-Its been awhile since I did a how to TTM post so here's a quick step by step guide to our method of TTM autograph collecting to help any new collectors out there that may need a little info or help to get them started. This is an updated version of the original beginners guide post.
Step 1-Research and Address Hunting
The first thing I do is research the celeb I intend to write. I look to see what they are currently doing are they still filming movie and shows or are they retired. When trying for musicians and bands maby there out on tour so sending to the venue might be the best place to try. I then look for addresses. I'd rather use a management address but sometimes only a private address is available. I look at there signing habits. Do they even sign autographs for fans. Some big name celebs wont sign period. Some get tired of signing or seeing the items they thought they signed for true fans for sell on eBay so they just stop signing all together. Luckily alot of celebs still do sign TTM. When researching addresses a good place for beginners to start is www.fanmail.biz. There are better sites like www.startiger.com but its requires a fee to join but its worth the price. Then there's the Sports Card Forum and an entire world of TTM blogs and Facebook pages with people sharing addresses. Since fanmail is a free site its a great place to start, but i recommend StarTiger even with having to pay it has more current addresses and forums that actually help members out. With enough online research you can find at least one contact address or email for about any celeb. For current sports stars try sending it to the teams stadium or training facility during spring training or during the regular season.
Step 2-What do you want signed
After I have my info and addresses then comes what I think is the hardest part. What do I want signed. We usually send 4x6 photos but others prefer 8x10s and others use 3x5 index cards. Some collectors send baseballs to everyone to have signed its really a matter of sending what you like. Choosing the perfect picture to get signed can be the hardest part. You want one that you like but it also needs to have lighter area for the celeb to sign. Some will sign with silver or gold sharpies that show up well on darker pictures but unless you send your own most will return in black sharpie. Sometimes they use silver sharpies or paint pens but not to often. That's why I always try to choose pictures with a lighter background behind the celeb so they have a good area that they can sign in. For athletes sports cards are a great thing to have signed if you have them laying around you might at well try to get some signed. We also send alot of the DVD and bluray covers from our favorite films to be signed and Authors are usually happy to sign a copy of there book.
Step 3-Stamps and Envelopes
So after I have what the item I want signed the next step I do is get my request envelope and my SASE or self addressed stamped envelope ready. For envelopes we primarily use 4 1/8 inch by 9 1/2 inch strip and seal envelopes they fit 4x6 pictures perfectly and no licking or water to seal the envelope. I address the envelope to the celebs with my address in the return area and there's in the proper place. For my SASE I put my address in both spots to insure it returns to me no matter what. This way even if it doesn't have proper return postage it will still return to me postage due and not be sent back to the celeb. Then I write PLEASE DO NOT BEND on the front and back of the envelope. Then I put proper postage on both. For our 4x6 photos usually one stamp per envelope works. That covers our 2-3 pictures, letter and our SASE and one stamp is plenty for our return of just a couple pictures. For attempts in the US just regular postage stamps will do but for the overseas requests you need Global forever stamps. My post office said that if US Global stamps can't be found you can just use regular postage stamps for send to overseas. Its usually around $1.20 to mail the regular size white or small brown envelopes overseas but its always best to have the post office weigh it just to make sure.
Top envelope is an example for sending your TTM requests
Bottom envelope is an example of the SASE for the return
Step 4-Writing your letter of request
Now its time to write that letter. I usually write a full front page letter sometimes a front and back depending on how big a fan I am but usually try to keep it at a single front page that way I don't take up to much time. We send sincere handwritten letters to the celebs and not just a generic can I have your autograph form letter. Sometimes that's all it takes but id rather be sincere its worked better for us. I write them thanking them for all the joy they have given us over the years. I tell them exactly why we are fans and not just we loved you in such and such movie. We tell them exactly how there work has touched our lives and thank them for it. After all that towards the end I add my request for an autograph followed by please and thanking them again for everything especially there time. Now for really huge celebs or extremely rare or harder to obtain people we write 2-4 page letters. Sometimes it just takes the right letter to move them to sign and sometimes is still a waist of time and stamps you just never know. Remember nothing is ever guaranteed.
Step 5-Mail and wait
So you have your pictures and you're envelopes ready and you've written the letter now its time to neatly put it all in your request envelope, dont forget the items to be signed, the request letter and a SASE then seal it all up and make sure to check that proper postage is on both then drop it in you mail box and wait and sometimes wait some more lol. Sometimes your lucky and it only takes a week or two but usually it takes months or even a year or more before you might get a reply. Usually the bigger the celeb the longer the wait but not always the case because its all in the luck of the draw when they pull your letter out of the huge fan mail pile and reply.
Step 6-log book and tips
So after I send my letter a handy thing I like to do is keep a log book. I write the celebs name and date I sent the request along with the address I used in the book and that way I can mark the date when and if its returned. Another tip is I dont hesitate once I find a working address I get a letter out the next day. A celebs signing habits can change and they can stop signing at anytime or the address can get abused and stop working you just never know and when its an older celeb I dont waste time getting my request out to them they because like I said anything can happen. They may develop health issues that can stop them from signing or maby just get tired of signing after all these years. Remember it's there choice to sign for us fans its not something they have to do but I always appreciate the ones who do and I'm sure they appreciate us fans or they wouldn't reply at all.
Well that's how we do it I hope this helps any new collectors looking to get into TTM autograph collecting. Ill be back every Saturday with the weekly TTM success post with new autographs and tested addresses.