Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Healthy Reserve To Protect Sentimental Attachment

Frank Miller Elektra Battle Page From Daredevil 176

I've seen a lot of hokey reasons for a high reserve, but never "There is a healthy reserve to protect my extreme sentimental attachment to this wonderful piece of artistic genius."

Interesting that some people's sentiment can be bought if the price is high enough.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My First Kirby Page

I've bought a few pages of original art over the years... mostly lowball bids on eBay that I was lucky enough to win. But, I always wanted a page of original art from my favorite comic artist, Jack Kirby. I recently decided to make the wish a reality. I've always had a soft spot for Machine Man... I recall buying the originals from Shelburne Pharmacy in Rotterdam, NY. I am now the proud owner of page 10 from 2001: A Space Odyssey #10 (1978).

Some Rare Autographs Get More & More Common - A Guest Editorial

Here is a guest editorial from AeroSpace collector Bob McLeod. Bob is a super guy and has a keen eye for forgeries. Because he is a polite Southern Gentleman, he is not as direct as I might be, but as astute readers, I'm sure you will get the idea...


I like to check out my "favorite" eBay seller, "Maksuta," occasionally. His large & varied eBay material has been likened to a flea market. He offers a usual big selection of Yuri Gagarin signed items & many deceased cosmonaut autographs, plus many various non-space Russian collectibles.

He seems to specialize in rare Soviet/Russian space material and is considered by many to be the leading supplier of the ultra-rare Soyuz 11 crew signed items. The Soyuz 11 crew were killed during their flight and their autographs are considered the rarest of all space autographs. Because of tradition & superstition, rarely did early Soviet cosmonaut crews sign anything before their flights.

"Maksuta" has a history of offering items signed by the Soyuz 11 crew going back at least to early 2002, with a postcard on eBay signed by the S-11 crew. I have kept records of at least 7 items he's offered signed by the S-11 crew and have seen many more in other auctions just like he offers. The first ones made their debut some years ago in a Superior auction and sold for around $4,000. But because of them becoming relatively common since, few seem to sell publicly & Maksuta's usually don't sell on eBay and are re-listed over & over.

So they don't seem to be a serious problem, as probably most collectors have learned of the questionable nature of these many & varied S-11 crew signed items. But they can still be a danger in our hobby, as described below.

One S-11 that originated from Maksuta sold about a year ago on "Dealer A's" Website for around $4,000. Maksuta was proudly named as the source in the elaborate description
and was referred to as a "respected dealer." I contacted Maksuta about the one being offered by Dealer A and was told that he sold it to Dealer A for $1,000.

Dealer A was informed of Maksuta's less than distinguished history & history of offering them, but it had no effect and the S-11 stayed on Dealer A's Website until it eventually sold for $4,000 - with a no return policy.

I have since seen an identical one offered by Maksuta on eBay for less than $1,000. I have seen at least five S-11 training photos signed by the crew that were offered by
Maksuta and two philatelic items, which I've all made copies of. I've seen many more of the same types offered elsewhere. At least one other eBay seller sold one for around $700. They have become so readily available, that practically anyone can own the world's rarest space autographs.

Maksuta now has on eBay, besides his two S-11 crew signed training photos, two ASTP crew signed covers, one said to be flown, with certain fake signatures by the three Apollo crew members. His history is anything but respected or respectable & his autographs should be carefully checked out.

Bob McLeod

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Negs/Neutrals: Disabled!

Negs/Neutrals: Disabled!

This was a great web tool that allowed you to see only the negatives and neutral feedbacks left for an eBay member. All you had to do was enter the username, and it would return negative and neutral feedbacks only. I always look for patterns in feedback. If the comments are constantly about poor grading, poor packing, etc, I suspect there is a problem with the seller and I avoid. It's usually fairly easy to detect a "revenge" feedback and I typically ignore them.

The feedback lookup tool was especially helpful with sellers that have a lot of negatives buried under a mountain of positive feedback. Bear in mind that this is a common tactic used by sleazy sellers -- they can shill their own auctions and leave positive feedback to quickly move a negative comment off the feedback front page because they know many eBay users won't bother to go back more than a page or two.

