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Autograph Collector

Insider Info

Autograph collectors take advantage of celebrity sightings to get a signature for posterity's sake. They usually fill autograph books with famous scribbles, or send away to the stars for signed, personalized pictures. Some collectors do it as a hobby, but others are out to make money. Celebrity sigs are like money in the bank -- especially if the star is deceased.

Imagine not only reading about history, but actually holding a piece of it in your hands. Autograph collectors gather celebrity signatures and consider the autograph one of the most personal things that a person can give. Some collectors even call autographs "frozen moments in time."

Autograph collectors get their autographs three ways: in person, from dealers, and through the mail. However, since most of us don't live in Hollywood and dealers are often expensive, most autograph collectors get the majority of their addresses through the mail.

According to the Universal Autograph Collectors Club, autograph collecting is the fastest growing hobby in the world today. The club currently has over 2,000 members in over 25 countries.

Autographs can be profitable as well. According to Money Magazine, investing in autographs is a rising market and for the last 20 years, blue chip autographs have increased in value between 200 and 500 percent.

There is also a growing number of autograph dealers on the market. Many collectors sell or trade their autographs. Some make money by selling lists of celebrity addresses.

Autograph collecting is a great hobby for people of all ages and abilities, as you can do it from home. And although investing in autographs can cost thousands of dollars, most collectors only need to spend a couple of dollars on stationary and stamps.

Whether you're in it for the fun or the money, autograph collecting is one of the easiest hobbies to get started in!

Getting Started

If you ask any autograph collector, the key to collecting autographs by mail is to have good addresses. You can get celebrity addresses from many sources.

One of the best sources of guaranteed addresses is the World Wide Web. There are many Web sites and newsgroups dedicated to autograph collecting which contain lists of thousands of celebrity addresses. You can also buy lists, books or find listings in autograph publications.

The key to finding specific addresses is to be resourceful. Check your local library's reference section for Who's Who books and current biographies. You can also check government directories.

You can contact sports stars through their current team or professional organization. And celebrities in the entertainment industry can be contacted through their show, network, or movie studio.

So you've found the address -- how should you send your autograph request?

Here are a few rules on the basic procedure:

  • Write a letter.
  • Always include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) with your request.
  • Make sure it includes enough postage. This is the most critical item for getting a response.
  • Send a picture or card, or ask for a picture or card to be signed.
  • Put your return address on the outgoing envelope.
  • Keep track of your autograph requests. Experienced collectors keep a log to help them identify how long it took, and what they sent vs. what they got back.

When writing a letter, the basic idea is to be nice and genuine. If you don't know who B.B. King is, why would you want his autograph?

If you're into autographs for the money and don't really care about the celebrity, then you'll have to fake it. If you're in it for the money, remember, if you can get them for free through the mail, then so can anyone!

Five guidelines to writing a successful autograph request letter:

  1. Address the letter respectfully. Send it to "Dear Mr. Eastwood," not "Dear Clint." Use the person's title if they have one, like: "Dear President Clinton."
  2. Write something that makes the person aware that you're really a fan. Mention a film or a game that is important. Say something special you like about the person.
  3. Ask for the autograph using words like "please" and "thank you."
  4. Make sure the letter is one page or less.
  5. Try to make your letter stand out somehow.

Even if you follow these guidelines, there is no guarantee what kind of response you will get. However, by talking to other autograph collectors, you can find what works, what doesn't, and which celebrities are most likely to respond (and with what).

Once you've reached the stage where you have an autograph returned, how should you determine its authenticity? Your autograph could be one of these things:

  • Authentic!
  • "Secretarial" or "ghost signer" -- This would be signed by someone other than the celebrity.
  • Pre-printed autograph -- A preprinted autograph is an autograph that is printed on the picture. Sometimes the celebrity will simply sign the negative, and then thousands of pictures are run off.
  • Autopen -- An autopen is an autograph that was signed by an autopen machine. The celebrity makes a plate of his or her autograph, and then the machine duplicates the autograph. In short, you stick a picture in the machine, push a button, and the machine signs the picture.

There are ways to discern the differences between these. A good way is to ask other autograph collectors. Many have scanned autographs on their Web sites. Or you can get the autograph authenticated. This can cost anywhere from $15 and up. But remember, it is still only someone's opinion.

Don Abramo, an autograph dealer, says you just have to be careful. "Use every resource available to authenticate. If you do not intend to sell them or trade them and just want to collect for fun then don't worry about them -- just hang 'em and enjoy 'em."

When approaching a celebrity for an autograph in person, etiquette is really important. Remember to respect the celebrity's privacy, and treat them with respect. Many collectors have good stories of success, so don't be afraid to go up to a celebrity!

As for approaching a celebrity for an autograph, don't run! It has to be scary for a celebrity to watch several fans running at him or her, and some will even run away from running fans.

Also, just be polite, and say please and thank you. And if they look like they don't want to be bothered, chances are that they don't want to be bothered -- but it never hurts to ask.

Also, try not to bother them if they're eating. It seems like the most common courtesy, but veteran collectors say it's amazing how many people screw this one up.

Remember celebrities are human, too! If you show genuine respect for them, they will often respond with an autograph (or two!)


United Autograph Collectors Club (U.A.C.C.)
P.O. Box 6181
Washington , DC   20044-6168

The Manuscript Society
350 North Niagra St.
Burbank , CA   91505


Collecting Autographs in Today's Market
An informative article for beginning collectors

Odyssey Publications'
News, links and resources for collectors

Collectors Universe
Autograph collecting lists, tips and links

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