30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, February 10, 2014

You Gotta Have Faith... Faith... Faith.

A huge part of our hobby is based on trust.

We trust that card companies are cutting up actual game worn jerseys of players pictured on cards.  We trust that the people we trade with online will send their end of the deal.  We trust that card companies aren't sending loaded boxes for Beckett to review.  We trust that card collectors aren't trimmingcoloring, or modifying cards without our knowledge.  We trust that card companies are going to fulfill their redemption cards to the best of their ability.  We trust that our pack pulled certified autographs are real.  We trust that our local card shops aren't searching packs.  We trust that collectors and people within our hobby aren't upgrading their plain swatch jersey cards into extravagant patch cards.  We trust that eBay dealers and other online card dealers are being honest when describing a card's condition.

But can we really trust through the mail (TTMautographs?

Let's preface this by stating that I have zero knowledge on this topic.  In fact, I'm not even sure I have ever sent an athlete an autograph request.  But I know several people who have.

So to those collectors, I ask the following questions:

1.  Are you pretty confident that your cards are being signed by the actual athlete?  
2.  Do you ever worry that they're being signed by family members or friends?
3.  And what about autopens and rubber stamps? 
4.  How often have you seen athletes use these?

You're probably wondering... what's your obsession with TTM's?  Well... yesterday, I showed off some of the autographs I recently purchased off of a trusted friend.  Sadly, two of the cards were revealed to me by JediJeff as being "rubber stampsignatures.  After going back and looking at the autographs, it's pretty obvious that The Wizard of Oz didn't sign these cards.  The signatures are identical and there's no flow in the ink (if that makes sense).

Anyways... that made me curious.  Where did my friend acquire these autographs?  And how many of these autographs were obtained in person and how many were TTM's?

He told me that most of them were acquired in person at Candlestick Park and the Oakland Coliseum during the 80's, but a few were obtained through the mail (including the Smiths).

But where does that leave me?  Should I assume they're all fake, even though my friend says they're real?  Should I destroy them, so others won't be duped?  Should I start a new collection of autographs I'll never know the authenticity of?  Oh Ozzie... look at the dilemma you've presented me.

I guess worst case scenario... this situation is just another healthy reminder that there will always be doubt in this collector's mind about an autograph's authenticity... unless of course, I've actually witnessed the athlete signing.

Happy Monday and sayonara!


  1. back when i was chasing the TTM's i received a few rubber stamp returns as well. kind of irritating that they would deface my card with a cheap stamp as if i wouldn't be able to tell? i always wished they would of just returned my unsigned card. i still have the stamp cards (larkin, seitzer and a few others). i've gained enough distance from them that i can now appreciate the memories...still wish they were real though.

    1. Yeah... I know how you feel. Huge fan of The Wizard, so I was hoping these might be real.

  2. This is pretty much the reason why I don't do autographs.

    If the autograph is certified, then I'll believe it's real (and even then I have reservations).

    If the autograph comes from a known reliable source (the player is a well-known signer with a familiar signature, i.e., my favorite, Ron Cey OR you received them from someone who you know obtained them in person), then I'll believe it's real.

    Otherwise, I have to be there in person watching the player sign for me to know that it's real. And I hate standing in lines.

    I just can't have a hobby where there's a gnawing feeling at me wondering if what I'm doing is legitimate or not. That's not fun for me.

    1. If it's not fun... it's not worth collecting. I've accepted the risk of certified pack pulled autographs... as well as autographs that have been certified by major authenticators (PSA/DNA) and autograph dealers (like Steiner Sports and UDA). I also trust my buddy Mike who goes to golf tournaments and attends sporting events/practices. Outside of that, I'm not really willing to accept the risk.

  3. It's kind of interesting how the autograph industry has evolved, because I believe that autograph collecting was originally meant to prove that you'd met all of the people in question.

    I'm not much of an autograph collector, and I've often thought I should give TTM a try, but I never really thought about the possibility of autopens and stamps... but would guys like Eric Young Jr. or Omar Quintanilla do that to me????

    I don't have an answer for you, but I'll share in your dismay over the situation.

    BABY! I know you're askin' me to stay, say "Please please please please don't go away..."

  4. 1. Are you pretty confident that your cards are being signed by the actual athlete?
    You never know for sure. I go after mainly hockey and retired players. If there known for signing, fairly confident. But you never know.
    2. Do you ever worry that they're being signed by family members or friends?
    3. And what about autopens and rubber stamps?
    Always a possibility.
    4. How often have you seen athletes use these?
    Some of my Gretzky's.
    I did a lot of mine during the 80's and TTM wasn't as prevalent. Pretty sure those are authentic. A lot had personal notes or business cards I requested.
    But I'll wait for something more
    Cos I've gotta have faith...

    1. Speaking of Gretzky... my buddy had nine things signed by Gretzky at Pebble last week. He was signing everything for everyone out there.

