There are several methods of collecting autographs…
In-Person at Conventions or Special Events
This is my favorite method as I actually get to meet the celebrities and get a posed photo with the celebrity. Obviously, the latter cannot be done through the mail.
When I like a movie or TV show a lot, I think that merely watching it is not enough. I want to take the fanatic in me to the next level and boldy go where most casual fans have not gone before: to meet the people behind my favorite on-screen characters in-person. Aside from a posed photo with the celebrity, an autograph is a great companion keepsake souvenir to remember meeting them. This is also the safest way to avoid ending up with fakes as not only do you watch them sign and personalize your autograph in front of you, guaranteeing that it is authentic, you also have bragging rights in that you actually met them!
However, note that guests may often charge a fee for autographs at conventions. It is a norm for most movie and television celebrities. The fee can be anywhere from $20-50 with the exception of some bigger names charging for as much as $80-100. With the popularity of conventions nowadays: the massive crowds, rushed interactions, and fan exploitation often done by the organizers makes this method far less enjoyable than it once was. Most Anime voice actors and Comics artists do not charge, however.
From Their Official Online Stores
Some celebrities have online stores set up where you can purchase autographs directly and also have them personalized to your liking. Of course, they will no doubt charge for this but it is just as good as getting them from a convention sans the meeting part.
Through The Mail (TTM)
I think this is best reserved for celebrities who are unlikely to go to a convention that you can attend, or are smaller names that event organizers will likely never invite. Requesting autographs through the mail requires research and patience. Not all the requests sent out may be met with success so it is important to do thorough research and read about others’ TTM successes with a certain celebrity address, the signing and fan mail habits of the certain celebrity, etc. FanMail.biz is a good website for this. Doing these things can minimize or avoid TTM failures.
Important: In order to receive any reply mail at all, it is often important to include a large self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) big enough for an 8×10″ photo along with your letter. Of course, you can also include your own photo that you would like them to sign.
If the celebrity is international, you should include two International Reply Coupons (IRCs) which should be available at all post offices. These are coupons that can be exchanged for postage stamps representing the minimum postage for unregistered priority airmail letter sent to another UPU member country. This allows the celebrity to reply to you with ease. The less trouble for them to respond, the better chances you will have a successful reply. Remember to be patient as depending on their schedule, responses can take up to 3 months or more.
Cost-wise, this method is often cheaper than the fees you would have to pay at conventions as there is only the cost of postage and IRCs.
As a perfectionist who really wants things to go perfectly and as a RFDer who is cheap and hates boondoggles, I was discouraged after a few failures of TTM and prefer this method more. Believe it not, there are some celebrities who are nice enough to respond to autograph requests online for free. There is no cost to me and the worst case scenario is that my e-mail goes unanswered. I do not have to waste any money on postage or IRCs that result in no replies.
If you are only after generic autographs with no personalization, this method may suit you. When in doubt, always ask the dealer many questions to ensure you are getting the real deal. If they act evasive or have difficulty answering, then something must be fishy. Sometimes they may have photographic proof of the celebrity signing — if so, I always like to request a copy of that photo to keep with the signed item if they do. I ask them to to send me the original high-res file so I can print it out and frame it together with the autograph.
Personally, I am no longer a fan of this method of acquisition anymore as the appeal has dwindled. As someone who collects them because I like having something personalized to me from someone I am a fan of, these just feel somewhat meaningless and less precious. Not to mention, it is certainly less rewarding and ends up being “just a scribble” when I know I didn’t get an autograph in-person.
If authenticity is not a big deal, this is an excellent and free method. There are companies like StudioFanMail which celebrities have set up contract with to respond to fanmail with free autographs. The only downside is these autographs are often anything but authentic as they are reprints or autopens. Nonetheless, I find it fun and exciting to receive a surprise in the mail out of the blue every once in a while — and I don’t have to pay anything!
Another free autograph site is CelebrityMerch.com. There are numerous pre-penned autographs to choose from. No registration is required and there are no shipping charges or anything. I received a nice bunch from this site about 6-8 weeks after placing an order.