Monday, August 17, 2009

Autograph Collector

Several years ago I started collecting autographs. It is a hobby that probably had its roots in my childhood when my parents bought me an autograph book while we were on holiday. The first entry in the book was the signature of a well known British comedian of the time who was performing in the town where we were staying. He very patiently waited as my mum searched her handbag for a pen. I’m surprised the experience didn’t become part of his comedy routine as my mum pulled all manner of things from the bag as she tried to find the pen she knew was somewhere in there…

I’m not sure why I renewed my interest in recent years. Maybe it was because I’d accumulated several signed items and realised that I was the owner of a small collection. That realisation became the motivation to add to what I already owned.

Like many hobbies, collecting autographs can be a very expensive hobby to pursue. There’s always someone trying to get us to part with our money. It all depends on how extreme we are willing to be. At first I was a bit too extravagant and spent quite a lot obtaining signed photographs of Hollywood stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder and others. That initial obsessive burst came to an end when I realised I could not justify spending that kind of money on things that had no real value. I also became aware that there was a much more satisfying way to increase my collection.

I now want to share some of those ways.

Firstly my collection is more or less focussed. While I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity of obtaining a worthwhile signature I concentrate on areas that interest me and restrict my active pursuit of autographs to those areas of interest.

My collection consists mainly of authors and country singers/musicians. I also have several sporting autographs which came about mainly through working for a company that sponsored several Olympic swimmers like Grant Hackett.

Very rarely would we regularly stumble across celebrities in our daily lives, so we need some way of contacting those in whom we have an interest. The more high-profile the celebrity, the less likely it will be that attempted contact will succeed.
After turning from my earlier extravagance most of my autographs have been obtained through the following methods.

Meet and greet opportunities after concerts. Many of my country music autographs were obtained in this way. The most profitable single occasion was a music “expo” which featured several artists performing prior to spending time meeting fans. Keith Urban also made a brief appearance here in the very early days of his solo success in America. This event was not restricted to the country genre. My daughter was also able to meet the members of Killing Heidi, a band she liked at the time.
I have found that country artists tend to be very generous to their fans. Maybe it’s because their genre does not have the profile given to commercial “radio-friendly” music. Australian country artists have also been accessible through in store appearances. If you can’t personally attend, some stores will allow you to purchase signed merchandise through mail order. Similar opportunities arise quite regularly in the literary world. Major book stores and publishers will hold book signings to promote newly published books. When I worked in Sydney the major book stores would often host visiting authors at signing events. Again if you are unable to attend, the stores will often take mail orders of signed books.

Apart from these public commercial events, I have had success through writing directly to a celebrity of interest. With musicians and authors this is usually done via their record company or publisher. Some of these are more helpful than others. I have always found MacMillan to be a very helpful publisher who in the past has forwarded correspondence to the intended author.


A valuable resource for finding addresses has been the local library's copy of Who’s Who. Included in its brief biographical details the book often provides a mailing address. Most of the times I used that resource resulted in a signed reply including one from the cricket great Don Bradman.

One of the most memorable signatures I obtained personally was actress Geena Davis. She competed in an exhibition archery event prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I was fortunate enough to be working nearby at the time and was able to call in to see her compete during my lunch break and was more fortunate to meet her on two separate days. The illustration at the beginning of this blog entry is a compilation made up of media photos, her autograph and a photo I took of her competing.

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