SamoaRowe,Feb 27 2016 wrote: Now that I'm collecting cards again, I was thinking about getting into this. I'm assuming I just send the card and a stamped return envelope and hope for the best? Is it customary to send money or notes?
Pretty much. I've found it's better to send a hand-written letter, along with the card and self-addressed stamped envelope.
Here's the most reliable site I've been using for about 4-5 years now:
You do not have to register or pay to use their "TTM Address Database" ("TTM" stands for "Through-The-Mail". Took me awhile to figure that out). If you do register, it's just like a message board, but you can log your requests, which helps other users. There are other sites that claim to have better info and want you to pay for it... but I think they're complete cocksuckers.
What I do is, go to "Sports Card Forum" and look up a player, then check to see if has a good return rate...and how recent the last "success" was. Most addresses listed are home addresses, but a few are through the team's official mailing address.
It also depends on the sport and time-of-year. For instance, right now the best way to get baseball autographs is to send to the team's Spring Training complex. Some guys don't sign during the season, then sign and answer requests once they're home for the off-season. So patience and a little savvy is required on your part. In most sports, guys aren't home during the season, either.
I just send cards, since total cost to me is less than buck (and time to write a letter). Some folks go bananas and send pictures, balls and jerseys. My rule is: "if you don't want it lost or stolen, leave it at home". I only send cards that I have extras of...or cards that I wouldn't miss if they never came back.
If I send more than one card, I always ask them to keep one, if they'd like. Had a few guys take me up on it, which made me happy ("Hey, Will Clark has one of my extra baseball cards. Cool"). I'll send the card(s) in a soft plastic sleeve, taped to a semi-rigid think piece of cardboard (similar to the thickness of your average cereal box). The rigid card sleeves can get shattered and the post office may return them to you, because they are so rigid.
Some guys will not sign unless you send money...or they'll return your item, un-signed, specifying an amount. I've never done that, because I've had good success with my "free" requests.
For the actual letter, just be casual yet respectful. Keep it short; one page max. Start off by saying how cool you think the player is, or maybe one specific memory or story you have about them. Then use the second half to politely ask for a signed card. I've found out, firsthand, that a lot of guys appreciate when you close with "good luck" or their college "war cry" (example: if you write to a former Texas A&M athlete, don't say: "Go Aggies", say "Gig 'em"). This just helps your chances, so do some research.
It's not necessary to ask for a personalization ("To Samoa Rowe..."), unless you're really into that sort of thing. I don't ask for personalizations, yet some guys still do it. My guess is so you can't sell it, which I'm totally cool with (yet you'd be amazed how often guys misspell "Erick").
I include my address at the bottom of my letter, in case anybody ever lost my envelope. Yet that hasn't been a factor, as everybody has returned my hand-written envelope.
One horror story I heard about "TTM" was involving Steve Sax (former MLB). He signed my friend's card, then also sent him some info about a "great moneymaking opportunity that you can get in on, from the ground-floor!"
Good luck and let us know how things go for you!