Autographed cards – especially TTM autographs – are a staple of the hobby. While you can pull an autographed card from several subsets, there’s a unique charm to TTM autographs.
You stand a chance of getting hand-signed autographs of specific players you fancy and at much lower prices (free in most cases). However, while TTM autographs might sound simple in their execution, there’s a lot that goes into it to ensure you achieve success.
This article shall cover everything you need to know to get started collecting TTM autographs.
What are TTM autographs?
TTM stands for “through the mail,” so TTM Autograph Collecting is simply collecting autographs through the mail. It’s a common and relatively stress-free way to collect the autographs of your favorite athlete.
The principle is simple — you write a letter of request (LOR) to your chosen athlete or player, asking them for an autograph in return and hopefully within days or weeks you will receive your card or item back signed.
Items you need to get started collecting Through The Mail autographs
The items you need to start collecting through the mail autographs are simple and easy to get. Here’s a list of things you will require to get started:
Item(s) to be signed
Stationary and envelopes
A source for TTM addresses
Tips for collecting autographs through the mail
The basics of TTM autographs are simple. You decide on a player whose autograph you want, write them a letter along with the item you want the autograph on, mail it and wait for a reply.
While this sounds easy, you must follow several steps to increase your chances of getting your card signed.
Decide which player’s autograph you want
Before you get started collecting TTM autographs, you should create a list of players whose autographs you want to collect. While a list is good for helping you stay focused and productive, it is also helpful for several reasons.
Creating a list is an essential step in the TTM process. Be realistic while making your list, as it increases your success rate. While sending a through-the-mail autograph request is relatively cheap, it adds up quickly if you multiply it by several players.
Guidelines for picking your player
The best policy when collecting TTM autographs is to aim low to avoid disappointment. While you might want high-profile autographs from the biggest stars, those guys are constantly bombarded with requests and might never get around to your turn.
It is best to target players that aren’t likely to get tons of requests or high-ranking prospects before they break out. These players are more likely to read your letter and return your request.
While there are high-profile athletes signing TTM requests, these are “one in a million” occurrences. You can decide to take a shot at it. However, you shouldn’t expect a response.
Research TTM autograph success rate
Not all athletes sign autographs through the mail. Luckily, TTM autograph collecting is an industry in its own right, and collectors worldwide share their experiences. Websites are dedicated to checking which athletes are more likely to sign your autograph request.
Collectors who have sent TTM requests to these athletes track their successes and failures so that you can save time. A quick Google search would bring relevant websites where TTM successes are tracked. However, the ones below are the most common and are used by thousands of TTM autograph collectors.
Find the player’s address and their rules.
It would help if you researched all you could about a specific player before mailing your cards to them. Sports Collectors is an excellent resource for this. Once you sign in and search for a particular player, it shows you everything about the player.
Most players charge a fee for their signatures or donations to a specified charity. Some have specific cards that they will or won’t sign or charge more for their Rookie cards. There’s so much detail about a player; it’s all on Sports Collectors or any similar websites.
For athletes that require a specific amount for signatures, put the stipulated sum in the envelope. This is tricky for players who demand a donation to their charities. While some want the check made out to the charities, others would require you to make it out to them. Your best bet is to make the cheque out to the athlete when sending a TTM request.
Write your Letter of Request (LOR)
The next step is to write a letter of request to the selected athlete, asking that they sign your card. This is usually the most confusing part for most people as they find themselves overdoing it. While different people’s opinions may differ on how to write a letter, the universal trick is to make it personal and keep it brief.
An average athlete is usually busy and might only have time to read a few pages. Additionally, ensure you “WRITE” the letter rather than “TYPE” it. It gives it a personal touch, and the success rates of written letters are higher than typed letters.
Here’s a template you can use to write your letter of request.
Briefly introduce yourself and tell the athlete you are a huge fan, follow their team, or love watching them on TV.
A few good introductory paragraph templates are below.
“My name is “Your Name,” I am from “Your State and City.” I am a big fan of yours and enjoy watching you on TV. It’s my dream to meet you in person and take a picture.”
