Collecting autographs from your favorite athletes on a baseball is a fun hobby that costs a little more than . Sports cards, 3X5 index cards and ticket stubs are all items that can fit into an envelope which makes the hobby quite simple. Collecting autographed baseballs is a different task and hobby altogether: it costs more money and takes more time. But to have a signed ball to display is a great addition to any autograph collection.
Cost: Official Major League baseballs are expensive. Most outlets offer them for more than $10 each. Some autographed baseballs go for as little as $20 so you can see that this hobby is reliant on the excitement involved with getting the autograph yourself and not simply buying it. One way around the cost of the baseballs is to visit a used sporting goods store such as Play It Again to buy your baseballs. It may be difficult to find a pristine used version that will save you money but it's worth a look to keep hobby expenses down. The other substantial cost is shipping. Collectors will need to pay for shipping to the player and will need to include a sticker with return postage as well. For example, a box with one baseball shipped from Chicago to San Francisco will cost $5.41 there (Parcel Post) and $5.41 for the return label for a total shipping cost of $10.82. Combine that with the average $12 price tag for an Official Major League Baseball and the base cost for getting that ball signed is $22.82.
Is this more than you can find the ball signed by that player online or from your local sports memorabilia shop? Maybe. I have paid more for signed balls obtained through the mail than I could have purchased online. For me there is an allure to knowing that the athlete signed the ball for me after reading the card I mailed. (Maybe he didn't even read the card, but I like to think he did.) Many athletes prefer to read any accompanying card and inscribe the object they are signing to prevent their paraphanilia from simply being sold on Ebay.
Time: There is time associated with getting baseballs signed by your favorite players. These may seem like trivial tasks but they add up: finding a box for the ball, writing the letter, printing the postage (or going to the post office), making sure the return label is printed on a sticker, delivering the box to the Post Office.
And after all this, will you even get you ball back? It depends. If you mail a ball to Alex Rodriguez it is unlikely that he will sign it and send it back since he gets hundreds of pieces of fan mail every day. Often star players hire people to return fan mail with form letters so you might get the ball back without a signature. I recommend avoiding sending baseballs to superstar players. Again, many players can be a bit paranoid that they are signing balls for an Ebayer who has no interest in the ball and only wants to resell it (even though the secondary market for autographed goods without a Certificate of Authenticity is very low). Many baseball fans have favorite players who aren't necessary in the limelight constantly.
One of my favorite players growing up was Shawon Dunston. He wasn't a well-known or flashy player but he always hustled. I know from first hand experience that Shawon Dunston will always sign whatever he is sent.
Even though this form of collecting autographs is a bit more expensive and time consuming, I recommend giving it a shot since it's really great to be able to add a signed baseball to your collection of cards. Hopefully, you can use these tips to collect autographed baseballs through the mail.