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I am pleased to present the third annual edition of the Autograph University Yearbook, a collection of stories penned by members of the autograph community. This year’s issue includes 12 new tales (including one never before published from me). You’ll read about attempts to graph icons like Bob Dylan, Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks; parents and their children sharing unforgettable moments; mistaken identities and chance encounters. It was months in the making and I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done. It’s one example of what we can do when we come together as a community.

The Yearbook is the most meaningful project we do each year at Autograph University, and I encourage you to share it with your fellow graphers and help us spread the word.

To get your FREE copy of the 2014 Autograph University Yearbook (PDF eBook) just sign up for our newsletter in the box below.

2014 Autograph University Yearbook






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To help his son track TTM and IP successes, computer programmer Eric Jacobowitz created Catalog It – a software program designed to help collectors manage their autograph inventory. In this episode of the Master Class we discuss the story behind creating the software and how his son helped rekindle his interest in collecting.

Interested in a free trial of Catalog It? Download it here. If you want to get the full version, use coupon code autographu for $5 off. (Disclosure: I received an evaluation copy of Catalog It – and dig it.)

Let me know what you think of this episode, leave a comment below.

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Sign up for the newsletter and never miss an episode

  • Get updates delivered to your inbox
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  • No spam or sharing your email! (Your privacy and trust are important to me.)






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Over 90% of the autographed items in my collection are photos. They’re inexpensive to print, lightweight to carry (or ship, for you TTM collectors) and display well. And if you find yourself needing an item in a hurry, you can send a file down to the local photo shop for pickup in an hour. Easy, right? So how do I explain all the blurry photos, weird print sizes and illegible signatures that plagued my early collecting years? I’ll do my best so you don’t make the same mistakes—because sometimes you only get one shot.

YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION

David Ortiz autographed photo

This photo shows terrible pixelation because the resolution was too low for a print this size – and it was only a 5×7! (Click to enlarge.)

The number one error I made when printing photos was choosing images with a resolution too low for the desired print size (I typically print 8×10). I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking resolution down technically (you can check out Wikipedia for that) but it’s basically how much information and detail is contained in your image. A low-res image may look ok as a 4×6 print but blow it up to 8×10 or 11×14 and you’re going to see jagged lines and blur as all those tiny pixels are being magnified. You don’t want your image to look like a screenshot from an old Nintendo game (or Minecraft for you younger collectors). As a rule of thumb, you want to use the highest resolution image you can find.

You’ll see resolution displayed in a width x height format (e.g., 2400×1600), meaning the image contains 2,400 pixels across and 1,600 pixels in height. So we know bigger is better, but usually I’m challenged with an image that falls in a middle range of resolution. Is 800×600 enough for a high-quality 8×10? Is 1200×800 enough for an 11×14? In almost all cases, I don’t have time to wait for the print to come back and make adjustments (and trial and error is costly).

The folks at Adorama (home to Adoramapix.com, my favorite online printer) wrote a post on Pixels and Printing and I pulled out their size guide which I think is a great reference point (I added the 16×20 specs).

Print
Size (“)
File size required for Print (MP = megapixels)
180ppi (good) 240ppi (better) 300ppi (best)
4×6 720×1080 – 0.75MP 960×1440 – 1.4MP 1200×1800 – 2.2MP
5×7 900×1260 – 1.2MP 1200×1680 – 2MP 1500×2100 – 3.15MP
8×10 1440×1800 – 2.6MP 1920×2400 – 4.6MP 2400×3000 – 7.2MP
11×14 1980×2520 – 5MP 2640×3360 – 8.9MP 3300×4200 – 13.8MP
16×20 2880×3600 – 10.4 MP 3840×4800 – 18.4MP 4800×6000 – 28.8 MP

Do the specs in the first column mean you won’t see any pixelation in an 8×10 print using 1440×1800? No, but it will probably look pretty good. If you’re going after a coveted signer and/or paying for a signature, using the best resolution will ensure you won’t have any regrets.

Ok, so now you’ve got a better understanding of what size images you need. How do you find them?

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND KEYWORDS

There are a number of online resources for locating that perfect image. Let’s start with the legal ones.
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Last week I joined Rob Bertrand and David Wright over on Cardboard Connection Radio to discuss the 2014 Autograph University Yearbook and how easy it is to get involved. This was my second appearance on the show and I had a blast. If you’re a card collector (or even if you’re like me and just curious to check in on what’s going on in the hobby) I encourage you to check out all the great content over at Cardboard Connection.

If you missed my interview, check out the clip below and SEND ME YOUR STORY BY MAY 31!

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If you’ve been hanging around Autograph University you know our annual yearbook is the project nearest to my heart. It’s a collection of stories from collectors just like you (and I hope this year we can include one from YOU). The past two issues have featured works that touch on every emotion, from suspenseful pieces to ones that have you reaching for Kleenex.

