How to Request Autographs

Discussion in 'Autograph Collecting' started by darthskellington, Jun 13, 2005.

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  1. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

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    Autograph collecting is a hobby I've enjoyed for some years now. After an almost three-year hiatus, I've decided to once again focus more of my attention on this fun branch of collecting. In the process, I figured, why not share the fun with everyone else here at The Bothan Spy :D Let’s start with a cheesy intro.

    I think most people collect autographs for their uniqueness. They are something very personal and specific to the autograph signer. It's almost like owning a part of the celebrity, or in the case of Star Wars, perhaps owning a piece of the movie. Also, personalized autographs can be very special, in that you gain the knowledge that a celebrity took a few moments of his or her time to do something just for you.

    There are several ways to collect autographs, including purchasing them from dealers or collectors, obtaining them through private signings or appearances, or-my favorite- receiving them through the mail virtually for free. :cool: What's that? You can get real autographs from celebrities, often for free? Absolutely. My goal is to show you how easy it is to obtain autographs through the mail, and maybe teach you a few tricks to help you get your collection started.
     
  2. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    Ingredients of a Request

    So how do you get an autograph through the mail? Well...it's pretty simple. You write a letter asking for one. Making a request is quite easy, and only requires the following:

    1. Supplies: A few basic supplies.
    2. Celebrity Address: Figure out who you want to write, and where to send it.
    3. Letter: Make your request.
    4. Signing Material: Something to be signed, in case the celebrity can't provide anything.
    5. SASE and Postage: Envelope and Postage to make sure you get your autograph.


    Supplies are pretty simple. You'll need paper to write or print your letter on of course, plus envelopes, postage, and index cards (or other signing material). I recommend #10 envelopes to send everything in, and 8X10 manila envelopes to enclose as your SASE. Sometimes you might want to use small envelopes or 5X7 manilas, depending on the situation. But more on all this later.
     
  3. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    Celebrity Address

    First you need to figure out who you want to write and obtain an address for them. This is usually quite easy, thanks to the internet. Years ago, one would have to purchase a catalog of addresses. Now, the internet can give you thousands of addresses within seconds, plus information about whether or not a person signs, and even what type of results you might expect.

    The best sources are massive databases used by countless collectors that are updated daily with results. One such database is the Stararchive, which I have used in the past. Unfortunately, it has a membership fee, as do other massive address databases. A potentially equally useful resource is www.wattographs.com, which is a free resource of Star Wars addresses. Numerous other sites list addresses...sometimes just doing an internet search will turn up a valid address.

    I'm hoping to provide some ready made projects for everyone to try out, complete with addresses and good potential for positive results.
     
  4. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    The Letter

    What do I write? Well, you can write whatever you want, but it is usually a good idea to keep it short and to the point. The key is to not take up too much of a person’s time. Most important rule of writing a letter is to be polite, and sincere. Use lots of words like: PLEASE and THANK YOU. Remember, you are imposing upon them and asking for a favor. You should never expect anything from a celebrity, and making demands is a good way to get nothing at all.

    I usually type my letters in an easily readable font type and size, and rarely write more than half a page. They usually follow this format:

    Date: Dating your letter is a good reference for you, and can only help in speeding you a reply.

    Dear Celebrity,

    Intro: Introduce yourself in one or two sentences, preferably avoiding creepy information. "Hi, my name is________, I'm 19 years old and a student at XYZ University. I'm a big fan your work......," is a pretty decent intro. "Hi, my name is Bubba, I'm 36, and I live in my parents basement. I have a poster of you in my bathroom...." is usually a bad idea. :p Whatever works for you, but at least give them your name.

    All about them: If you are a fan of this person, tell them so. If you've got a favorite movie or TV series they did, talk about it. This is your chance to suck up to them in one or two sentences, and get in their good graces. But BE SINCERE. People can tell insincere BS when they see it. If you can't remember everything they did, look up their filmography on www.imdb.com. Read a magazine interview they did. Do a little research, even if it's 2 minutes worth.

