Autograph Collecting

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Autograph collecting, like most facets of the memorabilia trade, has witnessed a sea change in just the past decade alone. In the "old" days, fans persistent enough to hang around into extra innings or overtime could often score autographs from their favorite players. Some might even stick around long after the players hit the showers and catch their superstar of choice boarding a team bus. It's next to impossible for any athlete to turn down an eight- or nine-year-old who's tenacious enough to wait a good hour to two hours once the other fans have trickled out of the stadium.

For the most part, those days of autograph collecting are gone. In their stead are now team- and league-sanctioned "appearances" at card conventions, promotional stops, and charity events. Sure, some athletes will scrawl a quick signature during batting practice or warm-up drills, but for the most part these are prospects or unheralded players who need the exposure and good press as much as kids "need" autographs. Capturing an All-Star in his natural habitat and wresting a signature from him is a Herculean feat.

Changes in Autograph Collecting

There are several reasons that the process of autograph collecting has changed. One of these is the rampant commercialization of the autograph trade; where once athletes knew their signees would take home their cherished glove or ball to show to adoring friends, they must now wonder if their goods are being hawked on eBay for profit. It's not unreasonable to think that a fourth or fifth grader might try to turn a quick buck, even though his or her father is more likely to do so.

Second, and perhaps more tragically, changing times have turned many athletes gun shy, especially as fans go to greater lengths to procure their treasures. Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to find formerly "private" information about players, such as their addresses and children's names. To avoid possible trouble altogether, a lot of athletes simply refuse to sign autographs.

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