By Ray Schulte, SchulteAuctions.com
People often ask whether certain players sign autographs for the public, and if so, where to obtain information concerning an appearance date, location and cost of signatures. One option is signingshotline.com.
Howard Zarabet, the site's founder and CEO, talked about his experiences promoting athlete signature appearances and events throughout the country.
Ray Schulte: Signingshotline.com has been servicing collectors and fans since 1999. What was the inspiration for creating such a service?
Howard Zarabet: In 1999, I was working as a CPA and one of my colleagues told me he collected autographed baseballs through the mail. I thought it would be great to collect a team-signed baseball from my favorite team and season -- the 1969 New York Mets. I went online to find out how I could obtain each signature. I spent a great deal of time searching, without success. At that time, I decided to create a Web site, which would be a great resource for people like me, who were looking to collect autographs.
RS: How did you initially establish yourself and get recognized within the signature collectibles industry?
HZ: The old-fashioned way -- a significant amount of grassroots marketing. I would attend collectible shows every weekend, pass out flyers and contact every show promoter and introduce myself. I would participate on collectible bulletin boards and chat rooms. I started getting positive feedback almost immediately, so I knew I had something worth pursuing.
RS: Who uses your online services, and are there any fees?
HZ: Our services are geared to the signature collector, show promoters, athletes and agents. Avid sports fans also utilize our services to find out when and where their favorite athletes will be making appearances. While the basic information is free, signingshotline.com offers paid members great benefits, such as autograph discounts from promoters, e-mail alerts concerning athlete signings and the ability to search by athlete, team, state and more. Membership options start at just 99 cents per year.
RS: How have collectible show promoters and agents/representatives responded to Signingshotline.com?
HZ: Show promoters recognize that signingshotline.com is the leading provider of information regarding past, present and future autograph appearances. We have approximately 1,800 promoters in our database. In addition to providing details for almost 150,000 athlete autograph appearances, we also provide promoters the No. 1 vehicle to promote their events to collectors, fans, distributors and fellow promoters.
RS: Do you report on athlete signings throughout the country?
HZ: Yes, throughout the U.S. and Canada. We list everyone from rodeo riders, soccer players, wrestlers, Olympians, not to mention current and former NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL players. If you're an athlete, we will list your appearance.
RS: Signingshotline.com has provided a tremendous service to signature collectors, fans, promoters and athletes. Do you have any plans to expand on your concept in the future?
HZ: Absolutely. Right now, we've expanded to include the very popular "SigningsHotline Community Forum." Ask a question on how to take a signature off a mini-helmet or what pen to use for different collectibles. It is a great place to ask collectible- and/or athlete-related questions. Additionally, we are in the process of adding more educational resources, such as information on authentication, appraisals, auctions, what is a private signing and how to proceed with purchasing a collectible product to protect yourself.
For more information on where your favorite player might be signing autographs, visit signingshotline.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis will be signing for the public May 24 at the Great Moments Timonium store.
Follow Ray @ twitter.com/SchulteSports and e-mail him at Ray@SchulteSports.com.
Issue 173: May 2012