“My name is “Your Name,” and I live in “Your State and City.” I remember you from when “include a highlight of a possibly memorable achievement.” Thanks for the baseball memories.”
“My name is “Your Name,” and I was a huge fan of yours as a kid, especially when you played for the “Insert Team.”
Your introduction should have three short sentences at most. One sentence to state your name and one to state why you’re a fan.
The main paragraph should contain the reason you’re writing the letter – to request an autograph. You should always ask politely if you hope to have a great success rate. A saying goes,
“You’ll get more flies with honey .”
As always, keep it short and limited to a single sentence or two at the most. An example of some good main paragraphs is below.
“Would you please be kind enough to sign the cards I’ve enclosed with this letter?”
“I’d love it if you, please sign the enclosed card.”
“I would love to get your autograph since you’re my favorite “INSERT SPORT” player.”
“It would really me a lot to me if you sign the enclosed card as it’s my favorite yours.”
This should be plain and straight to the point. Avoid using long sentences. While most believe you should schmooze the player, it’s best to be genuinely polite and keep the letter brief.
Round up the letter by thanking the athlete for their time or wishing them the best in the rest of the season. You could also wish them compliments of the season if you’re writing during the holidays.
“Thanks for taking out a few minutes from your time to read this letter and sign my card.”
“Thank you very much for reading this, it means a lot to me. I wish all the best to you and your family.”
“Thank you very much.”
End the letter by writing your name and signing it. It’s always a nice touch to sign your letters of request. This is especially important if you’re sending a typed letter rather than a handwritten one.
The template above is just that, a template. You can make it longer or more personal to suit your needs. You should get a response as long as you’re polite, no matter how long your letter of request is.
Prep the TTM auto request package
Once your letter is ready, you must put everything together in a package. You need the following three items for every TTM autograph request you want to send.
A big 125 x 9.5 envelope
This envelope would contain everything (card, smaller envelope, and letter of request) and be addressed to the player. You should have your return address on it too. A peel & seal envelope is recommended because they’re much easier to use.
A smaller 6 3/4 envelope (return envelope)
The player would use this smaller envelope to send your cards back to you once it’s been signed. You must include the stamp on the return envelope, or you might not get it back. Experts recommend using Forever stamps as while most players sign requests immediately, there’s been instances of players signing cards two years after collectors sent them.
The return envelope must be a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). This means you must write the envelope out to yourself with your address in both address locations (to and from) with the stamp on it.
Once the card has been signed, the player would simply put it in the return envelope, seal it and drop it in the mailbag. The easier you make it for them, the higher your success rate.
The card you want the TTM auto
This is the card you want the athlete to sign on. While you can send any card, there are rules as to which card you can send to whom. A rule of thumb is to only send a card you’re willing to lose, as there’s no guarantee of getting your card back.
While you might want the athlete to autograph the most expensive card you own, there’s a chance that you’ll lose it in the mail.
Beckett recommends sending index or sketch cards that are worth a few cents. However, you can risk sending expensive cards to players with high success rates on Sports Collectors. To be safe, you should only send an expensive card to players with a 90% success rate. Avoid sending cards in top loaders, as there’s a high chance of the athlete signing your toploader rather than the card.
Experts also advise against sending super glossy cards, as the ink doesn’t stay well on glossy cards. However, we shall cover a few tricks to “degloss your cards” later in this article.
Lastly, limit your TTM request to not more than two signatures. It’s best to send one card per request. Anything more comes off as greedy or inconsiderate and might put off the athlete. If you require many signatures, send multiple requests for them spaced at different intervals.
Money or donation required
Most players require a specific sum before signing a TTM autograph request. Put the money into the envelope where it can be seen the moment it’s opened. Mostly, they’ll ask for a donation to a charity they own or are affiliated with.
When donating to a charity, make the cheque to the player and insert it in the envelope. The placement of the money or cheque should be in a way that it’s the first thing they see once they open your envelope.
