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.

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