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“To” or not to, that is the question

A surefire way to ruin the resale value of your autographs is to get your items personalized.

I do it as often as I can.

Why? Because I don’t view autographs as assets in an investment portfolio, but rather as supporting documents to a lifetime of memorable celebrity encounters. When Kevin Youkilis personalized all items at the Ray of Hope Foundation event in December, the dealers were steaming—I couldn’t have been happier. In my opinion, personalization (i.e. having autographs signed “To Matt”,) increases the sentimental value and uniqueness of your collection, while improving the overall autograph experience in several ways.

Alyssa Milano autographed 8x10 with inscription

Alyssa Milano autographed 8x10 with inscription

Get a higher-quality signature
More than just getting more ink on your item, asking for a personalization may yield a more complete signature from a celebrity (New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul is known to do this). By inferring that you’re keeping the item for your own personal collection, you may avoid several tricks used to reduce the resale value of an item, such as signing in an undesirable place or hacking (i.e., using an abbreviated and/or intentionally sloppy signature).

Stand out from the crowd
Requesting a personalization is a way to identify yourself as a true fan while differentiating yourself from dealers, of whom many celebrities are growing increasing wary. It also puts a name to your face and forces a celeb out of auto-pilot when signing. It’s evidence they actually acknowledged you and there was an interaction, even if it was brief.

Get an interesting inscription
On several occasions, a request to personalize an item “To Matt” has resulted in a longer (and sometimes humorous) inscription. One of the most interesting: Sage Francis, one of my favorite hip-hop artists, wrote “SAGE (heart)’s MATT 4-EVA!” on an 8×10 picture of the two of us I had printed out.

Sage Francis autographed 8x10 with inscription (and an unfortunate paint pen malfunction)

Sage Francis autographed 8x10 with inscription (and an unfortunate paint pen malfunction)

Increase the personality of your collection
When admiring a friend’s autograph collection, the personalized items stand out. For the most part, I know there is a story to be told. With the others, however, there is a sense of uncertainty. Was it obtained in person or purchased? Traded for or won in a silent auction? To me, a signature by itself just isn’t as special.

With all this said, I don’t request a personalization every time. It usually depends on the environment and the item I’m getting signed. In large crowds it isn’t logistically sensible—or fair to fellow collectors—to shout out a time-consuming request when a celeb is trying to accommodate everyone as quickly as possible. Also, on non-flat items like baseballs or jerseys, a personalization, frankly, can just…look weird (you’ll know it when you see it).

But as a general rule, personalization is my preference, and as I flip through my autograph albums remembering each moment, those two small words (“To Matt”) make a big impact.

So, do you “To”?

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

7 comments… add one

  • Laura March 9, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Sometimes, I do and sometimes I don’t. Probably my favorite personalized item is a photofile I got signed by Charlie Batch when I was like 12 at Lions traing camp. He was signing for everyone, but when he saw I had a photo of him, he did me last, and then asked me to sit on the golf cart with him, and take a picture with him. I was worried he wasn’t going to get me at all. I have loved Charlie Batch ever sine, but I liked him before too. This is off topic, but I thought you might get a kick out of reading this blog by Chris Cooley about signing autographs ttm http://chriscooley47.blogspot.com/2011/03/fan-mail.html and he also owns a pottery barn!

  • Matt Raymond March 11, 2011, 4:54 pm

    Laura, excellent story about your interaction with Charlie Batch. I’ve read about his community work, seems like a great person.

    Awesome blog post by Cooley–thanks for the heads up!

  • Matt S March 11, 2011, 1:05 am

    I usually like to get one of each, getting the personalized one first. That gives me the best of both worlds. So I just saw you on Twitter which led me here. I’m surprised i haven’t met you yet. I’ve been collecting for 15 years but only in Boston area since 2007. Wow, a fellow Boston collector with the same name whom I didn’t even know of! I have many “To Matt”s as well. I guess ours are somewhat interchangeable then :). So when did you see Alyssa?!

  • Matt Raymond March 11, 2011, 4:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, I’m sure we’ll cross paths soon.

    I attended a Red Sox game with my dad a couple years ago and she was at the team store taking pics and signing if you bought something from her line of women’s baseball apparel.

  • Janice December 30, 2011, 5:01 pm

    Hey Matt. I’m interested in what you think are some of the best personalizations you’ve gotten. The ones that make you feel like you’ve connected with the celeb. When I sign photos, it makes me uncomfortable to keep signing, “All the Best,” every time. Any ideas?

    thanks. Janice

  • Matt Raymond December 30, 2011, 10:06 pm

    “To Janice, thanks for reading Autograph University. High five! – Matt Raymond”

    :) Just kidding.

    It’s an interesting question. My favorite personalizations/inscriptions are those that are creative and unique. I suspect it’s difficult to mass produce this and really make an impact without a personal encounter/shared experience/anecdote to reference.

    The Sage Francis photo I included in the post is humorous and matches his personality as a sarcastic, witty guy. In college I attended a book reading/signing by Dave Eggers and he asked each person to suggest something for him to draw on the title page next to his signature–I asked him to draw “music” which gave him pause but I loved the output and no one else had it in the world. Chuck Palahniuk signed a copy of his novel “Haunted” for me with a note individual to the date and a perfect match for the horror theme: “To Matt, Who I met on 06/06/06 True!”. On another book he wrote “Stay Inspired!” which he probably writes a lot but it was encouraging and resonated with me as a young writer.

    So, I have to ask…what kinds of photos are you signing? :)

  • Janice January 2, 2012, 11:46 pm

    Thanks for that, Matt. That helps alot. It is difficult to be creative and resourceful on the spot.

    I am a Thoroughbred horse jockey. I have a presentation that I do and at the end of it, I sign a postcard of me on a horse. People line up and I sign anywhere from 20-50 cards. I also have a book in progress and know I will be having book signings soon.

    I’ll send you the postcard in an e-mail. I’m on FB: Janice Blake-Baeza and Twitter: @amtrak79 I don’t exactly know how to work Twitter yet, so I usually just do FB and e-mails.

    Thanks again. I admire your passion and sense of fun and admiration for people. You’ve made yourself a great life!

    Cheers!

    Janice

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