The 15th edition of one of the autograph collector’s most popular resources is about to hit the mailbox.
Collecting "TTM"…through the mail..autographs has been a popular pasttime for a few decades now, but it’s been almost a science for one long-time collector.
Jack Smalling, an insurance man in Ames, Iowa has been producing his Baseball Autograph Collector’s handbook on a regular basis since the 1980s. Collectors and fans use it to send autograph requests to players past and present. A card or photo, a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a prayer are the only requirements.
Some players and coaches respond quickly. Others take weeks, months or even years. Some don’t respond at all. It’s part of the chase. Some whose names and addresses are in the book buy it to keep up with former teammates who may have moved.
The book contains the mailing addresses of over 88% of the known living players, coaches and umpires from 1930 to 2008. Death information is listed for those who’ve passed on since the last edition. There are 13,160 names and 7700 current addresses inside.
For $22.50, the handbook can generate a boatload of genuine autographs for those with the patience to write a letter and pay return postage.
The New York Times profiles Smalling’s family-run business that has helped his own collection grow by the thousands as he helps others add to theirs.