OK, well not exactly free, but this week I will look at two very inexpensive ways to start and add to your collection.
For many collectors part of the joy of the hobby is getting cards and packages in the mail. Really, I mean who likes getting junk mail and bills? Requesting both “Team Fan Packs” and “Through the Mail” (TTM) autographs adds to your collection, gets you cool stuff in the mail and will only run you a couple of postage stamps. Every Major League team and several Minor League clubs have available items that are called “Fan Packs.” The packs will vary from team to team and year to year. A simple letter to the team’s home office requesting a Fan pack will net you something. One very important rule to remember though is that you MUST include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE). Without a SASE you will get nothing. I usually receive a pocket schedule, a refrigerator magnet, a couple of stickers, or a pre-printed autograph card of a team player. Most of the teams I have contacted stuff the SASE as full as they can. A couple of teams have really gone the extra mile in their Fan Packs however. The Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres all sent back large envelopes or a small box for their fan packs. I received official team magazines, season programs, post cards and small figurines or other left over stadium give-a-ways form the clubs above. The Padres even returned my original SASE. Please remember that past Fan Pack request success does not guarantee future success.
Most people who watch baseball wish to get an autograph of there favorite player. There are two very large and free databases available where you can get address of players who will sign and return your cards. A lot of collectors have success sending cards to a teams home or spring training stadiums. I have also had some success that way, but it is largely hit-and-miss. The player addresses databases available at The Bench and Sports Card Forum are maintained, updated, and often list the wait time to get your cards back. Some of the addresses are to a players corporate or business address, but there are a lot of home and personal addresses listed as well. There are a couple of players who will sign if you include a small donation to their charity, but those are listed in the database.
The most important thing to remember when requesting either Fan Packs or TTM autographs is to keep your letter short and polite. Use “please” and ‘thank you.” Also remember to include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. If it takes a player more than a minute to read your letter, sign the card and seal it back up again, your chances of getting anything back are greatly reduced.
Until next week, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.