I will keep an eye on this site... hopefully they will be back up soon.

Waste of a Good Art Print

eBay item 2252556701 (Ends Jul-01-04 17:35:25 PDT) - SIGNED x Neil Armstrong R Reagan Jim Lovell J Doolittle

This is an utterly disgraceful waste of a beautiful print. Whoever did this is a total moron. Since it is a private auction, I tend to think the seller knows it's a fake...

Why didn't they just add about 20 other signatures while they were at it? How stupid....

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Thoughts On Private Auctions

Some eBay sellers use private auctions and justify it by arguing that "all the big auction houses do it." True, but the big auction houses are established businesses and the identity of the principals should be a matter of public record. The reason why it's okay for established auction houses to have private bidding -- and not okay for eBay -- is that an established auction house is supposed to adhere to a code of ethics and be above reproach in this regard. We place trust in the good name of the established auctioneer and expect that the auction will be conducted fairly (i.e., no shill bidding.) Not the same can be said for eBay sellers who conduct private auctions. We don't even know who they are and/or what their real name is and they expect to be trusted?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Worst 7.5. Ever.

eBay item 2251421636 (Ends Jun-23-04 15:47:42 PDT) - AMAZING SPIDER MAN #129 CGC 7.5 WHITE PAGES MARVEL NR

This book and the CGC label look like they were wedged into the slab with a crowbar. Was it damaged going into the slab? I don't see how this could otherwise get a 7.5.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Pedigree Comics Launches

Pedigree Comics

Renowned collector Doug Schmell (aka Captain Tripps) has finally launched his high grade website, Pedigree Comics. Some great stuff to drool over, but unfortunately out of the grasp of the average collector. Given most of the prices, slabbed books like these are for the affluent only -- or at the very least for those that don't mind maxing out their credit cards. It still amazes me that there are enough wealthy comic book collectors to drive and sustain the high-end slabbed book market. Twenty years ago, who woulda thought comic books would evolve into a rich man's hobby?

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Last Reagan

This will be my last Reagan signed item. It's a nice 8x10 White House photo signed by Nancy and President Reagan. If I had to guess, I'd say it was signed in the early to mid-90s. As many collectors have stated, the trick to getting Reagan to sign a photo in the mid-90s was to send it to Nancy and ask them both to sign it. I suspect that this is how this photo was signed.

I obtained this from R&R auction a few years ago for a very reasonable price. I got this for a song while the bidding war erupted over a another item -- a "perfect pose" signed photo was "perfectly fake"!

Godspeed, President Reagan.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Signed Governor Portrait

When I started collecting political autographs, getting a signed photo from Ronald Reagan was already an impossibility. So, I had to buy one. Given the high number of forgeries and secretarials -- and the fact that most dealers can't tell the difference -- this was a daunting task.

I did the usual ebay and dealer search for months before I came up with this signed photo. If I am not mistaken, I bought this from a dealer (Adam Andruiser) in the UK. It's the classic Governor portrait with a nice long inscription. To me, the more handwriting the better! And unlike many of his governor portraits, it has not been signed by his secretary Helen VanDamme. There is a penciled date on the back of the photo of June 1972... so I presume this is when this photo was received by Ms. Hazel Hale. The signature style is consistent with that time frame.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

CGG Stock Dropping?

eBay item 2246804351 (Ends Jun-06-04 20:00:00 PDT) - FANTASTIC FOUR # 38 SLABBED FINE PLUS 6.5 CGG

I was really surprised to see this slabbed FF #38 end at a mere $20... less than half of guide. It's a sharp book and I'd expect it to end low if it was raw, but graded I'd expect more. So, why the low price? Is the general market catching onto CGG's travails or is the mid-grade market that dead? Or was everyone watching the end of the Soporanos Sunday night?

A Reagan Expert Weighs In...

