Autograph Collecting Secrets: Tools and Tactics for Through The Mail, In-Person, and Convention Success by Troy Rutter
You may well ask, “why is he reviewing a book on autograph collecting on a science fiction blog?” Well, the answer is very simple, I have enjoyed meeting and getting signed photos from celebrities as well as autographed books from my favorite authors for the last few years. I will say up front, the author, Troy and I are friends, but this review has not been, in any way, solicited.
I cannot remember exactly when and how Troy and I came to be friends, but I think it was through a mutual Facebook friend when I learned that Maggie Egan (Jane, the ISN news anchor on Babylon 5 was listed as one of the guests at the OSFest 6 convention in Omaha a few years ago. I learned that he was the webmaster on the Babylon 5 television series and instant messaged him to request an interview to talk about his experiences working on that show. I found him to be very willing, approachable, and friendly. Well, we continue to correspond and I consider Troy to be a close friend and a mentor in my newly acquired hobby, TTM (Through The Mail) autograph collecting.
As I write this, I look at the small collection of autographed 8x10 photos hanging in my “Man Cave,” Some are gifts from the Scifi Diner Podcast, some are from conventions I have attended or that others have brought back from conventions I was not able to attend, and one, my first TTM success, is thanks to following the methods that Troy lays out in his new book, Autograph Collecting Secrets, as well as his tutorial videos on YouTube. I will add more on that later in this post.
Autograph Collecting Secrets is a complete guide to the author’s methods of collecting autographs from numerous celebrities in movies and television, as well as a plethora of NFL and MLB athletes. Well written, easy to follow, and easily read in less than three hours, it is chock-full of information for anyone that is a seasoned collector all the way to the beginner. As I would expect from Troy, the text is well organized and concise, but also contains brief descriptions of his personal experiences as a thirty-year veteran of this fun and interesting hobby.
In the 155 pages of text that includes illustrations and photos, Troy outlines the ins-and-outs of getting started as well as some ideas for improving one’s own experience if one is already a collector. He outlines successful methods that have worked for him and others and things not to do as one collects autographs of favorite celebrities, sports figures, or any other possible kind of collecting one may want to do. Following a foreword by Jack Smalling (a renowned autograph collector in his own right) is an introduction by the author explaining who the book is actually intended for, as well as who it is not intended for; you can read the introduction in the excerpt offered at Amazon.com. The chapters included in Autograph Collecting Secrets include…
- Glossary: A list of terms commonly used by autograph collectors and their definitions
- Chapter 1: My Autograph Story: Troy outlines his personal experience in his 30 years of collecting.
- Chapter 2: Is Autograph Collecting Dead?: Some say it is a dead hobby for various reasons.
- Chapter 3: Autograph Collecting Supplies: Things that you need and are nice to have to begin your adventure.
- Chapter 4: Finding Your Niche: What are you into? Sci-Fi, Cooking? Sports?
- Chapter 5:: Finding Celebrity Addresses: Thanks to the Internet, there are several resources to find and confirm addresses for successful collecting.
- Chapter 6: Through The Mail (TTM) Collecting: To do’s and not to do’s when sending requests through the Postal Service.
- Chapter 7: Real or Fake?: Other than watching a celeb sign in front of you, how can you know it is authentic?
- Chapter 8: In-Person (IP) Autograph Collecting: More do’s and don’ts for this type of collecting.
- Chapter 9: Comic-Cons and Private Signings: Can be pricey but fun.
- Chapter 10: Buying Autographs: Watch out for dealers and scammers; what to avoid.
- Chapter 11: Storage and Display: You want to take care of your successes, here’s how.
- Chapter 12: Social Sharing: If you are proud of your collection, you want to show it off.
- Chapter 13: Selling Your Collection: Tips if you want to unload your stuff.
- Chapter 14: The Future of Autograph Collecting: It is worth continuing?
At the end of the book are a lot of helpful resources to get started including addresses of all the Major League and Minor League Baseball addresses, all of the NFL Stadium addresses, and the major television and movie studios.
Concise, well organized, and every concept is clearly explained. If you are already a collector, or are just getting into collecting, or even if it is something that you might think you would like to do, I recommend this book.
As Troy and I are friends, he contacted me after he had most of the text written and asked if I would be one of his beta readers and help with the editing. He sent me the files and I went to work and thought, what the heck, I will give this a try. Troy had recently received a successful return from Armin Shimerman of Deep Space Nine fame.
I got the address that Troy sent to, an agency in Los Angeles. The I joined Star Tiger, one of several web based services that one can obtain celebrity addresses from, and got a 30 day free trial. I confirmed the address that Troy had given me. This was an unnecessary step, but I wanted to follow the methods outlined in Autograph Collecting Secrets. Next I found two photos of Mr. Shimerman on Google and uploaded them to Sharp Prints, a web based photo service that is very reasonably priced; about eighty cents per 8x10 print (as an aside note, if you use Sharp Prints, you will want to get more than two prints at a time or the shipping is very expensive).
When my photos arrived, they were very high quality and so I sent them along with a handwritten note. In Autograph Collecting Secrets, Troy explains that whether the note is handwritten or typed doesn’t seem to make a difference on returns and it is a personal preference. I choose to do the handwritten note because it just seems more personal to me; so for the time being this is my method. At any rate, I followed Troy’s procedures to the letter based on what he wrote as well as a video that Troy made for his YouTube channel for collecting.
I purchased some small packages of 10x13 and 9x12 envelopes from Wal-Mart and some a package of acid-free backing boards from Amazon and assembled the “Send” as instructed with the two prints and the note. I headed to the post office and purchased two $1.50 stamps from the kiosk and dropped it package in the box.
27 days later I received both photos signed as well as a short note from Mr. Shimmerman. My first TTM Success! Even though I was pretty sure that I would receive what I asked for, I was nevertheless elated when I opened my package to find that my first attempt was fruitful! Below are scans of the items I received…
I am currently preparing to do more TTM sends in the near future using the methods outlined in Autograph Collecting Secrets and will likely blog about my geeky/nerdy returns as they come in, until then, you can find Troy’s book on Amazon. Below are some links to Troy’s web page, YouTube Channel, and e-mail. Feel free to contact him to exchange ideas or get advice. He is very friendly and approachable and is always willing to help a fellow collector at any level of expertise.
TTM Autographs Web Page: http://ttmautograph.com/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/troyarutter
Mike the Fanboy (Troy contributes): http://www.mikethefanboy.com/
Well, there it is…