Most collectors, by necessity, obtain the bulk of their collections indirectly. Trading with other collectors, purchasing from dealers, purchasing from private parties, bidding at auction from estate liquidations, hobby paper ads, or sports collectibles conventions are the most prevalent methods which do not involve the sports personality himself. The most common way to obtain an autograph from the sports personality without the presence of the sports personality is through the mail. (See how to get a player’s autograph through the mail, here).
Autograph collecting is a reasonably popular hobby. It is not uncommon to find other collectors with autograph interests similar to yours. It is also not uncommon to find collectors who possess, more than one autograph of the same player; a duplicate which they can be convinced to part with in exchange for an autograph that they desire but do not possess — one which you yourself may have in duplicate. These conditions form the basis for trade negotiations from which both parties can obtain satisfaction. Most trading is not quite this simple; however, the underlying motives of all tradings are to obtain something you do not possess and desire to have, for something you have but do not place such a high value on as you do the item you desire to obtain.
Dealers in autographed material exist just as they do for any collectible. Many specialize in particular types of autographs. In any event, these dealers have acquired autograph material and are willing to sell it at a given price (a price which may or may not be negotiable). These dealers can be found at sports collectibles conventions, at local flea markets, and in advertisements in hobby papers or autograph-oriented periodicals.
A check of your local newspaper, particularly the auction section of the Sunday edition, is an excellent way to become aware of estate and private party autograph sales and auctions. The auction method offers you the opportunity to obtain the autographs you desire for amounts less than you might pay to a dealer. In fact, because of the scarcity of certain autographs, the auction method may be the only available way to obtain a particular autograph. In such cases, a fair market value might not be known, and the auction offers a means to arrive at a price based on the value of the autograph to the collector.