Autograph collector extraordinaire, Dr. Stephen Beck, has told me that Reagan did sign books (on the book itself, not on a bookplate) for a short period in 1993. That said, books signed on the book are still very uncommon, but they do exist.

Another Reagan Book

Continuing with the Reagan signed books, this is the second book I had signed through his office in late 1997 or early 1998.

As you can see from the bookplate below, this is most likely a later signature as the rounded Rs start to take on a squarish shape. It is my understanding that his later signatures evolved into a square block like script.

Next: Signed photos

Monday, June 07, 2004

Bats 222: Mind Boggling

A few days ago I featured a Batman 222 (Beatles Cover) that I picked up at my local comics shop. My copy is in the 9.0 range... give or take a half grade.

Well, here's a CGC 9.4 that closed at $587 on ebay. My God... I'm speechless.

Caveat Emptor!

Browsing through ebay, Reagan forgeries outnumber the real deal about 10 to 1. Now is a very bad time to purchase a Reagan signed item... the market is flooded with fakes, and you will overpay for authentic material. Be patient, there is plenty of authentic material out there, and in several months the prices will go to normal levels.

A few pointers... stay away from:

* Unusual signed items - baseballs, flags, etc. 99.9% of them are fake.
* Items of opportunity - these are items that someone finds at a garage sale for 25 cents and is a "cheap investment" as forgery fodder. Examples include, postal covers, signed buttons, signed pamphlets, signed postcards, signed books that are not the books he would sign through his office, etc.
* Items with "too good to be true" inscriptions such as "Tear Down the Wall", "I Forgot to Duck", etc. Almost all of these are fake, and beware of signed typed quotes. There is a guy on ebay that has been selling these for years... I think they are all fakes.
* Unpersonalized signed photos in the perfect pose (flag in background, etc.) These are almost always fake.
* Books that are signed (not on a bookplate). Reagan never did any booksignings and books sent to his office were affixed with a bookplate. Authentically signed books are very rare.

If you have any items you'd like me to take a look at, please leave a link in a comment and I'll look into it.

Speaking My Mind

As my previous post indicated, Ronald Reagan would sign books, if you sent the right one (or two). Speaking My Mind is the first of the two that I sent to his office in 1997.

It returned several weeks later with this authentically signed bookplate, my first Reagan success. It's very close to the classic Reagan signature and my guess is that this bookplate was probably signed prior to 1997 because it shows a little weakness, but no substantive deterioration.

More to come...

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Reagan Signed Books

As late as 1998, one could get an authentic signature from Ronald Reagan's office. With the proper request, his office would affix an authentically signed bookplate into a book - if you sent the right book. Here is a letter on how to do it from his office:

It has been theorized that they gave President Reagan stacks of bookplates to sign... almost as form of therapy as the illness took hold. As you will see in later examples, someone from his office added the recipient's name in calligraphic form, but the Reagan signature itself was authentic through 1998. Requests after 1998 were answered with an Autopen signature. Perhaps the supply ran out and he was no longer able to sign at this point? Signed book examples will follow tomorrow.

A Great American Rides Into The Sunset

Unless you've been under a rock for the past 30 hours, by now you know that Ronald Reagan has died.

I'm really too sad other than to say that he was a hero of mine. I mourn his loss, but I am relieved his suffering is over.

In the next few days I will display some of my Ronald Reagan autographs.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Muhammad Ali Forgeries on the rise...

Kinda funny since I thought they were already at epidemic levels...

Here's an article from eSports Collector's Digest:

By Rocky Landsverk
Muhammad Ali has signed perhaps a million autographs in his lifetime, and it has not been enough to meet demand. Ali and Harlan Werner, his long-time agent, have taken to the offensive to alert fans that there's a serious problem with fake autographs of the sports legend.

"I'm not concerned about the value of my autograph; I'm concerned that my fans who are buying it are getting the real thing," Ali said, responding via e-mail in an exclusive interview. "My team has been with me for several years and is doing the best they can to keep up with the forgers."

Werner stresses that he's not on an "everything is fake but what we sell" rampage, but said Ali wants fans to employ some common sense, because many of the offers available just can't be valid.

