Sunday, December 12, 2010

Upcoming Stars

The past few days have been interesting on the Boston sports scene.  The Celtics and Patriots are playing great.  The Red Sox made a splash by signing 2 free agent hitters and well the Bruins, are the Bruins.
Due to the recent success and news, and the fact I'm working more shifts selling memorabilia, I've noticed customers looking to purchase the hottest item on the market, at a reasonable price of course.

Hottest item as I've found out this year is not the traditional Tedy Bruschi photo, or best of new england sports collage and even stadium panoramics.  NO, hot this year are photos of Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, Tyler Seguin, Wes Welker, and Brandon Tate and Devin McCourty.  The other items that are amazing me as still popular are almost any photo from last year's NHL winter classic played at Fenway.

So what do you need to know about these hot items.  There are copious amounts of photos available of these new and popular players.  Prices range from $19 - $30 for an 8x10 photo including the matte and frame.  The problem is that there are only 1-3 options of photos of each player.  So even though there are plenty of available photos it might only be 500 of the same pose.

Autographs of these players are still hard to come by.  Tyler Seguin, the hot Bruin rookie autograph price starts at about $100 for an 8x10 photo and upwards of $250 for a framed 16 x 20 print, and his autograph is a hot seller.  Some of the new patriots autographs range in price from $39 - $59 if you can find them.

Another tip is that now is the time to pick up Deion Branch Autographs.  Many dealers had large inventories of his autographs from Superbowl 39 and they are looking to offload his merchandise before the #84 jersey merchandise arrives.  You should be able to find an authentic and older Branch autograph for less than $60.

If you want the best deal for the buck, Bruins autographs are still are fair prices.  Now is the time to purchase those.  You should be able to purchase 3 current bruins autographs for less than $100.

Lastly, you will not find any pictures of Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzales in a Red Sox uniform yet.  If you do they are most likely unlicensed so stay away from them.  I would expect to see their photos released shortly after spring training starts.

Good luck with your shopping.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time for gift giving

As black Friday approaches, everyone is looking for deals.  I know I am.  However in the collectible business you will not find Door Busters or items at 50% or more off on black Friday.  You will, however, find reasonable prices that are fair and meet all spenders budgets.  The nice aspect of the collectible business is that pricing will stay consistent throughout the holiday season.

I will start by saying that if you want a good quality item expect to spend a minimum of $20 with any credible company.  Items in the $20 range will include wool pennants, matted 8x10 photos, some autographs, clocks and other novelty items.

If you want to spend up to $70 you will find all sorts of items including autographs from local stars such as Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, & most of the Boston Bruins.  You can find framed and matted 11x14 photos, display pieces, as well as authentic jerseys and hats.

If you are willing to spend in the $100 - $250 range you can find some very high quality photos, autographs, panoramic prints, and other high quality items that will make any collector happy.  Most of the high quality Red Sox, Patriots and Yankees will fall into this range.

Here are some tips to know before shopping for collectibles.
1.  Some companies will offer great deals after you purchase the first item.  For instance New England picture company has a deal where if you buy 1 item at full price you can purchase a 2nd item at 50% off.
2.  If you are purchasing for someone else know exactly what team or player is the recipient's favorite.  That will help the sales person find the best item for you.
3.  Check online for deals.  Sure shot promotions and Steiner sports offer a plethora of deals everyday in December.  I saw a great deal last year on the Steiner website in which you could purchase 3 autographed baseballs for $99.  All the autographs were from living Cy Young winners.  Nobody could top that.
4.  If you are purchasing an autograph for someone ask questions about the authenticity.  Steiner sports, New England Picture company, sure shot promotions are all local legitimate companies.  Their prices will be a bit higher but the item will be authentic.  If the price is too good it's probably a fake.
5.  If you are buying a photo, autographed or not, get it framed if possible.  Most framing will only cost an additional $10-$20.
6.  The best deals will be for items with retired, unpopular or recently traded players. I've seen some phenomenal deals for Mike Lowell, Jim Rice, Randy Moss and Mike Vrabel items.  I'm sure Victor Martinez items will be marked down shortly.
7.  If you are looking for Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Lebron James, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Tom Brady items, expect the prices to start at $299 upwards of $2000.
8.  This December there are a number of player appearances occurring in the area.  Rajon Rondo, Zdeno Chara and many patriots will be appearing, which is rare for this time of year.  Please check the Boston Herald or the websites below for more information.  What better gift to give then to meet a local sports hero.

