MICHAEL COOPER – A REAL NICE GUY

To autograph collectors, there are a number of super nice athletes who really take the time to accommodate their fans.

Perhaps one of the nicest players in any sport is former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Michael Cooper.

A story came to light several years ago which should make all of us appreciate what a real gentleman Cooper is. Aida Tejda, a native of Guatemala who now lives in the Los Angeles area, is a big basketball, Laker and Cooper fan. She is like many of us who root for our favorite players and teams and then relive the team’s ups and downs the following day.

Knowing of her rabid following of Cooper and the Lakers, one of Aida’s co-workers wrote Cooper, told him about how Aida taped all the Lakers games since coming to this country. She also told Cooper how Aida dreamed of being in the shoes (or more likely the seat) of actor Jack Nicholson who can afford to buy season tickets and sit on the front row at the games and how she always wanted to meet Cooper.  Smith asked the N.B.A. star if he would send along an autographed item as a surprise present for Aida.

Then one day during the Lakers championship playoffs, Aida was on her way out the door to go to lunch, when a co-worker told her there was an emergency and her boss at The Capital Group, an investment firm in Los Angeles, wanted to see her.

As Aida neared her supervisor’s office, she saw a large crowd of people and a man towering over the group who looked like Michael Cooper.  Lo and behold, it was Cooper and he was looking for Aida.  The service assistant was naturally stunned when she realized who it was and even more so when everyone shouted, “Here is Aida.”  As she was pushed forward to meet Cooper, she tried to shake hands but he brushed her hand aside and gave her a hug and a kiss.

The great defensive standout had interrupted his drive from Santa Barbara to the playoff game to stop by and see Aida. While people bustled around and the cage star posed for pictures with Aida and some of her co-workers, Cooper said he needed to talk to her in private. They went into an office and closed the door. From a duffel bag, Cooper began to bring out a potpourri of gifts. These included an autographed photo for Aida and three more for each of her sons. He also gave her some Laker books and then he gave her a basketball autographed by himself, James Worthy and Byron Scott.  Next he gave her a pair of his shoes, duly autographed, which she says are huge.  After all, if you are 6’7”, it takes a lot of feet to get you up-and-down the court.

And finally he presented her with tickets to that night’s championship series game. What more could a fan ever dream of?

Aida may not be a collector of autographs in the sense of collectors who acquire signatures of many different athletes but she is a died-in-the-wool Cooper and Laker fan for life.  And who can blame her!

Later Aida was introduced to Cooper’s wife Wanda and their children and has seen the star on several occasions.  Aida sums up her once-in-a-lifetime experience with the understatement “Michael Cooper is a nice, nice man.”

Wouldn’t we all like to have such a surprise from our favorite star?

If you have a favorite player (or want to say “hi” to Michael Cooper), find him or her at www.vipaddress.com.

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ARE CHARITIES INFLATING AUTOGRAPH PRICES?

People like to help, but maybe it’s getting out of hand

By Adele Cooke

Users of our website www.vipaddress.com are often big-time collectors of celebrity autographs. One way collectors can add to their collections is through auctions of memorabilia at celebrity auctions.

Paying for autographs is an increasing phenomenon in the autograph field.  You can pay beaucoup bucks for signed memorabilia from hundreds of autograph dealers or auction houses.  And hopping on the pay-for-an-autograph bandwagon are many, many charities.

In some cases you might be asked to pay directly to a celebrity. If you collectors pay directly to a v.i.p., you might not mind the fee if you know it goes to a worthwhile charity.  A few celebrities – including some of the real superstars in the entertainment and sports fields – ask for donations to their favorite charity in return for an autographed item.

I have personally never minded this aspect of a famous person asking their public to help worthwhile causes, but recently I, along with a number of other collectors, are beginning to wonder if it might not be getting out of hand.

The late baseball manager Sparky Anderson may well have been trying for an all-time record several years ago when he scheduled an auction of baseball uniforms and equipment – some of which were to be autographed – as part of a $500,000 scheme to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the children’s wing at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The auction of game-worn and autographed jerseys, bats, caps, balls and other equipment was targeted as part of an overall $2.5 million campaign in support of the two hospitals.

Average collectors, as opposed to people or corporations with big bankrolls, should cast a concerned eye at the operation. After all, how many collectors are willing, or have the ability, to pay $1,000 for a jersey of Reggie Jackson … or Pete Rose … or Wade Boggs … or any superstar in any sport? I don’t know how much Anderson raised with his auction, but it was too rich for my blood.

