Through the Mail-Bag

mailbagIt’s our first ever mail bag!  A few times a year we’ll look for some questions from our social media followers, and do our best to answer them.  We’ll talk about autographs, the Red Sox, running a small business, signings, whatever you guys really want to know.  Have a question for our next mail bag?  Shoot an email to Brian@SoxSignatures.com, and if we use your question, we’ll send you an autographed Red Sox card from our collection!  This edition we talk about getting autographs in Pawtucket and Fenway, whether the Sox need an Ace, and the value of different autographs, and much more!  Be sure to comment on whether you agree or disagree or have your own insights on a topic.  Let’s begin:

When setting up an autograph signing, is everything set up through the company (you) and an agent? Or does a player have a say in the details of a signing? Can the player decide the date, time, amount of autographs signed, etc. or is this handled between the agent and you? -Bobby M

We’ve worked directly with players, and through their agents, and both have their positives and negatives.  When working directly with a player, you build a more personal relationship and can explain why we do this to the player, which can sometimes make them a little more reasonable when we get to negotiating prices.  Most player’s don’t really haggle us, and are even surprised that someone is interested in paying them to sign.  The negatives of working directly with the player is that nothing is set in stone, so you can have guys that are non-committal or cancel at the last minute.  Plus they are pretty busy playing baseball so they aren’t always quick to return a text or phone call.  When it comes to working with agents, on the plus side it’s treated as a business deal so things are pretty concrete and everyone is on the same page quickly.  The downside to working through the agent is the prices can be harder to agree on, and you can lose out on that personal relationship with the player.  One of the greatest thrills we have is actually getting to know these guys as people and not just ball players.

Has Sox Signatures ever set up a public signing with the Red Sox or players from the farm systems at anytime? If so, what steps did you have to take to get this done? If not, has this been a thought at anytime? Thanks! -Steve G

We have not had a public signing yet, and to be honest the number one reason is money.  We like doing the private signings because it’s easier to sell to the players and agents.  Private signings are controlled environments, and there are no expectations on how the player needs to act.  For public signings, the player is expected to be in a good mood and be friendly, plus you have no control over what people will do or say while this player is there.  The other big risk with public signings is the turnout.  You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to a player and have 10 people show up, it’s a loss for everyone involved.  We’re still researching and looking for an opportunity to do a public signing, but we basically need to find that sweet spot with a marketable player, who is within our price range.  That being said, if anyone knows a local business near Pawtucket, Boston, or Portland that would be interested in bringing in a player for a signing or event, shoot us an email at Brian@SoxSignatures.com.  We’d love to partner with you and see if we can make that happen!

Do you believe that the Red Sox should pursue Cueto or Hamels in order to solve their lack of an Ace in the rotation and why?
-Tyler M

Ahh the Ace question that everyone has already put their spin on all over the internet.  Glad someone asked something about this.  In the offseason when the main rumor was that it would take one of Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart to get Hamels, I was 100% against it.  You don’t move one of those 2 future franchise players for a very expensive 30 yr old pitcher on the downside of his career who has never pitched his entire career in the NL.  Now that we’ve played out about 30 games, everyone can see the rotation is an issue, but I’m still against the Hamels deal.  I’m against it for all the reasons above, plus, even if you had Hamels this whole time, he probably replaces Masterson.  While that is a nice upgrade you still have Buchholz, Porcello, Miley and Kelly at 2 through 5.  In other words, you still have a very inconsistent group of pitchers after Hamels.  The Sox went 3-3 in Masterson’s starts, so let’s say Hamels is here.  Realistically the Sox go 4-2, maybe 5-1 in those starts instead, which puts the Sox still hovering around .500.  Hamels wasn’t and isn’t going to fix this team, the Sox need to ride out thier starters and see what they have in the minors with Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, and Henry Owens.  Once we get into late June and July, I’m all for trading for a top tier starter like Cueto or another sort term rental if the Sox are still in the hunt.  But if the Hamels deal happened in the offseason, you just traded away a future franchise player (Betts or Swihart) for the Sox to be 2 games closer to .500 so far, and have an extra $20 million on the books.  Is that really worth it?

