Who are you? how did all this start? And why?

A little background...

I don't remember exactly how I became a sports collector. All I know I was around five or six years old that I first got some cards. My dad was a collector back in the 1950s and 1960s; he said he probably was close to complete sets from about 1957 on up to maybe 1964 or so. He got rid of all his cards in high school and college, but I remember him talking about cards and of course seeing commercials for them on TV: "Wowee, Rickey Henderson!"

Before long, I remember getting some random packs-- a 1990 Topps wax pack and a random blister pack of 1987-89 cards (I specifically remember having the 1987 Topps Tony Pena, 1988 Donruss Steve Jeltz, and 1989 Score Nolan Ryan early on from that). When I finally started sort of knowing what I was doing and spending my weekly dollar allowance on my own selected packs, I remember a lot of 1990 Score and Pro Set football cards, some 1990-91 Pro Set and Bowman hockey, a little 1990-91 Hoops and Skybox basketball too. Not long after those, I got my first I-kinda-know-what-I'm-doing baseball pack: a $1.49 rack pack of 1991 Donruss that had both Dave Stieb (whom I had seen pitch a no-hitter in only the second game I ever went to) and Cory Snyder (my all-time favorite player for reasons I'm still unsure of). And thus, I was hooked for life.

My first autographs came soon after: Mark Lewis at an Indians-Twins game in June, Joe Charbonneau at a card show at around the same time, and a year later learning about TTMing, as I sent off and got Sandy Alomar Jr. to sign (plus pre-print failures from Jim Abbott and Mark McGwire).

Thirty years later, I'm still at it. I've taken a few breaks over time for various reasons, but it's fun and affordable so I tend to get drawn back into to it in some capacity over and over again. And don't we all need some sort of fun, cheap distraction from our everyday lives?

Fortunately, moments of frustration like this one when Jason Kipnis ignored us are few and far between. And I got him a while later via a mail-in signing anyway.

Evolution

Over these thirty-some years, my collecting habits have shifted. I was all about baseball and football until the late 90s when I shifted to hockey, specifically Jaromir Jagr. With the advent of 1/1 cards and all sorts of other high-end cards, I knew I'd never complete a full collection with a big-name player, so after his trade from the Penguins to the Capitals I gave up on the Jagr collecting at around 250 different cards or so.

It's funny how I got back into autographs. I had sent a few requests by mail to a few baseball players in the early 90s and a bunch of hockey players in the late 90s thanks to Dave Sliepka's Signing Session columns in Beckett Hockey. In 2002 I was talking to a guy in Yahoo's NHL:1 chat room who was wanting to do the 1990-91 Pro Set and 1991-92 Upper Deck sets. I said I might be able to help him out since my college was in an NHL city, plus I had a couple sigs to trade him. So I mailed those first two to him...

...and he completely stiffed me on the trade!

In college, I lived near several hotels that teams stayed at, and I managed to get in with the autograph collectors that congregated around them-- originally to help out the guy who would go on to screw me over, but it sent me down a road to a pretty nice collection myself. It was at this time that I began my project of getting the 2002-03 Topps Total hockey set signed. Twenty years later, I have 434 of 440 cards signed for it (I only need Paul Kariya, Jason Allison, Mark Messier, Espen Knutsen, Lubomir Sekeras, and Todd Bertuzzi to finish it off).

I got back into more baseball in the mid-2000s, frustrated by the changes in the game of hockey and the labor dispute that cost us the 2004-05 season. In 2014, I started on the 1972 Topps baseball set and anything in its design. A year later after seeing the return of the Dallas Sidekicks to the MASL and the organization's embracing of their MISL history, I started collecting the 1980s/90s MISL and NPSL indoor soccer sets that Pacific produced.

Last year, I added the 2021 Topps Heritage line of sets to my projects. I don't plan on adding any more sets after this. I am already overextended as it is!

Well, okay, maybe if Topps Archives dumps the 1972 design back in...

You may find me on a variety of forums online. I'm mostly switching over to using the name DFWGrapher everywhere that I possibly can. However I've also been known as HockeyBrawler, EmergencyCatcher, Drewman, shutout52, WittyMoniker, HighFivingMF, *censored*, ToastedPagel, TribeTime, FunkyColdLuisMedina, CLEfaninTX, and a few other names on various short-lived boards.

This hobby has taken me all over the country and given me experiences I never would have had otherwise. In 2019, I got to play indoor soccer in Las Vegas with some of the game's greatest players. I'm the goalie, second from the left in the front row with my teammates Doc Lawson, Gerry Gray, Godfrey Ingram, Kenny Mayer, Len Bilous (from the opposing squad), Bob Bozada, and Dave D'Errico. We played against the likes of Bilous, Dave MacKenzie, Alan Mayer, John Louis, and Jim Sinclair who sniped me for the game-winning goal.

The Future

I've had people ask me what my endgame is with this hobby. So where am I going with all of this? Hell if I know. And who says I need any kind of a goal anyway?

Autograph collecting has introduced me to some really great people and even led to some of the best trips I've been on. In 2018, my friend Arron and I did a two-week roadtrip to several Minor League ballgames sandwiched around the National Sports Collectors Convention. We're going to do it again for three weeks in 2022. In 2019, I got to go to Las Vegas and play indoor soccer with some of the greats of the sport. I've traded with people all over the world and have gotten sigs via mailing to sixteen different countries.

I want to do whatever I possibly can to keep the hobby clean, ethical, and accessible. Unfortunately thieves, forgers, and other criminal elements are around in it. I want them gone whenever they pop up. Those who act solely in their own interest above the interest of the hobby at large are becoming a big problem. The health of the hobby is more important than the size of your collection. We all need to participate sustainably. If the hobby dies, what value will your collection really have anyway?

I rarely have ever sold anything, and won't be doing so in the foreseeable future. I trade a fair bit, but that's even getting to be more rare. I've written blogs on autographs, run Facebook groups dedicated to it, written articles for several websites on the topic, interviewed and serve as co-host of a podcast and a radio show on it, and even have a YouTube channel dedicated to the hobby. Who says I even need to have some sort of "end game" in all of this?

I just know I'm having fun with it. So should all of us who are involved in it. Thanks for stopping by.

Some photos over the last 20 years...

Favorites

MLB Teams
Cleveland Guardians/Indians, Montreal Expos

MLB Players
Cory Snyder, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jose Ramirez

NFL Team
Cleveland Browns (minus Baker Mayfield)

NFL Players
Eric Metcalf, Josh Cribbs, Randall Cunningham, Myles Garrett

NBA Team
Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Players
Mark Price, Larry Nance, Matthew Dellavedova

NHL Teams
Pittsburgh Penguins, Quebec Nordiques

NHL Players
Mario Lemieux, PJ Stock, John Kordic, Borje Salming

MISL/NPSL Teams
Cleveland Crunch, Cleveland Force

MASL Teams
Mesquite Outlaws, Dallas Sidekicks

MISL/NPSL/MASL Players
Kai Haaskivi, Hector Marinaro, Zoran Karic, Doc Lawson, Otto Orf, Tatu

AFL/AFLW Team
North Melbourne Kangaroos

AFL Players
Wayne Carey, Tarryn Thomas, Ben Brown, Jy Simpkin, Ben Cunnington, Jason Horne-Francis

AFLW Players
Jenna Bruton, Daria Bannister, Mia King, Sophie Abbatangelo, Jess Duffin, Kaitlyn Ashmore, Ash Riddell

USAFL
North Texas Devils

EPL/Champions League
Chelsea FC

International
FA Sapmi, Finland's National Teams