Not every player signs autographs through the mail, but even some big name stars are amenable to sitting down for an hour or two on their own time through paid private autograph sessions. Typically working through the player’s agent but sometimes directly with the athlete, promoters will take in memorabilia and cards sent in by collectors and dealers and work with the athlete on getting those items signed and returned.
Whether it’s something from your own collection or you just want to buy a piece that’s been freshly signed by a player, the process usually goes off without a hitch but there are some things to keep in mind.
In the second of a series, we chat with Matt Powers of Powers Sports Memorabilia, who offers some tips to collectors on getting items signed through private autograph sessions.
SC Daily: With most public autograph sessions shut down, private signings are one way to add to your collection. What advice would you give someone in terms of how to go about selecting an item from their collection to send in for an autograph?
MP: Generally speaking, non-bulky items are best for private signings. For example, you don’t want to pay to ship back and forth to a signing a huge piece of artwork that can’t be rolled in a tube.
If you haven’t dealt with the company handling the signing before, it is always a good idea to give them a quick call or email to find out about them and become comfortable with sending in your item to the signing.
When selecting an item to be signed, I generally tell people who are just getting started to select smaller items, baseballs, mini helmets, and footballs. Reason being you aren’t quite sure what you like to collect yet. Start off with smaller, less expensive items in case you get something signed you don’t really like. Last thing you want is to get a bulky item you have to frame like a jersey or a full-size helmet signed by a guy who is out of the league in two years.
As someone who has conducted a lot of signings over the years, what are some of the more unique pieces you’ve seen turned over to an athlete?
Game-used items are always my favorite. To have the chance to hold something that an athlete wore is always surreal. My favorite item from 2020 has to be a Mike Trout game used jersey from 2019 that he hit home run #44 in.
Personal photos are always fun. Seeing the athletes response to a picture of them and the customer is always cool.
Let’s say a collector has the item picked out and is ready to send it in. Give me a few tips for making sure it arrives safely and gets back in the same condition.
I have my customers follow a four-step process anytime they send in an item. 1.) They send it in with my submission form (not all dealers have these), which basically covers their contact information and what they want done with their item. 2.) Mark item properly with painter’s tape or post it note. Painter’s tape is preferred as it generally stays better. With this tape, mark where you want the item signed, inscription (if applicable), authenticity hologram. 3.) Add your name/order # and also the dealer’s name to the item. Some signings have multiple dealers there, having their name on the item helps insure it gets back to them should they accidentally get mixed in with another dealer’s items. 4.) Include receipt of your order or payment method inside the shipment.
Shipping method is also important. If shipping an item in to a firm deadline be sure and use a service like FedEx or UPS ground. Their services are guaranteed. While we all like to use USPS because of their affordability, they are very inconsistent in their delivery times. Last thing you want happening is your item arriving after the required due date.
What’s the most common mistake made by collectors when sending in an item?
Assuming the dealer or athlete know exactly how you want your item signed. It is absolutely critical that you label your item with the proper instructions and have your and the dealer’s name on the item.
Is it generally OK for a collector or dealer to send their own pen or other writing utensil along if they want to do that for some reason?
I made a YouTube video regarding this. I generally suggest no unless you have an item that has multiple signatures on it all signed with the same pen and you want to keep it consistent. Always best to check with dealer 1st to see if they have that pen type or color. Most signings pretty much have every pen you can imagine.
When you use your own pen and the signature doesn’t turn out the way you want, it makes it hard to go back to the dealer and request a replacement/refund. I am all about protecting yourself and using the dealer’s pens does that to a certain degree. Also, you save the cost on buying a pen.
What type of communication should a customer expect from the company conducting the signing and how long should a collector typically expect to wait to get their item back?
The last thing I want is someone contacting me about when they can expect their item back. That means I did a poor job of communicating that info initially. All of my signing dates are posted on every social channel, on the order page, and also on the website to help avoid confusion. Inevitably, that information can be missed, so happy to answer questions when they come in.
I generally say that an item should ship back to you within one week of the signing taking place. Keep in mind, signings may happen 2-3,000 miles away from a dealer’s location. It will take time to pack everything up and then ship it back to be processed and each item shipped back to the correct customer.
As far as day to day communication if you have a question about the signing, it is 2020. There is no reason an email or phone call should not be responded to within an hour during normal business hours. We have so many different ways of communicating now, phone, email, social media, there really is no excuse to not get back to customers quickly.
An 18-year industry veteran, Matt Powers is the founder and sole owner of Powers Sports Memorabilia, based in the Kansas City area. You can connect with him through the company’s website and get insights on the hobby through his YouTube channel.