Cynics may acknowledge that worthwhile charities are one thing, but how long, they might, and should, ask before dealers start asking comparable prices and superstars start reaching for the extra bucks for signed items when they show up at shows?

It won’t be long before we see ads and hear sales pitches from autograph dealers that Joe Superstar’s signed cap, uniform, bat or glove or an Oscar-winning actor’s signed scripts or clothing worn in a movie are going for thousands of dollars “so we’d better buy it cheap (for slightly less than it recently was sold at such-and-such auction) because it surely will go up in value.”

EVENTS AND CHARITIES

Even though All-Star games are generally meaningless as sporting events, we’ve all gone out to All-Star baseball games which help raise money for major league pensions, charity-sponsored garden parties to shake hands and ask for autographs, college All-Star football games which bring in funds for the Shriners’ crippled children hospitals and even All-Star basketball games sponsored by people like Magic Johnson (to raise money for the United Negro College fund) and Byron Scott (to help Camp Ronald McDonald).

But there’s a big difference in asking the average collector who has limited funds to pay $5 or $10 for a signed photo or $15 for a signed ball and asking her or him to pay $1,000 for a signed jersey or $100 for a seat at a sporting event (in which one usually can’t get to the athletes to ask for even a single autograph).

The late Football Hall of Fame coach Woody Hayes readily sent out signed items, but then asked collectors to send along a $5 donation to the Woody Hayes Cancer Fund in care of the Ohio State Athletic Department. Fighting cancer is indeed a worthwhile cause (it took Woody’s life) but Hayes sent the signed photo first and asked in an accompanying letter for the donation. Not many superstars have such courtesy to, or trust in, their fans. The late baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg asked $5 donations to the Pet Adoption Fund, an organization which saves lives of homeless animals and finds people to adopt them.

Many celebrities think along these lines. Former baseball stars Johnny Vander Meer and Dom DiMaggio asked a $5 fee for each item signed and requested that checks be made out to the Falls Church Virginia Ole Timers Baseball Association, a group which assists in medical costs for retired players in financial need.

Are there others doing similar things? You bet there are, and their ways – and the charities which they try to help – are a real variety. The bottom line, though, is that you pay for the autograph – and some, if not all, of the money goes to charities or worthwhile projects.

Signed photos of Rollie Fingers are often advertised for $10 and a portion of the fee goes to the Help for the Brain Injured Children charity.

Pitcher Jerry Reuss sells color 8x10s of himself for $5 with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. And when the checks are made out to the cystic fibrosis charity, fees are tax deductible. The foundation also holds annual silent auctions. One auction a few years ago included signed balls from Joe DiMaggio, Darryl Strawberry and Sandy Koufax, an autographed bat from Tim Raines, a bat signed by the Cincinnati Reds and team autographed jerseys.

A sports memorabilia show in Los Angeles brought out two of sports all-time greats to sign autographs. Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the headliners at a show in which some of the money went to the Jewish Big Brothers of Los Angeles County.

Sparky Anderson said “all” money from his charity auction went to the Detroit hospitals.

But there’s a big difference in an autograph for $3, $5 or $10 and an autographed Jackson jersey for more than $1,000. Maybe someone should think of a way in which sports stars can offer a little charity to the average, less affluent collector!

AUTOGRAPHED TIES

One of the more unusual approaches to charity was in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in which neckties autographed by members of the Milwaukee Brewers were auctioned to help raise funds for the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Project in nearby Neillsville. Signed tie collectors coughed up some $3,500 for the project. For those interested in details, a tie signed by 20-game winning pitcher Teddy Higuera received the highest bid at $405. The charity show’s promoters deserve a lot of praise for a novel idea which not only aided a good cause but also does not contribute to inflation of prices for average collectors of limited means.

Plan Ahead

Planning helps!

Take time over the Spring Break to make yourself a want list of those celebrities you’d really like to add to your collection.

This helps set your priorities: plan your letter writing campaigns, search out trades, plan to visit non-profit garden parties, set up a budget for purchasing from dealers and above all concentrate on the people you really want to add to your collection.

It’s fun and you can always revise the list if you change your mind!

To find the people on your list, turn to the V.I.P. Address Book or the V.I.P. Address File.  You can find both at www.vipaddress.com.  If you’re looking for signed photos, please check out the Wiggins Collection.  You can find that there too!

BENOIT, CLAY, ALCINDOR, WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The great Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson raised an interesting question for autograph collectors in a recent letter responding to an autograph request.

