Fifteen or so years ago I got back into card collecting (baseball cards) and sent cards out for autographs by mail. It was great. At the time, baseball players were pretty good about responding to fan mail. I can’t remember the response rate, but it was high enough to keep me going.
I naively expanded into the other big four sports. Which sport was the worst for responses? – basketball. Active basketball players just don’t answer their mail. (Maybe I wouldn’t either if I was pulling in the dough of a professional athlete.)
Did I run into any other problems? Why yes, funny you should ask. Sports cards are slick. Even with efforts to rough up the surface of the card, autographs in marker tend to smear when not allowed to dry. Do you think athletes sit around waiting for their signatures to dry? Some do and others don’t. Getting a smeared autograph in the mail is bitter sweet. The player was nice enough to sign the card, but a little carelessness means the signature is bad.
A few weeks ago, as I was opening my first boxes of basketball cards, I thought it would be cool to do TTM autographs again. I even posted about it. After sending out a round of cards, I was immediately reminded of why I got out of TTM autographs in the first place. Active NBA players aren’t too responsive, and it sucks to get a smeared autograph.
As near as I can tell, there is one sure fire way to prevent smearing. You must (1) send out cards with plain paper backs (think 1980 Topps) and (2) ask the player to sign the back of the card. That’s fine, but what if I want to send out glossy cards issued since Clinton was president. Tough luck. You’re going to run the risk of smeared ink. Smears irritate me too much, and that’s why I quickly ended my TTM efforts.
As Edgar Allen Poe wrote… Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.