Thursday, June 21, 2012

Autographs From a Galaxy Far Far Away

In addition to sports, I am also a HUGE Star Wars fan, and collect autographs from people associated with it.  I started with cards, than created a custom photo signature card when I started sending to people who just didn't appear on a card.  My custom card is designed to look like the packaging of the original Kenner Star Wars action figures.

                   (Photo courtesy of

Topps has produced a series of cards called Star Wars Galaxy.  The last set, which came out earlier this year, is the 7th set in the series.  Each set has about 110-120 cards, and features the works of many different artists.  I like to use these both for the characters pictures on the cards, but also the artists themselves.

(Card signed by James Earl Jones -
voice of Darth Vader)
(Card signed by Tsuneo Sanda - artist)

For live action shots Topps has issued a number of sets, including their Widevision sets.  Cards in these sets are longer, 4 3/4" compared to the standard 3 1/2", and the photos are positioned horizontally.  These are perfect for showing the dramatic wide angle shots in the Star Wars movies.

(Card signed by Richard LeParmentier (Admiral Motti))

Just in the last few days, Topps has announced a new set.  This set will be for Star Wars 35th anniversary, and will cover all 6 episodes and will feature the movies characters, creatures, and vehicles.  This will be a large 350 card set, the largest Star Wars set to date.  It is currently scheduled for a September release. 

(Photos courtesy of

You can read more about this set at

Once again, may your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mailbox for 5/29/2012 (With Video)

I decided to do a little video of what was in my mailbox today.

Hope you enjoy.

Click on picture for video

May your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Around the World in 80 Stamps

You can get U.S. stamps everywhere, but what happens when you want to send a request to someone that is out of the United States?  What do you put on the SASE?  The answer used to be something called IRC, or International Reply Coupon.  These are little certificates that you could purchase at the post office and include in your SASE that could be used by the person outside the United States to redeem postage at their post office.  The problem with IRC's is that nobody uses them anymore, and even some post offices either don't have them or even know what they are.

This is the current version of the IRC, called the Nairobi model, and is valid until December 31, 2013.  It costs $2.10 in the United States.

Photo courtesy of

Learn more about International Reply Coupon's here.

There are now two different ways to solve this problem... either get a hold of stamps for the country that you are sending to, or include money for the person to purchase the proper postage.  There are forums on TTM sites that are set up to exchange stamps from various countries, but this can be time consuming.  Personally, I just include money with my request, and apologize for the inconvenience.  It is United States money that I send, but I have never had a problem with that.  When sending to Canada I include $1, $2 to England, and $3 anywhere else.  A few times, some very nice people have even returned the money with my signed items (but don't count on it).  Of course being so close to Detroit and the Canadian border, I could just go over and buy some Canadian stamps, but that is a job for another day.  lol

May your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some Unwritten Rules of TTM

There are some unwritten rules in any hobby, and TTM is no different.  I am going to talk about a few of these rules today.  Like most unwritten rules they are really just common sense, but there are always some people who don't think and it hurts everyone in the hobby.


SASE stands for 'self addressed stamped envelope.'  Include one with every request.  Never make the person you are requesting a signature from pay, and take the extra time to send your item back to you.  First of all, you will probably never get anything back, and it's just plain rude.  Remember you are asking this person a favor, don't inconvenience them.


Limit how many items you send to someone.  Personally, I never send more then 3.  I feel any more then like 4 is asking too much.  But I have seen people that have sent 10 or more, and they complain because the person only signed 7 of them!  Also, don't send multiple copies of the same item.  I do send 2 copies of the customs I send just so I have a second one in case one gets damaged or the signature isn't very good, but don't send like 5 copies of the same photo or card.  This makes the person you are sending to think you are just going to turn around and sell them on Ebay.  This is really for free requests.  If you are paying a fee for the signature, send as many as you want to pay for.

Image courtesy of Ebay seller sellurstuf2010 


This is along the same line as being greedy.  When making your request, don't ask for too many specific things.  By that, I mean don't ask the person to sign it in a blue fine point marker (unless you send the marker with your request), in a specific spot, with multiple inscriptions (inscriptions are things like 'Hall of Fame', or 'Rookie of the year'), and a personalization to your son... etc.  Make it simple and quick for the person, chances are they have a stack of other requests to get to besides just yours, and again, it's just rude.


Yes, this seems to go without saying, but you would be surprised.  Always remember that you are asking this person for a favor.  Do what your parents always told you, be polite, and say please and thank them for their time.  

Image courtesy of

Like I said at the start, they are really all just common sense.  Just think about what you are doing before you mail it and you will be fine.

That is all for now boys and girls.

