|Address Research & Collecting Skills 101|
Lesson Two: Collecting for Beginning-Intermediate Collector
Welcome Back! If you were a beginner and followed the steps, you probably have a couple autographs in your collection already! If you already knew everything in lesson one because you are a collector, you probably are saying, Gee, teach me something I don't know. Well hang in there because I am sure something will be of use to you in this or the next lesson! Each lesson is better and more comprehensive.
Summary Lesson #1
1. You learned to decide what you want to collect.
2. You read my Tips and Information page and learned what to say in a letter, what the abbreviations mean, how to obtain overseas postage, how to convert currency etc.
3. You learned what you need to put on your list to be organized.
4. You learned to check out dealers/auctions, to look to see if they are UACC registered and to check many signatures to learn what's real and what isn't before you buy.
5. You were given some tools to get quick addresses (Force.net and my old diary pages)
6. You were given the URL of BanthaTracks for fun and given a good Browser to begin your research.
In this Lesson:
Newsgroups/E-Lists/Chat & Message Boards/Search Engines
Major sites (gathering info)
Fan Clubs/Fan Sites
Trading/Begin Networking/Email Etiquette
The dreaded Studio Fan Mail Address and two great Address sites
TIP #1 After I bought a few autographs on Ebay and through dealers, I then used the Force.Net for addresses. Then I tried other searching and didn't come up with much more. So what next? I took a class on the Internet hoping I could learn something helpful to be more productive using search engines. It wasn't that kind of class, but I did learn about newsgroups and lists! Plus about a search engine called Dogpile. Dogpile is a search engine of search engines and is pretty comprehensive. Dogpile and Google are the two best Engines on the net that I have found. Newsgroups are similar to chat boards. I was instructed to go through my mail service provider and download these groups. Some people use Microsoft Outlook or Netscape. If you go to your inbox, outbox etc., you'll see newsgroups listed. You'll have to download them all (there are hundreds but never fear). Some are for posting photos only (these are alt.binaries groups), some are for professionals, some are just goofy. I didn't go far before I found a group called: alt.collecting.autographs. As for newsgroups, this is the most comprehensive thus far, but there may be others. I found I didn't like reading the posts through Outlook so I found a nice reader program called FreeAgent-Newsreader. I'm providing that link for you also and you can download it (FREE). It does a lot more and is less complicated. Anyway, these newsgroups are nothing more than people gathering together with a specific hobby or interest in common. On the alt.collecting.autographs group, many people post their autograph successes and failures there as well as a lot of addresses. I collect Star Wars mainly, so I don't often need addresses, but there's lots of other useful information there concerning how to send to venues, people who want to trade postage or autographs etc. Every day, if you download the posts for that day and just delete the ones that don't interest you and then read the ones that do.
Off of these Newsgroups or even chat boards spring E-Mail lists. This is where people form a group and respond to each other via email, but not directly; through a centralized (and moderated) group. This is good and valuable so long as the group remains constructive and friendly. To get on an e-mail list, post a message to the group and inquire as to how to get on the list, who in the newsgroup may or may not be on it etc., or look at the ones I have provided you. Lists are valuable because they exclude certain newsgroup people who constantly do nothing more than cause grief on the newsgroup (often referred to as trolls).
Chat and Message Boards are also a great place to get info. You can post questions, tell people about your site, post trade items etc. Never underestimate the power of these boards. With Newsgroups, e-lists and chat or message boards, you might be required to sign up and give limited information. So be aware of that.
Tip #2 Newsletters are also great sources of information. The best newsletters is the Star Wars official newsletter Star Wars Homing Beacon. Visit www.starwars.com The Homecoming Beacon keeps you abreast of appearances, shooting schedules and locations, new members at ILM and a whole lot more. There's a lot more in there if you use detective skills. Remember, what doesn't seem like relevant information now is later on! Sign up but If you don't want to clutter your inbox with E-lists and newsletters, sign up for a free hotmail account at www.hotmail.com.
It's a good idea to read articles about celebs. For example, an article might tell you the name of a movie to be filmed (and you can write to the set) or may tell you the city in which a celeb lives. I've found articles that stated the celeb left the business and is a lawyer in New York City or a teacher in the UK at the Isle of Wight. All of this is key information to keep in mind when searching for address information.
Tip #3 There are certain sites that will give you a lot of information. I recommend you keep a word processing document and some kind of spreadsheet with links, names, phone numbers, sites you like or whatever. You may come across things in sites that seem important but you don't know what to with at the moment. For example, an article stated Mike Quinn once worked at Pixar and doesn't now, he was also a puppeteer for Henson studios. If you stumble across someone who also works at Pixar or Henson, you might ask about Mike. Swim Lee's name isn't really Swim Lee but Swee Lim; they misspelled his name in the credits. Stuff like that! Means nothing in the way of an address? Not so. It means a lot; it's a piece of the puzzle that will lead you to your destination. Keep info in some type of organized format. Visit some really great Star Wars specific sites including of course the main one, www.starwars.com , one called Echo Station and a new one called Galactic Empire that is promising. Gather info there. Also, you might want to consider searching out good autograph sites that are unrelated to Star Wars as many of the Star Wars actors are what I call crossover actors. They do many projects and not just Star Wars collectors want their autographs. You could find information about the biggest stars there.
