Tricks of the Trade: Collecting Jargon

Autograph May 2010

Michael Jackson's final days turned into a rackfest, but only for a handful of pros who had the down low.

Just as in every other hobby, autograph collectors have unique terms we like to use when communicating with each other. When collecting autographs in-person, you’ll might run into other collectors who aren’t very friendly and don’t like to share information with other collectors. But you can break the code with this dictionary of common terms used by collectors. A special thanks goes out to Tim Henderson, Michael Bartow, and my friend Denmark Vea who helped me compile this list:

1-Per: The athlete or celebrity being discussed will only sign one item per person. Some organized signings advertise only one item per person, and when collectors mention the event, they’ll say that it’s a 1-per.

AWOL/MIA: The celebrity went out the back door and we never saw them!

Bandwagon: Sometimes, when you’re outside a venue or hotel and fans from the concert walk by and see what you’re doing, they stick around and can ruin a signing opportunity because it looks like too large a crowd is waiting for the celebrity. Bandwagoners get trivial items signed, such as business cards or the caps they’re wearing, and sometimes only take photos, if the celebrity stops to sign at all.

Beauty Pageant Wave: Describes the gesture given by the celebrity when they see that you want an autograph, but just give you a hand wave instead of coming over to sign.

Cell Phone Routine:
Especially popular among athletes, the celebrity spots a group of collectors and props their cell phone up to their ear to pretend they’re talking to someone. That way they can blow off autograph seekers without having to directly engage in conversation. I guess it’s too difficult for some just to say “No” or “Sorry, not today, guys” when they don’t feel like signing.

Close-hold: A term used by collectors when requesting other collectors to keep information on a future autograph opportunity secret. Similarly, DL may be used, which means “down low.”

Deco: An abbreviation referring to a DecoColor paint pen.

Double Dipping:
When a collector successfully scores two or more signatures from a notorious 1-per signer in the same setting. This can be accomplished by undergoing a quick disguise change—adding or removing a hat or sunglasses, or both—and approaching the signer with a second item. Or, if there is a line for the signing, simply going through the line a second time.

F* ME!:
A common expression used by disappointed collectors who just missed an extremely rare autograph opportunity with an athlete or celebrity who is normally known to be a tough signer. Traffic, or needing to leave a venue abruptly in order to move a vehicle to avoid a parking ticket is usually the main cause of this expression.

Lame: Term used to describe a venue in which virtually no autographs were obtained.

A new, unfamiliar face in the crowd among regulars at a particular venue. A newbie can easily be transformed into a regular by appearing frequently at the same venues and establishing constructive dialogue with other regulars.

Preparing your items for signing. This is more commonly used for items with heavy gloss that require you to rub them down with your fingers, erasers or baby powder in order to remove some of the gloss that typically causes autographs to bubble or streak.

Every autograph collector’s dream! It can either mean getting multiple items signed by the same celebrity or athlete at one sitting, or getting items signed by various targeted celebrities or athletes at the same venue. A rackfest is a venue which produced many opportunities to rack and a total rackfest is exactly what you might guess.

Regular: Describes someone who regularly frequents signing venues;  also referred to as a veteran.

Running to the Bathroom:
Describes a celebrity or athlete who is walking a brisk pace while signing, like he or she is in a hurry to get to the bathroom.

Safe Zone:
Term used at NASCAR signings. This area is usually the motor coach lot where the drivers have their RVs parked, and the only way a collector can get in is with a pass or an appropriate ID. Usually the big names have a golf cart whisk them fast into the safe zone so they don’t have to sign for the fans.

Shot Down: A term used when you are refused an autograph by a celebrity or athlete. In NASCAR, this is referred to as being blown off.

Stiffed: Some celebrities or athletes will refuse an autograph when heading into a venue but will mention that they will sign inside, or on their way out after the event is over, or tomorrow. Being stiffed is when you attempt to get the autograph when and where the celebrity said that they would sign, but they still refuse the autograph.

Throwing Down:
Refers to a celebrity who is known for signing a lot for fans, especially multiple items in the same sitting.

About Steve Cyrkin, Editor

Steve Cyrkin is the editor & publisher of Autograph, and focuses mostly on forgery, market and consumer protection issues.