  5. I have no idea if my TTMs are real, but I'm going to assume the vast majority of them are. There may be a few here and there that aren't. But at the end of the day, I don't sell or trade them, so no harm done. Most of the guys I send to anyways probably aren't guys who receive such a large volume of mail anyways, so that helps keep the faith. Plus, if I send to them at their team or minor league complex, it's more likely they are signing, as opposed to a family member at home. Maybe I'm wrong, but helps rationalize it for me.

    A lot of prospects on Twitter show fan letters or a card with a sharpie next to it. Maybe it's all a play, but I like to think they do it to help connect to fans, especially while they are younger and establishing themselves.

    1. You make an excellent point. If you have no intentions of selling them or trading them away, then it doesn't really matter as long as you're okay with the signatures. I need to adopt that philosophy. Thanks for the feedback.

  6. I believe that most athletes who return autographed items through the mail actually do sign the cards themselves. The ones who don't want to bother can just have their fan mail thrown out, or re-directed to some team employee to answer with a "too busy" form letter & a postcard.

    Rubber stamps are possible, but are easy to spot if you're paying attention. Autopens are more difficult unless you send more than one item. (If you get two cards back with perfectly matching signatures, you know that they were autopenned.)

    On occasion, you will find out that family members do sign cards instead of the athletes. Don Zimmer's wife handled most of his fan mail for years. The home address frequently published for 1980s Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Smiley actually belonged to his parents, and one of them would sign the cards sent there (they made no attempt to match his autograph, though.)

    I don't think it's a really big issue, though, and unless things have changed, it's a possibility with many card company certified autographs too.

    The important thing to remember when collecting autographs: don't spend a lot of money for something unless you are watching it get signed. If that's not possible, do your homework and buy from someone that you trust.

    1. Yeah... as soon as it was pointed out to me, it was easy to see that the Ozzie was stamped. I trust the card companies, but you're right... you never know. Thanks for your feedback.

  7. I've always been fairly adamant that if you do your homework there isn't much to worry about in the autograph hobby. Granted, I stick to mostly lower end players that can be had for no more than a few dollars. I wouldn't touch any high end autographs of commonly forged superstars without some kind of reputable authentication.

    But I rarely give much thought to the authenticity of my TTM autographs. Rubber stamps are rare these days, and while autopens are a bit tougher to spot the telltale large dots at the end of beginning and end of the signature (where the autopen "sits" when making the signature) usually make them easy enough to spot.

    I might actually feel better about my ttm autos than some pack certified autographs. There's nothing stopping players from having a friend/brother/neighbor sign their sheets of stickers, and the sheets of thousands of stickers are probably more irritating to sign than whatever pile of mail may come to a player.

    At the end of the day you have to take a bit of a leap of faith that your card was indeed signed by the player in question. But the same can be said for nice vintage card purchased - was it trimmed or altered? Is it too good to be true? Since I only collect autos for my own enjoyment with no interest in reselling or even trading them, it's just not something I dwell on much. I'd rather just enjoy the hobby.

    1. Yup... gotta have faith. Thank you for the valuable feedback. My friends and I have had conversations about athletes and those sticker sheetsl

  8. Even though I just entered my sophomore season in the TTM game I'll do my best to answer your questions.

    1. Yes. Partly because I do some research beforehand (which is to say I look at TTM threads on various forums) to see if anybody's gotten any legitimate responses before sending them out myself. And also because I usually send to low-level minor leaguers or low-key guys who probably don't get enough requests to start carrying around autopens.

    2. No. And even if I did get a return from someone other than the actual player I'd probably start a sub-collection of TTM returns that were actually signed by the player's family members or friends.

    3. Not sure what you mean by this question to be honest. Like what do I think about autopens & rubber stamps? If so, I personally don't mind getting returns back that are autopens or rubber stamps though since I think they're kind of cool and (if enough of them come back) could become their own category in my collection.

    4. Very few. I've never had any "fake" returns (to my knowledge at least) and from what I've heard from other TTMers, people that used to use autopens/rubber stamps were usually the high profile stars (like Ozzie used to be) but nowadays those kinds of people don't even bother checking their mail anymore and just throw everything away.

    Hope these answers helped.
    Great post, as usual, Fuji.

    1. You're like me... maybe I'll create a binder of autographs that may or may not be legit. This purchase would definitely be a nice start. Thanks for your feedback Zippy!

  9. Generally if I send out a TTM, the goal is just to get mail back. Something that looks nice with a signature is bonus. I won't say that I assume that they're all fakes, but it's not the point. Its just something different to add to the collection. That being said, I do assume most of them are real. Mainly because I rarely send TTMs to stars. I generally assume that some middle reliever isn't going to bother getting a stamp or someone else to sign things. He'll just ignore it.

    But, like I said, It's not important.

    1. Attitude and perspective go a long way in this hobby... and I really like your approach to TTM's (along with a few others who commented above). I'm not sure if I'll ever dive into sending out TTM's, but if I do... I'll adopt this philosophy.