Tip #4 Go to my autograph templates for Official celebrity websites. This will enable you to contact many celebrities direct. Here is an example template: Star Wars Trilogy. Note the links in the right column. On their sites, you may find information such as addresses, autograph offerings and email addresses. In addition, check out actual Fan Clubs. Sometimes, they can aid you, or have offerings. If not, often times they will list where the celebrity is and what they are doing now. Natalie Portman has a site, so does Hayden Christiansen. Many Artists, Authors and the like have sites. If you look hard enough you can get addresses and e-mail addresses. To find these sites, you should go to your browser and type in the celebrities name in quotation marks and the words fan club or official fan club. Like so: "Beach Boys" "Official Fan Club"
Tip #5 Do not be afraid to contact individuals with pages that offer trades. I recommend you NOT contact individuals and ask for addresses. At least not for your first time or two contacting them. Start "networking" with other collectors. Be nice, be honest and don't overvalue your contributions, collection etc. Contact them, comment on their sites and what you liked about it and what brought you to e-mail them. Ask a question or two if need be and if they offer trades, make sure you have something to offer in return. Tell a little about yourself. Please don't e-mail someone and say, "Hey, can you give me an address for.... " or "I like the autograph of Harrison Ford, I know it isn't up for trade, but will give ya $10 for it". That's insulting. If you are not sure of a value of an autograph, don't mention a price at all. Let them take the lead. You don't want to cheat them or yourself. E-mail etiquette: please don't bombard someone with super long e-mails, too many emails, and if they say "I'll get back to you", give them a couple days at least before you e-mail them back. I've actually ended trades with people who were too eager and bombarded me with endless e-mails. People generally want to help and will be cordial so treat them with respect. Keep their name and e-mail address in your address book. Most collector's in the autograph collecting field have been around for a while all know each other. Get to know who is who and what they collect and find out how busy they are etc. so you don't bother them if they don't want to be bothered. Ask if you can e-mail them again. Obtain stuff for possible future trading. Make sure you have a good selection to choose from before you start trading. This is very important. The more you have, the bigger you are and more unique your signatures are, the more bargaining leverage you will have. As for asking for addresses, I'll approach that in the next lesson. In the meantime, do NOT ask for addresses. At this point in collecting, it's rude to do so. Remember the annotations I said to make on your list in last month's lesson? Well, keeping names of those who traded etc are good because you'll soon begin to see who you are dealing with more often and who seems to have the rare and relevant information and the best stuff to trade! Never discard information when doing trades. Keep their address, phone number, email address etc. Also jot down things you know about them....for example: John Smith likes the Bounty Hunters. He gave me a lead on an address on May 1st. This will be convenient for future mailing lists, possible trades and to know who has been a drain on you and who is being helpful!
Tip #6 Never, EVER send to this address for any autograph: STUDIO FAN MAIL, 1122 S. Robinson Blvd #15, LA CA, 90035 This is a service celebs use to send out preprints (copies). Of course feel free to write there for a nice photo....but be aware they will be preprints only. Also remember the abbreviation for Studio Fan Mail because it's listed as SFM sometimes.
Something Good: Two great sites for addresses are Star Archive and the IMDB (Internet Movie Database). Star Archive is a large database of addresses and some Star Wars people can be found on there. However, as of 2003, it became a pay site. IMDB is good too because it will sometimes list agents addresses and other information that will become valuable to you in the next lessons (sorry, you have to wait as that is for more advanced collectors!). Bookmark IMDB because you will be visiting there frequently.
Homework Assignment: Sign up for at least one Newsgroup about Star Wars, Autograph Collecting, Star Wars collecting etc. Read the posts and see how much you can learn. Post a message on the newsgroup and inquire about E-lists, see if you can hook up with one. Look at a chat board. Visit at least two major sites. See if there is some information regarding possible events in your area that will allow for an autograph opportunity, find out where filming is, find star sightings, charity events etc. Sign up for at least one Newsletter. Visit at least one Fan Club site, one collector site and one Celebrity site. Get addresses and send in your requests. Contact at least one person who is a collector and keep his/her e-mail addresses should they respond to you. Find out what they are mostly interested in and ask if you can stay in touch if you have questions or might find something they need or want in their collections. Begin that Network! If comfortable enough with your new found skills, work your first trade! Visit Star Archive and look from a couple addresses there. Read an article about a celeb and look for key words that will help you in finding them. Finally, investigate IMDB and navigate the site. Look for all the possible uses of it. See if you can't find at least one agent's name and address and send a request. E-mail me if this lesson has been of any use to you and keep me apprised of all successes. This is a huge assignment, but you can do it!
END OF LESSON