I Want Your Story for the Autograph University YearbookI need your help to make the 2014 Yearbook the best and biggest yet. Can we best last year’s 15 submissions? I know we can. (If you haven’t already, check out our fantastic 2013 edition.)

We all have a favorite autograph story, whether it’s a memorable celebrity encounter or a multi-signed piece you spent years finishing. To be a part of our Yearbook all you have to do is email me your story. That’s it—you’re published!

The 2014 Yearbook will be distributed in June as an eBook and will be free to download.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

  • Stories will be accepted until May 31. Email your submission to matt@autographu.com.
  • Your story should be as long as it needs to be (although 200 – 500 words is recommended).
  • Have a picture? Send it along and I’ll include it.
  • Include your Name and the Contact Information you’d like to appear with your entry (e.g., email, Twitter handle, website URL).
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For 15 years Tim Henderson graphed athletes and celebrities in Atlanta, but when his daughter was born he needed to modify his collecting habits. In this episode of the Master Class, we discuss his transition from in person collecting to TTM, his proven tips on filling your mailbox with returns, and how he got Sir Paul McCartney IP and through the mail.

Let me know what you think of this episode, leave a comment below.

Cool stuff to check out

Sign up for the newsletter and never miss an episode

  • Get updates delivered to your inbox
  • Receive a copy of the 2013 Autograph University Yearbook
  • Exclusive content, tips and giveaways
  • No spam or sharing your email! (Your privacy and trust are important to me.)






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The Best Time to Get MLB Autographs on Game Day

As a New Englander, the first sign that winter’s death grip is loosening comes from a ballpark over 1,000 miles away in Florida. Spring training is underway and while the snow in my backyard may persist past Opening Day, a new season is nearly upon us. A new graphing season that is. And as baseball teams figure out how to improve on the previous year’s performance, you too should think about your autograph game plan for 2014. I put together the following guide to help ensure you get more hits than strikeouts (or at least an All-Star-caliber batting average).
Matt Raymond and Josh Beckett
This guide isn’t a straightforward as the NBA playbook from a year ago—major league baseball teams simply operate on a schedule with a lot more variability. The result? Your time commitment is probably going to be more significant and you are constantly taking risks based on incomplete information and… well, your gut. But let’s focus on the positive—baseball offers many more chances during the season (heck, the series) to get that coveted player’s autograph. Here is a rundown of those opportunities.

Arrival (Evening Before the Game)
If the visiting team has an off-day before the start of the series expect them to arrive to the hotel early evening—around 5 p.m.—giving players time to have dinner, relax and get a good night’s rest. You’re faced with a number of challenges in this first graphing opportunity. First, the team comes off the bus all at once and the number of collectors is usually low. Less competition sounds like a good thing but it actually makes graphing multiple players difficult. Players often stop and pick up their bags—it slows them down but also gives them a convenient excuse not to sign (i.e., full hands). Your best bet is to stick around and wait for players to head out for dinner and hope they’re in an accommodating mood. Odds are you’re in for a late night.

In the event of a back-to-back game, you can estimate arrival time with the following equation:

Time game ends + 1.5 hours (postgame interviews/travel to airport) + duration of flight + travel time to hotel = Arrival time

Before the Game (Hotel)
Unlike NBA teams who take two scheduled buses, many major league players take taxis to the ballpark before the charters arrive. To further complicate matters, the range of times during which they leave can be extremely wide. You may see a player head to lunch around noon and then take a taxi from the eatery directly to the park. Others—particularly starting pitchers who won’t play that night—may not head out until after 3 p.m. As a general rule you’ll see members of the coaching staff beginning around 12 p.m. and a bulk of the roster between one and three o’clock. If you’re willing to put the time in you have an excellent shot at the entire team as they depart individually or in small groups.

Before the Game (Ballpark)
Huge group of graphers at the team hotel? You may decide to take your chances at the ballpark on the receiving end of those taxis (and buses). Unless you have a comrade at the hotel who can tip you off when a players leaves—and in what type of vehicle—you’re going to be testing your reaction time to see how quickly you can pull an item out when a target steps out of a taxi. I suggest you do a dry run to get the lay of the land at your local ballpark. At Fenway there are at least three possible entrances a player could use, adding to the complexity of pregame graphing at the ballpark.
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After amassing more than 20,000 autographed Sports Illustrated covers (covering 95% of all issues ever published!), Scott Smith deserves the title, the SI King. We discuss how he built his museum-quality collection over three decades, tips for collecting autographs in person, and his experiences meeting Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali dozens of times.

Let me know what you think of this episode, leave a comment below.

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Cool stuff to check out

Sign up for the newsletter and never miss an episode

  • Get updates delivered to your inbox
  • Receive a copy of the 2013 Autograph University Yearbook
  • Exclusive content, tips and giveaways
  • No spam or sharing your email! (Your privacy and trust are important to me.)