As always, may your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Customs: One of a Kind Collectables

In addition to cards, photos, and index cards, some collectors also create custom items for autographs.  I am no graphic artist, but have created some custom items that have come out pretty good.  I have even had several requests for extra copies of my customs from the people that I have sent them to.  Customs can take time to design and create, but if done well, they can be a one of a kind collectable.

Here are some of the customs that I have created...

My "Wrestling Legends" Series (28 created /20 signed so far):

(This are meant to look like old west wanted posters)

My Star Wars Series (137 created / 88 signed so far):

(These cards were inspired by the original Kenner action figure packaging)

My Detroit Tigers Series (90 created / 88 signed so far):

(I made these so I could get the signatures of Tiger players who just never appeared on an trading card)

My R2-Detroit (Star Wars FanForce southeast Michigan chapter) Series (6 created / 3 signed so far):

(These were inspired by the Topps Allen & Ginter series of baseball cards.  Very simple and clean, with a vintage look.  I give the signed cards to members of R2-Detroit at our monthly meetings)

To make custom cards, you do need some special software.  Personally, I use Adobe Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Word.  There are some pretty good photo editors out there for free, like PhotoScape, and GIMP.  You can find a list of good editors with links to download them here.  I am no Photoshop expert, but I know enough to figure out how to do what I want to do (and if I can't figure it out I just look on the web).  I learned by just playing with it and trial and error.

How you print your customs is also very important.  Some people use online printing services like Shutterfly, Snapfish, or even Walmart.  I just print mine out at home using a middle of the range HP inkjet printer (set to the highest quality settings), using the best quality photo paper. 

If you are thinking about trying to make your own customs, my advice is to keep trying new techniques until you find something that you really like, and HAVE FUN WITH IT!

Once again, may your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Ounce of Prevention

When dealing with cards, there is something you have to look at before sending them out to be signed... you have to look at the surface of the card.  Modern cards tend to have a high gloss on them, and that looks wonderful, but it is horrible for autographs.  The ink from pens like Sharpies will not adhere to a glossy surface, and will just bead up and rub off.  Prior to about 1995, collectors didn't need to worry about this.   Glossy surfaces were not widely used and ink would adhere just fine.  But all is not lost.  You can still use glossy cards for autographs, it just takes some preparation.

Image courtesy of martcollectables123 on Ebay

There are two methods of 'preping' cards.  One is by using an eraser, the gum or rubber  type, and gently rub the eraser across the surface of the card.  I have tested this method on a few cards and had mixed results.  This method can also leaves a milky film on the card.

The other method, the one I use, is with baby powder.  Simply put a small amount of the powder onto the card and rub the surface with it.  The tack in the baby powder will allow the surface to take the ink.  Just make sure to rub down the entire surface, you never know where the person will sign the card.  Than just wipe off the remaining powder and it is ready for the mailbox.

Here is a link to a wonderful video by 'theautographnetwork' on YouTube showing both methods.  Check it out.

May your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Autograph Detective: Real or Fake?

The negative aspect of getting autographs through the mail is that we can not absolutely, 100% guarantee that that specific individual signed that item because we did not personally witness them signing it.  The best we can do is go by that persons reputation and compare the signature we get in the mail to that of a known authentic signature of that individual.

Fake signatures are an unfortunate aspect of TTM.  There are a few types of fake signatures...

Ghost Signers/Secretary
Image from

These are signatures written by a person, but not by the person it is supposed to be.  These are usually done by family members, secretaries or other hired assistants.  Hockey player Mike Modano has been rumored for years to have his mail requests signed by his mother.

These can be difficult to detect since they are real signatures.  Comparing to authenticated signatures of the real person can be one way of determining if what you got back is real.

Image from
Stamps are easier to recognize.  A real signature will have specific aspects to look for.  Real signatures will have areas of lighter and harder pen pressure.  The end of a real signature will not just end suddenly, it will either end fading off, or with a harder pressure point.  Stamps will show consistent pressure from start to finish. Also, real signatures are rarely exactly the same every single time.  If you compare the signatures that others have received, and they are EXACTLY the same... it is more than likely a stamp, or are next category.

Image from
Autopens are actual machines that reproduce a signature over and over again.  It is an exact reproduction of the persons actual signature, but are not considered to be authentic signatures.  Autopens are very difficult to determine just from the signature.  Like stamps, the signatures from autpens are exactly the same every time, so comparing what others have received can show if it is indeed an autopen.

Ok, TM is not perfect.  And nothing can insure that you will never get one of these fake signatures, but by doing your research about who you are wanting to send to and keeping up on the news in the TTM community, you can guard against it and enjoy the hobby.

Here is an article from Autograph Magazine that goes into more detail.

May your mailbox be filled with autographs and not bills!