Mailing the TTM autograph package
Once you have your letter of request, the item you want to be signed, and your SASE return envelope, it’s time to mail it to the selected athlete. When writing to current players during the season, their team’s address is the best place to send the TTM letter.
While the odd player might sign a request sent to their home address, A LOT of players do not respond to TTM requests sent to their home address. Several have come out to condemn it, calling it rude and invading.
Sending TTM letters to a team’s address
Address the larger envelope to the team’s address. You should write their full address as a recipient and your address as the sender. Use the following format when sending to a team’s address.
City, STATE Zip
Or, a more practical example:
c/o Dodgers Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012-1199
A quick Google search would bring out the TTM addresses of the various teams across all sports. You can also use the links below:
Sending TTM letters to a player’s address
You can use the home address if sending a TTM request letter to a retired player. You can find the home addresses for any player using the websites below. While a Google search might show you the player’s address, most players have more than one home.
Websites such as Fan Mail or Sports Collectors show you the success rates for each player’s address. You want to send your letters to an address the player typically responds to.
Address the larger envelope to the player’s address. You should write their full address as a recipient and your address as the sender. You should address the smaller SASE envelope to yourself. Write your address twice on it, both as the sender and the receiver. Insert everything into the large envelope and send it on its way.
Waiting for the TTM autograph
The next step after mailing your TTM request is to wait for a response. You never know when a request will be fulfilled, as even people with 100% success rates might take a while to get to it. Not every player will sign, and some can take months to get back to you. That adds an extra bit of delight to TTM autograph collecting.
How to degloss your cards
Most of today’s cards come with that glossy sheen collectors know and love. While it’s great to look at, gloss and sharpie are like oil and water and do not mix well together.
Not prepping your glossy card before sending it for an autograph might render all your effort useless. Imagine waiting months for a particularly tough-to-get autograph only to see it ruined because the ink isn’t sticking to the card. Luckily, there are several simple processes to make your glossy cards autograph-ready.
White stick eraser
Baby powder method
Kleenex tissue and dryer sheet
White Stick Eraser
Gently rub the card’s surface with the eraser for a few seconds. Do not apply force, as you risk damaging the cards. Once you’ve covered the card’s surface area, use a cloth to remove the eraser remnant from the card’s surface.
Kleenex tissue and dryer sheet
First, use the dryer sheet to wipe the card’s surface for a few seconds gently. Once that’s done, give it another wipe-over using the Kleenex sheet.
Baby powder method
While both methods above are great for single cards, this method is perfect if you have a lot of cards to degloss. Simply apply baby powder to the surface of your card and then wipe it off. You can degloss hundreds of cards at a go using this method.
While any of these methods would degloss your cards and get them ready to be autographed, we recommend the powder method. With the eraser method, there’s a risk of scratching out more than the glossy sheen when too much pressure is used. Even when done right, some collectors have said their cards look “dull” when they use the eraser method.
Cards deglossed with baby power turn out perfect and leave the card still looking great. While the powder method may take longer and might create a mess, it is worth the extra effort.
TTM autograph value?
Most collectors believe that TTM autographs shouldn’t be sold, especially if the player didn’t take a fee for signing them. We shall not talk about the ethics of selling a TTM autograph. However, we shall discuss the value of TTM autographed cards.
TTM falls under “Third-party autographs,” and all collectors agree that having a player sign a card boosts its value. While you’ll find someone ready to buy your TTM autographed card, it’ll likely cost less than a certified autograph.
One way to make your TTM autographs worth more is to get them authenticated and slabbed. Sadly, scammers are everywhere in the hobby, and anyone can claim that their card was signed by a player when it wasn’t.
The only way to know for sure is to get your autographed cards authenticated. Various companies provide autograph authentication services. However, the most reliable are BSG and PSA. You should also check with the card shops around your area, as a few have authenticators from Beckett of PSA who come by frequently and authenticate autographs.
They will provide you with an authentication certificate after they authenticate the autograph. If you want your card slabbed, send it to the grading company.
