Sunday, February 16, 2014

The basics of the Autograph Signing

I've been fortunate enough to attend and work at many public autograph signings.  I've seen many of the same customers as well as many, many new ones.  Yet, while I, a few of my colleagues and returning customers are accustomed to how signings work, we always have over half of our customers experience these functions for the first time.  It can be overwhelming, confusing, and expensive for newcomers.

So these are my tips for successfully navigating your first autograph signing.

1.  Know that you will only have about 10-15 seconds with the athlete.  There are usually 200-400 tickets sold and players are usually only available for 90 minutes.  Therefore, the attendants need to move the line along.
2.  It is very rare that autographs are free.  Be prepared to purchase an autograph ticket usually good for only 1 autograph.  This is a business, and while people have opinions about whether or not an athlete should be paid for this, the promoter has usually paid thousands of dollars for the athlete to make the appearance.  The promoter needs to make their money back and some profit.
3.  Autograph tickets are numbered and most promoters will create lines by calling out numbers numerically.  So the lower the number the quicker you get through the line.  If you have a higher number I recommend coming to the signing a bit later so you don't have to wait too long.  In order to have a lower number I highly recommend pre-purchasing the ticket.  It will save you time in the ticket line and the autograph line.
This was ticket # 89 fir a recent Shawn Thornton signing.

4.  Most autograph signings have 3-4 lines.  The first line is for purchasing or picking up
pre-purchased autograph tickets.  Line 2 is for merchandise.  Line 3 is the autograph line to meet the guest and line 4 is the authentication line.  Of course, if you have your own item to be signed you won't have to wait for merchandise and if you don't want your item authenticated you can also move right by that.

5.  Promoters at 99% of the events will have merchandise for customers to purchase that a guest can sign.  Photos are almost always available as are small items such as pucks, baseballs, mini helmets, etc...  So if you don't come prepared, that 's fine you'll almost always have an option to purchase product at the show.
Merchandise table at a recent Boston Bruin signing.

6.  Permitting pictures with athletes are never guaranteed.  As much as promoters want to make that option available, this does hold up the line and some players just aren't open to allowing it.  Generally speaking, a customer can take a photo of the guest signing their item.  Posing is rarely allowed.
7.  As you approach the autograph table be sure you are prepared. A worker will always collect the ticket and confirm what is being signed.   Please have your item(s) out and ready, meaning out of the packaging, the picture sleeve, the box or bags.  If you are taking pictures have the camera on and ready.  This part can be stressful for customers, so there are usually 1-2 attendants available to help.
8.  Be ready for anything.  All signings, promoters, players are different.  Regardless of how many of these I've participated in, there is always a nuance that we need to adjust to.

Follow these tips and you'll be sure to maximize your next autograph appearance.


  1. Any chance you could write an entry on what pens/markers work best when having different types of items signed? I'm thinking of getting a football signed, and I want to make sure the autograph lasts. Silver paint pens seem highly recommended, but I worry they might flake off, especially if I need to handle the ball to replace the bladder when it goes flat.

  2. Hello Trevor. In 2010/2011 I referenced pens, sharpies in 2 postings. One is called Wash your Hands, turn out the lights and the other is What should I get signed. As for footballs, I recommend thick silver or black paint pens. I've had some footballs deflate over time and upon reinflation, I've never seen the paint flake off. I will say that I've experienced that ink on football leather never dries well or quickly. I've seen ink take up to 4 weeks to dry. Just something to keep in mind.