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.