    The Request: This is the trickiest part, but all you need to do is be polite. Mine sometimes go like this: I realize that you must have a busy schedule, but I was wondering if I could receive your autograph. Perhaps you could spare a few moments to sign the enclosed index card? If you could personalize it to me, it would really mean a lot. Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter.


    Thank you: Always thank the person. It's pretty easy to work in with the request, as I did above.

    Sign it: Be sure and sign your letter. Duh :p


    I tend to be a little wordy, but the idea is to keep it short, polite, and to the point.
     
  5. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    Signing Material

    Always send something to be signed, just in case the person you are writing is unable to provide anything. While many big stars provide signed photos themselves, not everyone does. In fact, some can't afford to. For many Star Wars actors, their roles were just another day-job. They are average joes like you or I, and sometimes get dozens of requests per week. It's no surprise that they can't afford stacks of 8X10s. For that matter, sometimes they run short on stationery.

    With that in mind, you should never assume who you are writing will have photos. If you do not send your own photo, standard practice is to include a blank unlined index card. These are great because they can always be framed with a photo later. A newer trend is to print custom index cards with photos on them, as resident spy Jedi_Joel has become quite adept at designing.

    You can also include trading cards, post cards, photos of all sizes, or sometimes books or magazines. On rare occasions people will send posters or action figures, but this is very expensive, and risky. Not to mention sometimes inconvenient for the celebrity.

    If you are looking for photos to send, you can often purchase them online, or from dealers. You can also print you own. Many websites have photo archives. Now that the SW movies are all on DVD, screen captures are probably the best way to go if you print your own. Also, magazines often print very nice photos that are suitable for signing.

    One company recently acquired the rights to sell licensed SW photos. This is good, because is provides an official venue for quality photos. It's also bad, because in some cases it may increase some SW celebrities reluctance to sign anything that isn't licensed.

    Anyway, I always include an index card to be signed, and in the case of SW, I usually include a trading card or photo as well. The most important rule of sending items is:

    NEVER SEND AN ITEM YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT! There is no guarantee you will get it back.
     
  6. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    SASE and Postage

    Yes, you need to include a return envelope and postage. DON’T FORGET THE POSTAGE. I know, it sounds obvious, but people forget it, or even think they don’t need it. :nut: You are already asking someone to spend time signing for you, and possibly even provide a photo. Don’t ask them to pay money on your behalf too. It usually makes the difference in getting a response or not.

    First off, the envelope. Unless you are sending a large picture, #10 envelopes are your way to go. They are big enough o fit your letter and materials in, plus have room for an 8X10 or 9X12 manila return envelope. It’s easy to fit a large envelope into a #10 – all you do is fold it three times and you are done.

    On your return envelope, you need to put your full address, including country if you are sending internationally. Put your address as the RETURN ADDRESS too. This will make sure it gets back to you. Also, if it needs more postage, you will be the one who gets to pay it. Otherwise, you might never see it again.

    TIP 1: Write “PHOTO…….PLEASE DO NOT BEND!” on your envelope. It works. It’s also very important if you live on a rural route or in apartments where small mail boxes or box stuffers can destroy a photo.

    TIP 2: If your manila envelope has a metal tab to help keep it closed, be sure to place two pieces of tape on the inside of the envelope covering the metal brads. Otherwise, they can and will scratch photos.

    Obviously, you can use whatever envelopes are appropriate to what you are sending. If all you want signed and expect are trading cards or index cards, use a small return envelope. If you are sending a 5X7, but hope to receive an 8X10 back too, send it in a 5X7 and enclose and 8X10 manila.

    If you are sending your own items, you might want to enclose a cardboard backing or something. I stockpiled spare backers from notepads, or just used comic or magazine backing boards. Just remember, the heavier your package, the more expensive to send.

    That brings us to POSTAGE.

    If you live in the same country you are sending to, you need stamps. If not, you need International Response Coupons (IRCs).