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How to Dress for Success When Getting Autographs

You may have heard the old saying, “When you look good, you feel good.” There’s also a more recent maxim along the same lines—as a matter of fact, I just made it up: “When you look good, you graph good.” The latter has less to do with a heightened sense of confidence and more to do with the benefits of dressing in a way consistent with your environment (i.e., look the part). In many settings being conspicuous puts the autograph collector at a disadvantage.

Now I’m not suggesting you leave your ball cap at home when you’re hanging over the railing along the first base line. But wearing your game day wardrobe outside a five-star hotel is a surefire way to attract increased attention of security and put your graphing opportunities at risk (would my story about meeting Shaq in the lobby of the Four Seasons have the same ending if I was dressed casually?). Your goal should be to appear like just another guest and draw no attention before you make your request.

Another perspective to consider is that of the celebrity. We all make snap judgments on people and the way they dress plays a role in our prejudice. I’m reminded of the time I approached Seth McFarlane on the set of Ted. He did a double-take when I asked him for an autograph.

“You want my autograph?” he said. “Um, ok. I thought you were with the movie and had a question.”

I’m not suggesting you graph in a three-piece suit, just look the part. In this case, Seth thought I was just another production assistant and it got me an autograph before I could be shuttled off by an actual PA.

Consider the dapper gentlemen pictured below. Might a ballplayer take a different route or put a phone to his ear if he noticed a group of guys that looked like our friend on the right? Would the young man on the left have an easier time getting a temperamental signer to stop and acknowledge him? I would contend the answers to both questions are yes. Without exception? No. But certainly more likely.

Two autograph collectors dressed completely differently

Which of the these guys is the grapher? The hotel guest?

Does dressing in a t-shirt and jeans mean you’ll miss out on a ton of graphing opportunities? Of course not, but think about how your appearance might affect the interactions you have (or don’t have) with those people who can affect your chances.

Do you consider what to wear depending on where you’re getting autographs? What do you think of my recommendations?

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2013 Autograph University Annual Review

2013 Autograph University Year in Review
As the year ends I look forward to the holiday season not only for the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family, but also for the chance to carve out some time to reflect on my life and sketch out a plan for the year ahead. Each of the past two years I’ve shared with you my autograph-related resolutions but today I want to take you deeper into what’s going on at Autograph University and in my head and heart. Inspired by Chris Guillebeau’s annual review model, I want to lay out what did and didn’t work for me in 2013. Then, I’ll give you a sneak peek at what we’re planning for the New Year. I’m as excited as ever.

What Went Well in 2013

  • At the end of 2012 I asked readers how we could improve our content and I received a lot of feedback that you were interested in hearing from other collectors. I heard you loud and clear. Building community and collaboration were key themes for me coming in 2013, and two projects stand out as successes: the Autograph University Yearbook and Master Class.
  • Together we produced the second annual Autograph University Yearbook. This edition was again offered as a free eBook to newsletter subscribers and includes a fantastic collection of stories from 15 graphers.
  • We also launched the Autograph University Master Class and produced six episodes featuring video interviews with experienced collectors across the United States. Overall I think the format worked really well and I learned a lot from our guests. It was also great putting faces to names as we so often interact with other collectors only through their online handle.
  • Our inaugural Autograph University Class of 2013 recognized six athletes who have gone above and beyond to accommodate autograph collectors over the course of their careers. Our choices were influenced directly by your nominations. And the letter we received from the late Virgil Trucks’ daughter really validated that we should continue to do this each year.
  • My first full year of fatherhood was my biggest success and greatest source of happiness. While I’m still wildly inexperienced as a parent, being Nathan’s dad is what I feel most confident doing and provides me with a sense of fulfillment that I struggle to find in some other parts of my life.
  • We sold our tiny townhouse and moved into a home that was much more conducive to raising a family (reducing the number of staircases from four to one significantly increased the chances our toddler would learn to walk and live to see his second birthday).
  • I’ve written before about my promise to never choose graphing over spending time with my son so my opportunities have been few and far between since his birth. That said, I was still able to pick up some choice pieces this year during lunch breaks and after he goes to sleep:

What Did Not Go Well in 2013

  • It was a goal of mine to post more consistently throughout the year and not get sidetracked with life’s distractions. And while I published 28 articles, it felt like a lot less. The Master Class started out strong with six episodes but I didn’t produce any after May 7 (incidentally, the business I worked for (i.e., day job) was acquired June 1 and my family moved a week later—these are excuses but highlight the transitions I was experiencing). I also wasn’t as engaged as I had planned with my newsletter subscribers and Facebook group members—two groups of collectors who deserve my attention.
  • Perhaps my worst offense in 2013—and something I am frankly embarrassed about—was not being as responsive as I should have been to those of you who emailed me. In multiple cases I didn’t reply to a message for several days (or longer) and I promise this will change in the New Year. I love receiving your emails/tweets/Facebook messages and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to write.
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