage at a gig. We rarely, if ever, suggest obtaining autographs from online auction sites, unless it is from a bona fine auction house.
Another way is to buy from a reputable dealer, such as www.presleycollectibles.com, but make sure they offer a cooling off period (money back guarantee) and a certificate of authenticity with no expiry date. Reputation is everything!
Another way is to send off for your favourite celebrity’s autograph (although beware, many celebrities don’t have time to sit and sign countless photos so employ secretaries to do this, or use auto pens.) This warning apart, this can be a very enjoyable way of collecting autographs, so here’s our guide to obtaining autographs by mail:
The first step is finding an address to write to them. Unfortunately, the more popular a celebrity is, the harder it becomes to get an authentic autograph from them. It is still possible to have success with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but you have to constantly stay informed on their signing habits. A great way to have success through the mail is writing to them via venue. If you know where Leonardo DiCaprio will be filming his latest film, try writing a letter to the production office. Of course these are the hardest addresses to find and can take a lot of personal research.
Here are some links to get you started:
Startiger.com – If you don’t mind spending some money this is a great site and one of the best sources of addresses we’ve found on the Internet.
The A1 Autograph Group on Yahoo is another great resource. Like Startiger.com, A1 is successful because of the community of autograph collectors who share information.
IMDB.Com – This is the best source on the internet for film information, use this site to find out what is filming and where.
You should also catalogue in some fashion, whether on the computer or written in a journal, the requests you have sent out. When hundreds of requests have been sent out, it can be hard to remember which address you previously tried. Plus, you can see how many days it took certain celebrities to respond.
The most tricky part about collecting autographs by mail is writing the letter, because the reality is there is no guaranteed format that will ensure success. As a general rule, you should not make your letter longer than a page and if it is handwritten, make sure it is legible.
Be polite in your approach when requesting the autograph itself and perhaps express why granting this request would mean the world to you. The content of the letter should focus on why you admire them as an entertainer, this is where creativity could earn you some extra points. You just never know how far a little creativity will take you.
Now the hard part is out of the way. If you expect any type of response at all, then you should include with your request a self addressed stamped envelope. While some celebrities will respond regardless of an SASE, it is out of common courtesy that you send one. Including an SASE will also increase the likelihood of getting a response. Also write “Do Not Bend” on both envelopes to help ensure that the contents aren’t damaged during handling.
The next thing that you must consider is including something to get signed whether it is a photograph of them or simply enclosing a double sided blank index card. The majority of celebrities tend to send you their own 8×10 photographs, but some will only sign if you send them something. Be careful what you send because you may never see it again.
Make sure your envelope and SASE are stamped and then put it in the mailbox and cross your fingers. Now everything is out of your control and the wait is almost tortuous. Unlike in person collecting, you could wait months to years for a reply from a celebrity. Unfortunately many of the requests you send out will never be seen again.
When and if you get a response from the celebrity it is time to ask one of the biggest questions… is the autograph I just received real? This can be really tricky and shows just why communication is so important in by mail collecting. Finding a good autograph community will help in not only sharing addresses but tips on detecting those tricky fakes. As we mentioned at the beginning, only experience will help you spot an auto pen, preprint, secretarials, forgeries, and stamped autographs.
So you’ve done the research and determined that your autograph is legit, now what? You must ensure that your autograph is properly protected and preserved. Whether they are framed or kept in a binder, they should only touch acid-free archival material.