She wrote that collectors often insist that she sign only Joan Benoit since that was her name when she won the 1984 Olympics. But she goes on to point out that she has had her best times as a runner after she married and changed her name to Joan Benoit Samuelson?

So which name would you ask her to sign if you were to meet her and ask for her autograph?

This incident illustrates a dilemma collectors face when they ask for autographs: what name would they prefer the athlete to sign or would the athlete prefer to sign?

The fact of marriage and resulting name change certainly applies to women celebrities. Name changes due to marriage and/or divorce are a common occurrence. To cite just a few: Tennis great Helen Wills Moody Roark won Wimbledon titles as Helen Wills and Helen Wills Moody; you’ll see the name Billie Jean Moffitt and Billie Jean King as title holders, Margaret Smith and Margaret Smith Court and Chris Evert (or is it Chris Evert Mill or Chris Evert Norman?)

Yet this is not a problem exclusive to women. A recent Cy Young award winner in baseball was Detroit’s Willie Hernandez. So when you check the record books that’s the name you’ll find. But the relief pitcher no longer likes his nickname and wants to be called Guillermo, his given name.

And what about the prolific basketball scorer Lloyd B. Free. Mr. Free decided Lloyd didn’t properly suit his image so he changed it to World B. Free.

And religion has made a big impact in the sports world. If you collect Olympic champions, you would want a signed item of gold medal boxer Cassius Clay. Now, of course, you would have items signed Muhammed All, one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.

Even the all-time great pro Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was as well known as a college star from U.C.L.A. named Lew Alcindor. He won’t sign his christened name anymore (and don’t make the mistake of being the one who asks him to sign Lew Alcindor) so items signed Alcindor are greatly prized by collectors and command significantly higher prices from dealers.

There has been a general unhappiness by a number of fans with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he refused to sign his full name at a sports memorabilia show and instead signed only his first name to save time.

The fact that Jabbar has signed his full name many, many times made his tactic all the more of a rip off to the hundreds of fans who paid money to get into the show and then patiently stood in line to get his autograph. But that’s Lew/Kareem.

Male athletes changing their names was particularly popular at U.C.L.A. with Keith Wilkes becoming Jamaal Wilkes in the pros and Walt Hazzard becoming Mahdi Abdul-Rahman. Later after he retired as a player and became a coach at U.C.L.A., he changed his name back to Walt Hazzard. And do you remember Kansas State’s Warren Armstrong who became Warren Jabali or Rhode Island’s Stan Modzelewski who became Stan Stutz?

Olympic collectors will also remember track star Herman Brix who won a silver medal in the shot put in 1928. Then Brix became a movie star (he was one of several great athletes who had a turn as Tarzan) but by then he had changed his name to Bruce Bennett.

Distaff name changes include the 1956 gold medal Czechoslovakian Olga Fikotova, who became Olga Connolly after her marriage, multiple Olympic dash medalist in 1964-’68-’72 Irena Kirszenstein Szewinska from Poland, middle distance gold medalist Madeline Manning-Jackson in 1968, Olympic hopeful Mary Decker who is now Mary Slaney and all-around track star Jackie Joyner who is now Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Olympic track medalist Mildred (Babe) Didrikson became a great golfer as Babe Zaharias but the rather proper British listed her as Mrs. George Zaharias when she won the 1947 British Ladies Amateur tournament. Marlene Hagge, who became Marlene Hagge Bauer, is one of the better known golfers with two names in the record books.

And now we have Metta World Peace who was once Ron Artest.

Two special athletes of interest are Sohn-Kee Chung and Nam Seung-Yong of Korea who placed first and third in the 1936 Olympic marathon. But because Korea was at that time occupied by Japanese forces, they had to represent the Japanese team. The Japanese insisted they adopt Japanese names. So they are listed in the record books as Son Kitei and Shoryu Nan, names they both despised. Sohn, a strong nationalist who was proud to be a Korean, always signed his Korean name while in Berlin.

We, of course, have not listed everyone. Do you have others whose name changes have given you fits? Or ones you have missed obtaining because you didn’t recognize their new monikers?

A unique challenge would be for a collector to try and get signed items of different names from golfer Ann Sander who won the Women’s Western Amateur title 32 years after she first won the title. In 1956, she won it as 18-year-old Anne Quast. She also won the title in 1961 when she was known as Anne Quast Decker. And in 1963 she won the title as Anne Quast Welts. She’s quite a golfer by any name.

