Tuesday, June 29, 2004

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...

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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

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