Monday, June 29, 2009

Third Time is a Charm?

Last Friday a received a signed baseball card from Andre Dawson. Mr. Dawson was the 1987 NL MVP and is a borderline HOFer. What interested me about this return is that it took me 3 tries to get Mr. Dawson to sign a card for me. Since starting to collect autographs via ttm (through the mail) I have seen people getting returns from Mr. Dawson. I liked Andre Dawson, so I sent to him and got no response. I waited about eight months while dozens of folks kept getting a response for him, many only having to wait a couple weeks for a return. I decided to send to Mr. Dawson again, and got no response again. Finally I sent a third time, and he signed one of two cards for me. I appreciate that Mr. Dawson sign a card for me, but I wonder what happen to the cards I sent to him before.

This is not an issue exclusive to Andre Dawson. I had to send to future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, former All-Star Will Clark, and former Twin Dan Schatzader three times each in order to get a response from them. Mr. Schatzader sent back (signed) all the cards I had sent him over the years, while Mr. Larkin and Mr. Clark signed and returned only the last card I had sent them.

Why did it take three times to get a response? What happened to the other cards I sent? Were they lost? Did the player simply decide he did not want to send them back? Did the player just arbitrarily decide to sign for certain people and not others? I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is perseverance pays off.

Fernando Valenzuela, Geoff Zahn, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, and Don Sutton have refused to sign for me the first two times I have sent to them. I have seen many returns from Mr. Valenzuela, but not from Mr. Zahn, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Mattingly, and Mr. Sutton. Therefore I will be sending to Mr. Valenzuela a third time, while waiting on the others.

Why wait on the others? I have seen few if any returns from them lately. Mr. Mattingly is currently coaching while Mr. Sutton is doing some broadcasting. They just may be holding on to their mail while they work through the summer, and then they will return the cards in the offseason. It is unwise to flood a player with multiple autograph requests as they may think you are trying to take advantage of their generosity. At the same time though, if others keep getting responses from players and you don’t then it might be wise to try again. You never know what happened to your first one or two attempts. The cards may never even have reached the player. I try to wait 6-9 months before resending.

Of course I would prefer to have the player respond the first time I send to them. Having to buy multiple cards and stamps can get a little pricey. One way to ensure success the first time, especially with more famous players, is to drop them a little cash donation. Some Hall of Fame players have foundations, and if you donate to those foundations you are ensured a return.

HOFer Gary Carter has a foundation which I sent a donation to. I expected it would take 3 or 4 weeks to receive my signed card, but such was not the case. Instead a week later I had the card signed beautiful by Mr. Carter. He also sent me a typed note of thanks on which crossed out Dear Fan and instead wrote my name.

Nolan Ryan has a foundation too. He notes it will take 12 to 16 weeks to have a return from him, but you will get a return. I will be waiting eagerly as I have sent a donation to Mr. Ryan as well.

Mr. Carter and Mr. Ryan are using the fame to him help others. I have no problem donating to a player’s foundation in exchange for an autograph. Tim Raines, Dave Winfield, Frank Viola, and Harmon Killebrew are the baseball players whose foundations have received small donations from me. In return I have received wonderful signed cards. Funny, if you donate to their foundations, a player’s signs your card a lot nicer. Yet another reason to research a player’s signing habits.

Of course some players want donations for signing and the donation goes directly into their bank account. Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Brooks Robinson, Bob Feller, Al Kaline, Rollie Fingers, and Whitey Ford are the baseball players who I have “donated” to. All have been fairly reasonably priced ($10-$20). However some folks want a little more. Check out some of these prices to sign a baseball card:

Willie Mays $300
Rickey Henderson $140
Cal Ripkan $140
Frank Robinson $90
Tony Gwynn $85
Eddie Murray $85
Robin Yount $85
Willie McCovey $85
Reggie Jackson $75
Yogi Berra $70

Ouch! I loved getting HOFers to sign my cards, but those prices are just too high. I am going to be investing $40+ each on getting Mike Schmidt and Tom Seaver to sign for me, but that is about all the farther I am willing to go. I figure that Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Seaver will soon be charging in the $70-$100 as well, so I am getting them now while they are still somewhat reasonably priced.

Of course there is one way to beat paying those high prices. It is called “fine someone willing to sell you a certified autographed card for less”. Certified autographed cards are baseball cards signed by a player and then included in a random pack of baseball cards that sold at the store. There are usually very few of these cards, so you are one lucky person when get to open a pack of cards and find one of these certified autographed card. Most certified cards are of current players, but there are a few Hall of Famers out there too.

In 1995 Reggie Jackson signed a few such cards for Upper Deck who then included them in random packs of their cards. I found one of these cards at Twin Cities Sports Collector Club (TCSCC) show with a certificate of authenticity for $40. So I could pay $40 for certified autographed card of Reggie Jackson with a certificate of authenticity guaranteed by one of the large baseball card companies, or I can could send $75 to Reggie Jackson and hope he signs and returns my card in six months or so, or I could send $75 to a company that stages signing by folks like Reggie; include an extra $5 for a certificate of authenticity plus $5 mail order fee plus $10 for shipping for a total price of $95.

Let’s see $40 or $75 to $95. To me that choice was obvious which is why the certified autographed Reggie Jackson card is now sitting in my display case at home with the extra money I saved going to Mike Schmidt. I can now get two signed cards for roughly the amount I would have had to pay Reggie Jackson.

The moral of the story is show perseverance when trying to get a player, “donate” to a player's foundation if you want to guarantee a return, and if you find a players signing fee to high, look for a certified autographed card.