Please check out these websites for great collector deals.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

GBSCC Show Update

Well after two days at the Greater Boston Sports Collector's Club card and memorabilia show, I have to say it's been pretty good.  There is still one day left (Sunday November 7th) and I encourage you all to attend.  The show opens up at 10:00am and will close at 4:00pm.  This is occurring at the Aleppo Shriner Auditorium in Wilmington Mass. off of the Concord Road exit off of interstate 93.
As for autograph guests, Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn are the headliners for the 75 Red Sox.  Hall of famer Johnny Bench from the Cincinnati Reds is scheduled to appear as are other members of the 75 Red Sox.  Also on the docket are 5 of the current Boston Bruins, including Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, Marco Sturm and Jordan Caron.  The prices for all autograph guests are extremely reasonable and worth investing in now.
However, the primary reason for attending the show tomorrow is that many, many dealers have been offering great prices on items and I expect the same for Sunday.  Examples of great deals include an autographed 16x20 photo of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for $175 (normally over $400).  Pieces of structure from Fenway park for as low as $20, autographed or relic sport cards for as low as $1 and pieces of the original parquet floor ranging in price from $15 - $100.  There are also some exciting rare high end items still available such as 2 seats from the Boston Garden for $999, items from the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals ranging from $500 - $999 and plenty of game used bats, helmets and balls ranging in price from $100 to $2500. 
So, if you're free come on up to Wilmington and check out the deals.  It is $7 for admittance.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Collector Trade Shows

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  Other than this being my birthday week, I look forward to attending the Greater Boston Sports Collector's Club Card and Memorabilia Show.  It has happened the first weekend in November for as long as I can remember.  This year's show is scheduled for Friday November 5th - Sunday November 7th.  I have not missed attending this show since I first attended in 2002.  I have found hundreds of deals on anything including memorabilia, photos, cards, supplies and autographs. There will be over 80 dealers in attendance, both from the region and nationally.

One of the reasons this show is my favorite is that everyone is very friendly and helpful.   There are items out there for the bargain hunter or the high end collector and of course all of us in between.  I've seen autographs for sale that include almost every hall of famer for every sport.  I've seen rare items like Cy Young, Babe Ruth and Alan Shepard(First U.S. astronaut in space) signed items.  Since I've been attending I've learnt much about collecting, how to preserve autographs and what's out there on the market.  I always feel that when I walk and speak with dealers, I learn something new every November.

So here are some tips on how to make the most of one day or the weekend at the show.
1.  Walk the entire floor at least once before purchasing anything.  My experience is that you will find the same item in multiple locations.  The dealers are very competitive and will almost always come down in price to get the sale.
2.  Prepare to spend at least 2 hours browsing.  Be patient and ready to negotiate.
3.  Bring something to drink with you.  It is very dry in most facilities.
4.  Wear comfortable footwear.  The entire floor is concrete.
5.  If you are purchasing an autograph or game used piece of memorabilia make sure it is has authentication.  Ask the dealer where it came from and who authenticated it.  If the price is too good to be true, then don't purchase it. 
6.  Most dealers will come down in price on the last day of a show.  They honestly don't want to haul it back to their homes or businesses. 
7.  Have cash on hand.  Most dealers cannot accept credit cards and if they do, they might charge a service fee to pay for the connection at their table.
8.  Sign up for raffles and door prizes.  Almost every show has them and there are usually great prizes.
9.  If you are attending to meet players, be ready to wait in line, and in small spaces.  Also, if you have no idea what you want autographed the promoter's merchandise table will have the best items at reasonable prices.

Below is the link to the Greater Boston Sports Collector's Club website. Check it out for more information.

If you attend I'll be at the sure shot promotions merchandise table outside the autograph area.  Stop by and say Hi.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is it worth paying???

I would love to say that every autograph I own wasn't paid for.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case.  The reality in dealing with athletes and celebrities is that they are entertainers, and they are part of a huge business.  They would be fools not to charge for their time to sign autographs for their fans.  They are also charging because businesses are using their name to make a profit for their own endeavors.