"It's not physically possible for Muhammad to sign 30,000-50,000 autographs a year, and that is an approximation of the number of signatures being pumped into the marketplace worldwide," Werner said. "He wants the message to be out that fans and collectors should use common sense, know who they're buying from, and be comfortable with who they're buying from."

And when he says worldwide, he means it. "This problem is worse in Australia, worse in Japan, worse in England than it is in the United States," Werner said. "The noose is tightening (in the United States) and this stuff is being shipped abroad."

Ali's physical condition has worsened his autograph, something the forgers often utilize to their advantage. It's hard to authenticate Ali's signature, and not that hard to call a forgery "just one of Muhammad's bad days." Werner, however, said forgeries are still apparent to those who know Ali's autograph.

"There are days when he can sign very large signatures, and there are days when you get very small signatures," Werner said. "However, when he is sitting down and signing autographs, the characters are always similar and consistent. The inconsistency is in the size, and the signatures that are signed out in public are usually rushed and chances are you're going to get a signature that's less legible. Those less-legible signatures are more commonly counterfeited, and those signatures signed 'Muhammad Ali aka Cassius Clay' or just 'Cassius Clay,' those fake signatures are being pumped out in large numbers."

For more details, see the complete story in the June 11 issue of SCD.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

CGC Bound?

Picked up a few nice books at the local comic shop. After I give 'em a thorough reading, I'm debating if I will send them to CGC.

The Bats 222 sports a classic Neal Adams cover and is very desirable in high grade. This copy has a few hairline ticks along the spine, but CGC can be very forgiving when it comes to certain books. There is a small horizontal bend above the top staple... I fear that CGC would knock it down more for the bend than the small spine stresses. My guess on this one would be CGC 9.0... but I would not be surprised to see it swing between 8.5 or 9.2.

This Captain America Annual #3 is real nice, a sure 9.2 and probably a 9.4. I just love this Kirby cover... I still have the beat-up copy I bought from the newsstand way back when.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Friendship vs. Collecting - Follow-Up

I posted a "Reader's Digest" version of my story to the CGC Message Boards and elicited some interesting responses. Check out the thread below:

Collectors' Society Message Boards: Friendship vs. Collecting

What Are Friends For?

Ok... here's one to mull over...

Where do you draw the line between a "friend" and your own collecting/selling interests? Here's a story to clarify...

Last week at the Air & Space show, there was a dealer table with a few binders of signed items for sale. I was working the show, so I didn't have the opportunity to peruse the goods. A few hours into the show, a "friend" called me over to show me a Apollo 15 Crew photo signed by 2 of the 3 astronauts, one of whom is dead. The photo was inscribed "To Steve" and was priced at $140. As my name is Steve, this was an excellent opportunity for me.

The third astronaut, Dave Scott, was at the show and could have completed the item, but we didn't know how much he would want to complete it. After bringing it to my attention, my friend suggested that I go ask Dave Scott how much he wanted to complete it, and if the price was right, it would turn out to be quite a bargain.

I did that and learned Dave Scott would want $150 to complete it, bringing the total price for the crew photo to $290... about half the going rate for this signed crew photo. So I went back to the table that had the photo and learned that my friend had just bought the photo inscribed "To Steve."

I was not happy with him, and told him so. I asked him what kind of friend he was when he knew the crew photo was something I needed for my collection and it meant nothing to him other than an item to resell (as he is a dealer as well.) He swore up and down that it was for his collection and not for resale. Given his track record, I'd be a fool to think this item will not be re-sold soon.

So, it boils down to this: Do your friends come first or your collection? Would you pass up a bargain that you could resell for a profit if you knew a friend needed it, or is it everyman for himself when it comes to collecting? My sense is, that if you subscribe to the latter philosophy, you probably don't have many true friends.

Back in the Saddle

Back online after a long weekend. I helped 2 people move this weekend and then I was free to work on my own (fairly new) home! Going back to work will be a rest. ;-)

Let's see if I can find some good collectible information today...