What’s one prospect in the Red Sox system who you think people should take note of? The Dark Horse in the system, you could say.
-Trey S

The top 10 list (and even the top 20) of the Red Sox is quite stacked with future big leaguers.  They may not all be All-Stars or even regulars, but most should see time in the show.  As far as someone a little off the Top lists, I’d go with Nick Longhi.  Only 19 and already in Greenville, he plays 1B and the OF and has tremendous upside.  He crushed Lowell last year with a .330/.388/.440 slash line and has continued to hit in Low-A ball this year.  He’s got a decent amount of power, and great bat-to-ball skills, and while he may not be a perennial MVP candidate, he should work out to be a solid starter in the bigs, with a .270ish average and 15-20 HR’s a year.

Another dark horse for us would be catcher Devon Fisher.  Fisher’s defense will carry him far in the minors as he is above average with excellent pop times.  He could follow a path like Vazquez or Butler where is defense can carry him to at least AA-AAA, and his bat will decide if he sees the bigs.  With some decent raw power he should have the floor of a backup catcher in the bigs, but if he turns a corner with his bat he could be an everyday regular.

Here’s a question for you. What’s the best odds of getting a player to sign an item in your bucket at a Pawsox game? Put in a note of who you want? Personalize a note to a player? Just use balls with the pen you want them to use?
-Scott L

This all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.  If you just want any autograph, the best odds would be to just drop a ball in the bucket with a pen.  You may only get a hitting coach or a random reliever, but you’re likely to get someone.  However if you’re looking to get a certain player, the key is to catch his eye with your item.  Some kind of sign that says the player’s name clearly, and asks politely for them to sign.  Especially if it’s from a kid asking their favorite player (be honest, the players will look up sometimes to see who’s bucket it is!), they can add a drawing of the player or a nice message.  If it’s attention grabbing enough, you’ll even see other players point it out to the player you’re looking for.

I once had a Lars Anderson game used glove that I bought off eBay.  I tied the glove to a string, and put a note asking Lars to please sign this game used glove.   I noticed that someone was tugging at the glove at one point and a few players were trying it on.  Lars eventually popped his head out and asked where I got the glove.  Turns out he had lost it during Spring Training that year, and apparently someone took it from one of the fields.  I offered the glove back but he said he was all set, but he ended up signing it.  Because it was such a unique item to hang down in front of the dugout, other players had noticed it and pointed it out to Lars.

Is there a secret place at Fenway that make it easier to get autographs?
-Troy B

If there is, I haven’t found it yet.  I don’t even bother bringing items to get signed with me when I head to Fenway, as it’s a pretty big waste of time.  You’re best chance is to try to get someone like Eckersley after they finish the NESN pre-game show right outside the stadium, but I haven’t even tried that for a few years.  My honest suggestion is leave the autograph materials home for the night and enjoy an overpriced night out at one of the best ballparks to watch a game in.  And best of luck cramming yourself into those seats!

My mom has a Billy Goodman autographed baseball, with other signatures on it. She’s curious if it’s worth anything. Not that she is going to part with it, she’s just curious.
-Christine C

I liked this question because it leads to a much more general topic.  I’ve gotten numerous questions both in person and online asking “How much is my baseball signed by _____ worth?”, and the short answer is I have no idea.  As an example, I searched Billy Goodman on eBay, and saw a bunch of index cards and photos that range from $30 to $70.  Now basic structure of autograph values from cheapest to most expensive is card, small photo (5×7 or smaller), medium photo (8×10), baseball, large photo (11×14 or bigger), and then equipment like hats, bats, etc.  So if I were to do a Pawn Stars impression for you, I’d say you’re Billy Goodman signed baseball (assuming it’s an official Rawlings ball they would use in games) would be worth around $50-$75.  But the #1 thing to remember about autograph values is it’s all about rarity.  I didn’t see a single baseball signed by Goodman for sale, so that can increase the value significantly if there is someone out there who only wants a signed baseball and not a card.  Another way to increase the value would be to have the ball authenticated by a company like PSA/DNA.  They are the most reputable third-party authenticator out there, so their stamp of approval can really help.  The basic lesson is that autograph values vary significantly but it only takes on collector to set the market price.

