T. Alan Hartman has five decades of “First-Hand” autograph experience. He began collecting autographs in-person in 1960, when as a young sports and baseball fan, he discovered that many Cincinnati Reds players lived in an apartment complex near his home. An elementary school classmate who lived in that same apartment complex took Alan around to various Reds players’ apartments one day after school. Mr. Hartman met many of those players, each of whom gave him an autographed team-issued picture postcard - the type the players kept to respond to mail requests from fans. As he walked home that afternoon, clutching his prized collectibles, Hartman was immediately hooked. He would soon return to those same players’ apartments time and time again, armed with baseball cards and other items to be signed.
Now that he had autographs from the Reds players, Hartman had a desire to expand his growing autograph collection to include other major league players - specifically, players on the visiting teams that played in Cincinnati. The resourceful Hartman found out which hotels the visiting team stayed at. For the most of the 1960’s and early 70’s, Hartman was a frequent visitor of these hotels. He regularly would meet and walk away with autographs from virtually all of the players on all of the teams, including Roberto Clemente, Roger Maris, Willie Mays, etc. He also attended many games at Crosley Field, where he was able to add even more autographs to his ever-growing collection. Hartman would get a variety of types of items signed - including; baseball cards, yearbooks, autograph books, photos, baseballs, team sheets and index cards. He appeared at the hotels and ballpark so often that some of the players remembered him - some friendly and some not so friendly - with a handful of players even going so far as to discontinue signing for him. On the other hand, some of the players looked at Hartman as a friendly familiar face. He established a good rapport with a number of players and even struck up a friendship with Roberto Clemente, who frequently left courtesy tickets to games for him at the will call window at Crosley Field.
In the early 1960’s, using the experience he had gained from seeking autographs of baseball players, Hartman began obtaining autographs of NBA players. The Cincinnati Gardens, where the Royals played, was but five minutes from his home and he was a regular visitor there during the 1960’s and early 70’s. During those years, Hartman met and obtained autographs from almost every NBA player. Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Maravich, Lew Alcindor, and Bill Russell were among the many names Hartman obtained autographs from, even obtaining the “impossible” Russell on multiple occasions.
Hartman’s desire for more and more autographs continued to grow. If someone came to town, Hartman would get the autograph in-person. But what about those who were not going to be in Cincinnati? In 1962, Hartman discovered that writing away for autographs was yet another method for obtaining autographs of those he was unlikely to meet. Jackie Robinson, Ezzard Charles and Ben Hogan are just a few of the hundreds of names Hartman would come to obtain autographs of by writing to them.
By the mid 1960’s, Hartman fell in love with rock & roll music. He applied the same methods he had used to secure autographs from sports figures to visiting rock & roll stars. Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys are among the many rock & roll stars Hartman obtained autographs from.
In 1968, the NFL came to Cincinnati and guess what happened - Hartman added NFL players to his repertoire. Also in 1968, Muhammad Ali came to town and the 1968 presidential election provided opportunities to add other categories of celebrities to his autograph collection.
From 1969 thru 1972, Hartman attended college in Illinois and frequently visited St. Louis and Chicago where he obtained autographs from most of the NHL players including Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante and Michel Briere. His proximity to Chicago also enabled him to obtain autographs of some American League baseball teams he had not met before. From 1960 thru 1972, Hartman was collecting autographs almost on a daily basis. In
addition to obtaining autographs in the town he grew up in, and nearby
cities during his college years, he frequently traveled to other cities in pursuit of more autograph opportunities.
TOPS IN FIELD
During the bulk of his autograph collecting tenure, Hartman’s collecting skills put him at the top in his field. Thru the use of detective work, ingenuity, a photographic memory, and perseverance, Hartman was frequently able to obtain autographs that most collectors would not or did not. If someone wasn’t going to sign, Hartman found a way to get him to sign. If someone was signing in a crowd but limited it to a handful or less of signatures, Hartman almost always snared one. In addition, from the very outset, he sought and obtained multiple signatures of most subjects that he pursued - getting as many as he could or until all items he had with him were signed.
By the late 60’s, Hartman began taking his camera along on his autograph-seeking excursions. He would take photos of the celebrities he met and often had his picture taken with them. By the mid 1970’s, having conquered the autograph field and finding satisfaction in his photography work, Hartman decided to put more emphasis on taking photos of celebrities. While still getting autographs, he focused more on becoming
an accomplished celebrity photographer. Throughout the rest of the 70’s and into the mid 1980’s, and beyond, Hartman did just that, culminating with the 1998 publication of a book of his photos, entitled, “Guess Who’s Coming to Cincinnati.”
Hartman has had exhibitions of his photos, including at the VH-1 offices in New York. In addition, he licenses his photographs for usage in books, magazines, television shows and video production companies. “Elvis in Private” and “Led Zeppelin: The Concert File,” are among the books in which Hartman’s photos have appeared. TV networks and shows, including ESPN, VH-1’s “Behind the Music,” and “Legends,” and E-TV’s “True Hollywood Story,” are among those in which Hartman’s photographs have been featured. Hartman’s photos also appear in home video DVD’s, including, among others, Passport Productions titles featuring Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. At his photography website, www.talanhartman.com, he offers signed and numbered limited edition prints of his work.
Hartman is well-known to many in the field of autographs and sports and music collectibles. While he has always considered himself a collector first and foremost, he has also worn the hat of an occasional dealer of signed and unsigned collectibles. He was never a full-time dealer. His selling activities have always been done on a limited basis - running an ad or two per year in Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) and running internet auctions two or three times per year. Known to many as “The King of Autographs,” Hartman has long been concerned by the proliferation of non-authentic autographs in the marketplace. He has assisted countless collectors over the years by notifying them if he noticed they purchased a non-authentic signature. In addition, he has worked behind the scenes to expose and remove sellers of forged autographed material.
The names Hartman has met and obtained autographs from is far too numerous to list. As for the four major sports, Hartman has obtained autographs from most players who appeared on gum cards from 1960-1972. He also met and obtained autographs from numerous figures from other sports such as Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and Pele. Mr. Hartman has obtained autographs from many rock & roll stars from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. And he has obtained autographs from every presidential election since 1968. To further illustrate Hartman’s passion for autograph collecting, his high school yearbooks, signed by his schoolmates, contain many references to his legendary autograph collection. In one way or another - whether out collecting them in-person, receiving them thru the mail, buying, selling, or trading, or just talking about them - autographs have been a part of Hartman’s life on virtually a daily basis ever since 1960.
Though his autograph excursions have gradually decreased in recent years, he still pops up occasionally if the subject interests him enough.