With that said, I'd like to comment on the pros and cons of paying for the autograph.

1.  Most athletes are not accessible.  This is an opportunity to meet your personal favorite celebrity, athlete or hero.  I know I never would've met Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Bill Russell if I didn't pay to see them.
2.  The quality of autograph is almost always better at a paid signing.  The promoter will have the correct writing utensil and the athlete/celebrity will sign a full autograph vs. the cut signature that some are known for.
3.  Promoters will offer deals for multiple players.  Most promoters offer player packages so that you can acquire more autographs for less money.
4.  Promoters will have the most updated merchandise or signature moment items for purchase.  I have worked merchandise tables for years and fans are always clamoring for the most updated photos that others don't have.
5.  You know the autograph is real and should be able to have it authenticated instantly (authentication tickets range from $3 - $6).

1.  The price.  Unfortunately, the price for current athletes, especially in the baseball world is too high.  The way the market works is that current players, some on steroids or caught cheating, can get more money than current hall of famers.  Pricing can also be confusing because the average collector doesn't understand the difference between regular, oversized or premium items.
2.  You might get 10 seconds with the athlete.  For a popular player such as Kevin McHale, who appeared in Burlington, he had over 400 people in attendance. We had to push people along quickly.  It took 8 of us at the front of the line to keep it moving.
3.  Photos with players will rarely happen.  Some players, especially on the older side, have poor eyesight and cannot handle the flashes.  Additionally, the line takes much longer to get through if everyone wants to take a picture.
4.  There will be a line, even for the C list person.  I have never been to a public appearance, in which an athlete didn't have at least 30-40 people looking to purchase an autograph for them.

This upcoming weekend, November 5th - 7th there is a great show featuring the 1975 Red Sox, Patriot Hall of Famer, John Hannah and some of the current Bruins.  All athletes featured are at great price points.  I highly recommend you check out the link below with the appearance and pricing information.  This show is very well organized and a great way to collect at a reasonable price.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Building your collection

Sample of my many themes.

For the most part I would argue that the best way to build an autograph collection is to build it around a theme.  Mine started with baseball players autographing my personal photos of them in 2002.  I am very proud of this sentimental album of 8x10 photos that I personally took of these athletes. However, the collection expanded quickly into award winners and team champions for different local sports.  My priority is in this order:

1.  2004 Red Sox
2.  2007 Red Sox
3. Cy Young Winners
4. Gold Glove Winners
5. World Series MVP'S
6.  Patriot Superbowl champions
7. Past Celtic Champions
8.  500 HR club

Sample of my Cy Young Collection

Example of Gold Glove Winner Collection
  In addition to these themes I have many smaller collections that I continue to get autographed such as a 100th anniversary Red Sox guide, Red Sox prospects, magazine covers, bobbleheads, my daughter's bat, my Red Sox Jersey, politicians and many, many more.

Signed Red Sox Jersey, position players on the "Red" side & pitchers on the "Sox" side.

Sample of my political autographs, compliments of the Clintons, Joe Lieberman & Jon McCain (The buttons are autographed)
There are many pros with creating a theme: 1.  Once you have more than 10 autographs in that theme the potential value of that collection will double or triple.
2.  You can display the autographs together.
3.  The autographs will be consistent.
4.  It's rewarding to complete the collection, like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.
5.  You can find dealers who specialize in themes and can help complete a collection.
6.  Autograph show promoters typically create shows that are revolved around themes (More on this next week).
7.  Athletes appreciate people who are building a theme.  I've had many good conversations with Bob Cousy, Mike Lowell, Carlton Fisk and Johnny Pesky about some of my items and reasons for needing a special inscription.  Once they understood what I was doing they were more than happy to help me out.

Wool Celtic Championship banner signed by many former Celtics, including Russell, Cousy, and McHale.