What’s the rarest Sox Signature you’ve come across? Does it involve Teddy Ballgame?
-Victor S

Fortunately for collectors (unfortunately for Ted I suppose), Ted Williams son was always looking to make a buck so there are plenty of autographed Teddy Ballgame items out there.  A quick eBay search shows around 2,000 items right now, and they all pretty much are priced around $50-$200, so he’s not exactly a tough autograph to find.  Next common thought would be Babe Ruth, who I’m sure is best known as the Ace left handed pitcher for Sox back in the 1914-1919 seasons.  I think he was traded to another team shortly after, but he was never as successful a pitcher as he was in Boston.  Because he was such a popular player, his autograph is not the most hard to find, but it’s going to cost a looooooooooooot of money.  The easy answer is the Babe, but you said “that I’ve come across”, and I don’t currently have a Babe autograph,  so I’m going to go with my Tony Conigliaro autographed 1970 Topps card.

 

tony-conigliaro

Tony unfortunately lived a short life, but everyone remembers the great run he had from 1964-1967, and they also remember the tragic injury he suffered during the 67 season.  I was lucky enough to trade for this signed Tony C card with another collector, and as far as simply a signature, it’s probably the rarest I own.

Are autographs on a baseball more valuable if they are done in pen or sharpie?
-Matt A

When it comes to baseballs, pen is definitely the way to go as sharpies can sometimes bleed into the leather and ruin the autograph.  It’s not just about value, it’s about making sure a signed item looks as good in the future as it does right now.  Sharpie is suggested for cards as pens sometimes don’t write on the high gloss or can ruin the card with indents from the tip.  And for items like bats, hats, or jerseys, a good paint pen usually works the best and stands the test of time.

Which Red Sox player has the biggest autograph?
-Alex

I’m thinking that you’re asking the actual size of the signature right?  So if I handed every player a baseball, who’s signature would take up the most space?  As far as signatures that I have seen, then Luis Tiant is far and away the answer.

tiant-ball

Most of Luis’s signatures actually wrap around the sweet spot of the ball.  Most players keep their signature pretty small as it’s easier to replicate over and over, and just write bigger for bigger items.  But Luis keeps it pretty consistent no matter what he’s signing.

How hard is it to take that big leap and jump into your own small business? Like with all the time and money you invest…how scary is it knowing it could fail?
-Evan L

I thought it would be good to finish up with a small business question, as most people come here for Red Sox and autograph talk.  But just as with our Behind the Scenes series, we like to talk about our experiences in starting a memorabilia company from scratch.

Sox Signatures had kind of a “soft open”, as I’ve had some kind of website selling autographs for a few years before hand.  The actual start was when it was decided to come up with an actual company name, and submit the paperwork to be an official business.  To be honest it wasn’t that scary, as I started with a very small budget, and haven’t taken loans or anything like that, so I haven’t invested anything I wasn’t willing to lose.  That being said, the high’s of this business like working directly with players, seeing some of the awesome items that come and go through our store, and meeting other collectors consistently out-weigh when we go a while without an order through the store, or invest in a player who doesn’t pan out.  The other reason it wasn’t that risky is that this is a side business.  I still have a 9-5 to pay the bills, so all money brought in to the business goes right back in to improving the website, advertising, new inventory, etc.  While it would be amazing to turn this into my only job, we work in too small a niche market to really make big money.  Maybe someday we can become the “Boston Steiner”, but for right now we are more than happy to keep our costs low, which keeps our prices low too!  The big drain is on your time.  We need to constantly be “plugged in” to social media, emails, writing blog posts, communicating with players/agents, searching for new inventory, maintaining the website, and everything else that goes in to running a small business.  The #1 factor is motivation, so if you have the drive to continue to keep making your business better, and the ability to balance, work, family, and your business all at once then go for it!  If you have specific questions feel free to reach out, though we can really only help if you want to start another memorabilia company, as no one here is a business major.

That concludes our first mail bag, I want to thank everyone who submitted questions!  For those who’s questions we used, we’ll be reaching out to you shortly to send you an autographed card as a  “Thank-You”.  If you’ve enjoyed reading and want to see more, or if you have your own responses to any of the questions above, be sure to comment below!  Thanks for stopping by!

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