Again, while autographs add monetary value to cards, the real value in TTM autos is in the sentiment and emotional stories behind each TTM autograph success story. The joy of writing to these players, anticipating their return, and delight in getting your card signed is a unique and unbeatable experience.
Final thoughts of TTM Autographs
The current state of the hobby might make it appear like it’s been drained of fun for the average collector without a big budget. However, TTM autograph is an aspect that freely gives as much happiness as it gave several decades ago.
Of course, not all TTM requests will be successful. There will be times when your cards wouldn’t be returned or wouldn’t be autographed by the player. However, this makes it much sweeter when you receive a signed card.
While most players would request a donation before signing your cards, it is far cheaper than spending thousands of dollars on certified signed cards. Indeed, it might be hard to start, but TTM collecting is addictive and hard to stop once you get the hang of it.
Players who won’t sign certain cards
Sometimes, a player might refuse to sign a card for various reasons. Jeff Baker of Sports Collectors Daily has compiled a list of such players and the cards they won’t sign. While this doesn’t cover every player, a quick Google search with a specific players name would let you know if there’s a card they do not sign.
Al Nipper1985 Donruss; the photo is Mike BrownAndy HawkinsAll Fleer cardsArchie Bradley2012 Topps Heritage Minors, 2012 Bowman Platinum; the photo is J.R. BradleyBo Jackson1990 Score bat and shoulder pads; copyright issues with the photoBob Montgomery1975 SSPC; unauthorized cardButch Metzger1991 WIZ MetsCarlton Fisk1991 Score Record BreakerChone FigginsSeattle Mariners itemsDanny Jackson1985 Donruss; the photo is Frank WillsDavid WellsAny cards other than Blue Jays onesDmitri Young1993 Upper Deck; doesn’t like photoDoug Flynn1986 ToppsEd Glynn1983 Fleer; the photo is Bud AndersonFernando Rodney2007 Topps, 2009 Topps Tigers Team set; the photo is Roman ColonFloyd Bannister1985 Donruss; photo is Tom SeaverGary Pettis1985 Topps; card depicts his brother LynnGreg Swindell1991 Studio; the photo is Tim CostoGregg Zaun2006 Topps; the photo is Jason PhillipsHanley Ramirez2006 Topps 52; the photo is not himJ.C. Romero2011 Topps Update; he never played for the YankeesJames McCann2016 Topps HeritageJim Morrison1981 Topps; doesn’t like the photoJohn Hiller1966 ToppsKeith HernandezCleveland Indians items charged a premium; he did not like his time playing there.Kelly GruberAll Leaf cardsKetel Marte2016 Topps HeritageKevin Romine1989 Fleer; the photo is Randy KutcherLaTroy HawkinsSan Francisco Giants cards, insert cards, Japanese cardsLuis Rivas2001 Bowman Heritage; the photo is Jacque JonesMark McGwireWill not sign items with Jose CansecoMark McLemore1994 ScoreMark Teahen2005 Upper Deck SP; the photo is Chris LubanskiMarty Barrett2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites; claims some contractual agreement TTM, but will sign through private signingsMiguel Dilone1978 Topps, if signed by others alreadyMike Cameron2004 Topps Gold Glove; the photo is Randy Winn (will sign back)Oddie McDowellCleveland Indians itemsOrlando Hudson2008 Allen & Ginter; photo is Alberto CallaspoReggie Jefferson1992 Triple Play; the photo is Stan JeffersonRick Miller1984 Donruss; name is wrong on itRodney Scott1982 Fleer; the photo is Tim RainesRon GantWill not sign items showing David JusticeRon Kittle1984 Topps gets charged a premium; the fee goes to a charityRuben SierraOakland A’s itemsRusty Greer1997 Skybox Metal Universe; wrong photo (will sign back)Sparky Lyle1976 SSPC; unauthorized cardSteve Busby1975 Topps; signs but also writes “Not My Photo” on it, as the photo is Fran HealySteve Garvey1982 FleerWes Chamberlain1991 Topps error; the photo is Louie Meadows