Some of the cons with creating a theme:
1.  Some of the people you may need have passed on.
2.  Some athletes in categories just don't do public signings at this point (i.e., Kevin Garnett, Tom Brady, Bobby Orr).  I used to say the same thing about former Celtic Bill Russell, but he had appeared 2 times in the Boston area in the past year.  So there is hope.
3.  Some players charge more for an autograph for a theme based item. (i.e. Tom Seaver charges extra money for items to be signed from the old Shea Stadium.)
4.  Some of these players don't live in the area and just aren't accessible up in Boston.
5.  It's hard to maintain consistency.
6.  Some themes can accumulate to over 100 autographs.

With all that said, I should note, I still go back to my roots and do the best I can to take good photos of these athletes in action and work hard to have them autograph my photos.  None of those photos have any bearing on awards, championships or themes, just something that I hold sentimental between me and my camera.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What should I get signed???

The most commonly asked question I receive about autograph collecting is, "What should I get signed?".  What follows after that is, "What type of pen/writing utensil should I use?"  My follow up answer is always, depends on the situation, the person you're acquiring from and how much money do you want to spend.

Red Sox photo ball signed in pen and sharpie. Notice the poor quality.

There are many ways to build up a quality autograph collection.  Whether you're a seasoned collector, a child, or parents of children that are helping the child, you need to know a few things.  Just to be clear the following tips are things that have worked for me.  I have witnessed many people use different methods that have been successful for their own needs.

1.  Spend a little extra for the real thing.  In other words if you can afford to, buy officially licensed products or official game products.  One example I use are photo balls.  As you can see in the photo I once used a Red Sox photo ball to acquire about 10 autographs.  I went cheap.  It was significantly cheaper to purchase the $10 photo ball vs. the $25 major league ball (Target sells MLB balls for $15 and you can find them cheaper at collector shows).  The problem is that all the signatures on the photo ball have faded or bled into the ball.  The autographs signed via a sharpie still look clear, but they aren't consistent with the rest of the autographs.  Another example I used was following superbowl 36 and the Celtics championship in 2008.  Instead of purchasing the $99 official superbowl ball or official NBA basketball I went cheap again and spent $25 for the superbowl 36 ball and the same amount for the commemorative basketball.  In both cases the signatures have either faded or changed color.  A side note(I keep very good care of my autographs and the fading in these cases were not due to light exposure, it was due to the surface of the item.)  I ended up spending the money for the superbowl 38 and 39 footballs and as you can see in the photos they are much better quality.
2. Decide what you will do with this item and ask yourself if the player is worth spending money on.  If this is a top prospect in a sport, but they haven't played an official game yet, maybe go a little cheaper and get the photo, ball or mini helmet.  If you're meeting them away from the venue then a card or ticket stub will suffice.

The commemorative football vs. the real football.

If the person is a personal favorite of yours (This would be Kevin McHale for me) it's worth having them sign a premium or high end item, regardless of the projected value of the item.  Nothing beats the sentimental value of the autograph.
If this person might be president or a future hall of famer, it's definitely worth a high end premium item.

3.  My experience says that sharpies should only be used on the following items:
- Photos
- Sports cards
- Bobbleheads (although I prefer a paint pen if possible)
- Magazine Covers (Sometimes a paint pen will come out better)
- Ticket Stubs
- Hats or jerseys (Sometimes paint pens on hats will be clearer)

- Light color mini helmets (Dark mini helmets, such as Red Sox, should be paint pen only)
- Light colored bats

Autographed baseballs in blue pen.

4.  Use blue or black ball point pens on baseballs.

5.  I like silver paint pen on footballs, basketballs, bobbleheads, black bats, some magazine covers and pucks.  Gold paint pen can look on pucks as well.

When I attend a game or an autograph show I always have 3 blue pens, 2 black and 2 blue sharpies and a paint pen that is gold and silver.  It's always good to be prepared for the perfect opportunity.

Official NBA ball signed by Kevin McHale with a silver paint pen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Meeting Your Target

So, what I am most proud of about my collection is that I've met almost all of the athletes I have acquired an autograph from.  The whole reason I started collecting was to meet the player/celebrity and maybe have an interaction with them while asking them for an autograph.  Now when I say meet the players, I don't mean at a paid signing/event (I'll cover that in the upcoming weeks), I mean at the sporting venue, on the street, at a charity event, in a public place.

As I mentioned in the first posting most of my autographs are from professional baseball players, but I've used the same strategies for any athlete/celebrity that I'm trying to get an autograph from.  Here are some hints that have been successful for me or that I've seen work for others.

