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Inside the Weird, Noble World of Autograph Collectors

Inside the Weird, Noble World of Autograph Collectors

Brian Flam has spent a good part of the last 30 years sending letters to relative nobodies and toting cartons of baseball cards from his Maryland home to cities up and down the Eastern Seaboard in pursuit of scrawls legible only to a select few. By all relevant accounts, Flam is a master of the craft of autograph seeking, known within the field as graphing. The roughly 150,000 signed cards, filed into 5,000-count boxes that line the walls of his home office, testify to this distinction. Aspiring graphers seek his counsel on topics such as his preferred pen (the Staedtler Lumocolor, fine-point, blue) and canvas (ideally an officially-issued trading card, but the 3.5″ by 2.5″ “Autograph Card” of Flam’s own engineering works in extenuating circumstances). Flam focuses on Minor League Baseball but not to the exclusion of the big leagues. He collects the signatures of Hall of Famers on two separate balls, one for “real Hall of Famers” and another for “scrub Hall of Famers,” a material distinction he explains by posing the question, “Do you really want Bruce Sutter touching the same ball that Mickey Mantle signed?”

The jewel of Flam’s collection is a set of 300 minor leaguers’ cards. He has 299 signed and counting. He exemplifies the living paradox facing modern-day graphers, especially those of the nobler persuasion—the “pure collectors,” who, unlike the profiteering “dealers,” accumulate signatures for the love of the craft.

via Inside the Weird, Noble World of Autograph Collectors | VICE Sports.

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