    In the US, first class postage is $0.39 for the first ounce and $0.24 for each additional ounce. Typically, a request with an index card and manila envelope included will only cost one stamp, but it’s really close to two ounces.

    I usually put 2 oz. worth of postage on the return envelope, which is two stamps. You would only need $0.63, but if all you have are $0.39 stamps, you end up spending $0.78.

    If you start sending out a lot of requests, I recommend buying some 24 cent stamps (or equivalent), so you don’t waste your money. You can also buy Airmail stamps…which should now cost 84 cents. Previously, it was a flat rate for every ounce…but it is slightly different now. 2 ounces postage to Great Britain is now $1.70, and to Austrailia/New Zealand is $1.80. This is unfortunate, because the weight of cards, IRC, and large manila envelopes usually pushes the weight a little over one ounce.

    O help reduce confusion, it’s a good idea to find a postage scale. It doesn’t have to be one of those big scales you set stuff on top of. You can buy little handheld ones that you clip to the envelope and hold in the air. Makes it really easy to figure out exactly how much your envelopes weigh. This is really handy if you start sending pictures and other hefty items.

    Now, if you are sending internationally, you’ll need IRCs to include with you self-addressed envelope. An IRC is a 4X6 blue & yellow coupon you can buy at your post office. They keep them locked up with the stamps, in case the postal worker you are talking to doesn’t know what they are. :p

    An IRC can be exchanged for first class-postage in virtually any country. (Actually any country that is a member of the International Postal Union, which is just about any country you will be writing). Think of it this way: One IRC = one stamp. I typically enclose 2 or 3 IRCs with an international request, particularly if I think I’ll be getting an 8X10. One might work, but I prefer not to take chances. One would be fine for an index card or trading card. The last time I bought IRCs, they cost $1.75 each, but they could have gone up with the recent US postage increase. Here is an IRC:

    [​IMG]
    Please note the box on the left hand side needs to be postmarked WHEN YOU PURCHASE the IRC, otherwise it will not be activated. The box on the right is supposed to be cancelled by the RECEIVING post office in England or wherever when the IRC is redeemed.

    So, once you’ve got all your stuff together, including your letter, index card and other items, self-addressed envelope and postage, cram it all into your #10 envelope and mail it. Then you wait :)


    US Domestic Rates can be seen here: http://www.usps.com/consumers/domestic.htm

    US International Rates: http://pe.usps.gov/text/pub51/51tblb_002.html
    Regions: 1 (Canada), 2 (Mexico), 3 (Great Britain), 4 (Australia/New Zealand)


    For British standard and airmail rates, visit: www.royalmail.com
     
  7. darthskellington

    darthskellington Dark Lord of the Typos

    Now What?

    Well, once you’ve sent your request, all you need to do is wait. Some people are great about signing and get responses back to you in less than two weeks. A typical request could take 1-2 months, but some are longer. I’ve waited over two years to get a response from some people. And, of course, sometimes you never get a response. All sorts of things could happen, including items getting lost in the mail. Happily, the payoff is always worth the risk.

    I’ll talk more about the types of responses you can get in another thread.

    The other thing you can do while waiting is keep a log of all your requests. I just keep a spreadsheet on my computer. Keep track of who/when/where you sent your requests to. I also note what I sent, and later when and what I received back. This is very helpful when you try to sort it all out later.

    I sometimes keep a copy of my letter, but this entirely up to you.

    Also, when I receive a particularly nice response, I sometimes like to follow up with a thank you. Especially if someone writes a letter in response. It’s just a nice touch. When I do send a thank you note, I usually just send a postcard. Again, entirely optional. Out of 200+ requests I’ve sent out, I think I’ve sent less than 10 thank you notes. Of course, big stars will probably never see your thank you, and you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but for the important personal responses, I think a thank you is appropriate.


    That concludes our class on autograph collecting. I hope everyone gives it a shot.

    Check out the Types of Responses you might get here.

    Question and Comments are welcome in the Autograph Q&A.
     
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