1.  Know who you are going to see.  If you're attending a game, print out the roster and learn the names and uniform numbers of the players.  This will help you seek out your target when there are many to choose from during warm ups or pre-game preparations on the field.
2.  Always call a person by Mr. or Mrs, or in the case of my experience meeting Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mr. President or Senator.  Calling a player by their first name, overall, won't go far to help you out.  For the older collector's as myself, even when a player is younger, not using their first name is usually helpful or at least increases the odds of getting that person's autograph.
3.  Don't keep yelling at the players/persons to come over to you.  One or two call outs is enough.  I have found that the more you hound and bother a player the odds of them coming over becomes slim to none.
4.  If the celebrity does come to your area, offer your writing utensil first.  Let them keep it.  By offering up that item for them to use you are almost guaranteed an autograph yourself.  This has worked for me with Jonathan Papelbon, Bill Mueller, Hideki Okajima, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe and many others. Not to mention if you don't get it back, you've probably only lost about a $2 item.
5.  Don't make fun of the person when they come to you.  If you start to criticize them for something, they'll walk away.  Remember, they are not obligated to sign autographs, so any bad comment or any "razzing" of them will ruin the experience for everyone.  Saying things like "good luck tonight", "Good game" or "How's your family" has worked really well for me.
6.  Don't push!!  Don't push!!  Don't push!!  Once pushing starts, it becomes a very unsafe situation for the fans, especially the kids up front and unsafe for the player.  The reason people won't sign autographs is due to the fact they know they'll create a mob scene and they don't want to cause issues in the stands or waiting areas.  I have seen Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and President Obama be willing to sign autographs at the park or at events, but they had to stop after about 5-6 people because the pushing and shoving caused unsafe situations.
7.  Stand by kids.  That doesn't mean push them out of the way or take away their opportunity to meet one of their heroes.  What I mean is that a celebrity will almost always gravitate to a child's request to sign an autograph first.  Some people will only sign autographs for kids, which is fine, but if you're lucky, you might get one yourself, especially if they see that you're letting the kids go ahead of you.
8.  Be patient.  My experience is that you need to stay in one place when trying to acquire the signature.  It is rare when I've moved to a different location and actually been able to get the autograph I wanted.  To this day I regret moving from an area I had at the front of the wall in Pittsburgh at a game in 2003.  I decided to chase Pedro Martinez down the right corner.  The problem was that he ended up coming right down the wall and because I moved I lost my spot.  I was never able to regain my spot to get his autograph. 
Additionally, you never know when or where a person might sign.  So be ready for it to happen anytime.  For instance at a baseball game most players will sign during batting practice, however, Red Sox players have been known to not sign then, but right before the game starts.  I have seen many people leave their spots after batting practice and lose the opportunity to get an autograph.
9.  Be mindful that once a celebrity leaves their workplace they are on their own private time.  Bothering a person at a hotel, at a restaurant or when they're with the family can be very bothersome for them.  If you bother them there they will most likely not sign for you and if they get too annoyed with those requests, they won't sign in their workplace either. It becomes a lose-lose for everyone.
10.  Don't expect to get more than 2 autographs at an event/function.  Nowadays, because of the EBAY phenomenon players are less willing to sign and they are also undergoing more in depth pre-game preparation. Try to decide ahead of time who you really want an autograph from.
11.  Have extra sharpies or pens. 
11.  Say Thank You.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What is this about??

This blog is all about my experience in the world of autograph collecting.  I will attempt to focus on why I collect, tips on collecting, and the reality of the business of autograph collecting.  I will also post information on upcoming signings and give my own rating of how these popular American figures are with regards to autograph seekers wherever they might sign.

I have about 2000 autographs in my collection, mostly of athletes.  Over half of my collection are from people in baseball.  After that I have collected autographs from athletes in football, basketball, hockey. I also have some from local and national political figures.  What I am most proud of is that all but 15 autographs in my entire collection were acquired in person.  And I have only paid for about 25% of my total collection.

I hope to post at least once a week.  My next posting will be focused on what to do when you meet a player, how to ask for an autograph, what I have found to be appropriate and the types of conversations I have had with athletes.