Over the years, I have had spurts of sending out autograph requests through the mail. There have been many successes and many lost stamps and cards. But, I have noticed there has been a noticable tail off on returns over the past four or five years. Simply put...I feel like the art of TTM is circling the drain.
There is one main culprit to the decline of TTM successes...eBay.
As it turns out, players dislike seeing their signatures bringing dollars online...if people can get cash for their signatures why shouldn't they be getting the money themselves. It's human nature to think this way and I totally understand that. But, it just kills the chances for people like myself who don't really intend to sell off their collection gained through the mail. As a TTM guy, I hate this. eBay is to blame. Sort of.
Another problem I see with TTM autograph collecting's staying power is the player's themselves. Actually, it's kind of a society problem. Think about it, how many players in the league right now grew up WITHOUT email? Those same players have never put an autograph request into the mailbox and waited months, and even years, for a return. So, knowing that many of the league's players have never taken part in the TTM experience it's understood that they just don't get it. They don't understand the appeal...not like the old timers did.
Players can interact with their fans in a number of ways. Whether it be Twitter or any other social media outlet, the novelty of getting an actual letter is missed. Hell, many players talk to fans all the time. Why would a letter be special?
Another big culprit in the demise of TTM are the ball clubs. I know for a fact that a number of teams (ahem...looking at you Rockies and Tigers) will only pass on TTM autograph requests to players if a small fee for charity is received. The clubs are collecting for charity, which is cool. But, TTM guys and gals collect this way because money is tight. A buck or two will complete a TTM request...we don't have the extra 20 it will take to get a return from a Tiger.
Maybe it's just a sign of the times that through the mail autograph collecting is dying out. Social media, eBay player attitudes, and the clubs themselves are all players in the demise of a once fantastic hobby. We can, of course, play the blame game all day long. But, it just makes me sad that TTM is dying off.
Also, I haven't gotten a return in almost a year and I send out a few requests a month. But, I likely won't stop trying. I'll do my best to keep this small section of the hobby alive.