Don’t forget that these and many others can be found in the V.I.P. Address Book and online at the V.I.P. Address File Database Lookup.  Just go to www.vipaddress.com and you’ll find everything you need.

THE RIGHT TIME TO ASK …………. Thoughtfulness can increase your success rate

When you ask for an autograph in person – or when you write letters – it can be most important to not only improving your success rate but also in improving the attitudes of celebrities toward autograph collectors.

You certainly do not – or should not – make requests immediately prior to big games or after a player has had a particularly bad game and is feeling depressed and angry. The same applies to mail requests. You shouldn’t try to reach baseball players just prior to the World Series or actors right before an awards show. You wouldn’t ask tennis players for an autograph as they head for center court at Wimbledon or golfers before they tee off on final rounds of the Masters.

As an example, we strongly urge you to spend your time before the Olympic Winter Games in quest of past Olympic champions or winners from the Summer Games. We suggest you wait until after the Winter Games to pursue those who will be trying to make their country’s Olympic teams in stressful trials.

The main focus for participating athletes has to be excelling in their sports, not responding to fan mail. Just as baseball or football players are more apt to reply to mail or personal requests during their off-seasons, so are Olympians more apt to respond after the Olympics. Use common sense and think about the most appropriate times to ask. You’ll find your success rate really increases.

Don’t forget, the V.I.P. Address Book and the V.I.P. Address Book File are the places to go to find the contact information you need – http://www.vipaddress.com.

Promotion Is Hard

We are new to the social network scene – other than personal Facebooking – and wonder if we’re alone when it comes to promoting ourselves.

We have worked hard for over 25 years to get people interested in our product and while fairly successful, we’d like to do better and thought social networking would be the answer.  Well, it might be but who knew it would take up so much time in thought and deed?

Actually, we know we’re not alone because we have a friend who writes books.  He says he loves to write but hates to promote.  Well, we all know – if you self publish, you have to promote yourself because no one else will!  That’s probably the case even if you are being promoted by a big book company.

So, here’s what we have done so far.  We’ve hired someone to help us get started with the social network – business Facebook account, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and this blog – and now we’re supposed to do something.

We’ve put up some blogs, we’ve tweeted, we’ve Facebooked but not with much success.  We haven’t quite figured out Tumblr, Pinterest & Google+ and then there’s YouTube!  Gads!  Who has time to work and do all this too?  Do we need to hire someone for this or can we do this ourselves?

The questions for today.  What would you do if you were trying to get started in the social network scene?  Would you do something every day or every week?  Would you use all the social network options?  If not, which ones would you pick and why?

Remember, we’re into promoting ourselves so check out our website – www.vipaddress.com.  There you can find the people who have influenced our lives AND you can buy autographed photos.  We have 3 options – the V.I.P. Address Book, the V.I.P. Address File Database Lookup, and the Wiggins Collection.  Give it a try & help us figure out what makes sense to novice social networkers!

EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS . . . THERE ARE OTHER SPORTS THAN BASEBALL

The escalation of prices for signed items in the baseball field should give autograph collectors reason to pause and ponder their hobby. We constantly hear complaints that such-and-such diamond star is now charging for his autograph and that this is an outrage.

Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Some years ago Ted Williams willingly signed requests through the mail. But now Baseball card show promoters ask several hundred dollars for autographs of mediocre players on a bat – and this doesn’t count the price of admission for the show.

Why shouldn’t super stars and other players participate in the profits if there is this kind of money to be made in the autograph field?

The best way for serious autograph collectors to offset this expanding greed is to refocus their collections to other sports. Why not try football, or golf, or track, or tennis, or bowling, or auto racing, or volleyball, or boxing or any sport which catches your interest?

On the whole – and of course there are exceptions – you will find athletes in almost any sport appreciative of their fans and delighted to sign reasonable requests.

You’ll need to limit the number of items you ask to be signed (we still encourage collectors to make that limit the quantity of one) and include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope but you might really be able to build a unique collection in the sports of basketball or hockey or bowling or tennis or gymnastics or swimming.

If you could obtain an autographed item of Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Le Bron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretsky, Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, you would have a superb item from a true sports immortal. And you would have a great start toward a collection in a sport other than baseball.

And most stars in sports other than baseball don’t think to ask for fees for their autographs.

Don’t forget, you can find athletes addresses at the V.I.P. Address File Database Lookup or in the V.I.P. Address Book – www.vipaddress.com.  You can also find autographed items for sale at the Wiggins collection.