Beware of "flown" provenance scams: Fake John Glenn flown flag

As an authenticator, scams, frauds and phony stories are all part of the typical day. There is what you “know” and what you can “prove.” The former often outweighs the latter, so it is a refreshing break when a situation presents itself that undeniably proves the scam.

Here is a John Glenn signed postal cover that was authenticated in January of 2019 — more than two years after John Glenn’s death. The signature is authentic… no doubt about that.

Yet, two months after authentication, the same signed postal cover appeared on eBay with a typed note on it. The note was supposedly written by John Glenn and provided provenance to a flown flag. John Glenn could not have added the typed note two years after he passed away, so the provenance is obviously fabricated. This is an example of trying to turn a $75 signed postal cover into a $1,800 Buy It Now flown flag.

Before and after

JSA Certification Verification Page

eBay auction, March 2019

Even if I did not have the “before” photo, this is a fairly transparent scam. The poorly written typed note with the bizarre “with much love” closing is completely uncharacteristic of John Glenn. And why would Glenn use an unrelated postal cover with a stamp from 1971 to thank a NASA worker for something that happened in 1962? The whole thing is an amateur, clumsy hoax, but it’s nice to be able to “prove” it.

The lesson here is that an authentic signature does not necessarily assure an item is truly flown or celebrity owned. With the escalation of the value of flown items, this will only become more commonplace and sophisticated. You need to stay a step ahead of the fakes, phonies and frauds. As always, use common sense, look at the whole picture, and caveat emptor!

Astronaut signed index cards are on the rise

With the steady rise of autograph prices for signed photos of many astronauts, some collectors are turning to less costly options such as signed cuts and index cards. When done right, cuts and cards assembled in a matted display can make for an impressive presentation.

Apollo 11 signature display

Apollo 11 signature display

I frequently get requests for authentication of cards and cuts, and often the client will also ask, “what’s a fair price?”

I am not a dealer, but I follow the market pretty closely, so I think I can provide an educated ballpark estimate. Based on my observations, here are some estimated fair market values for astronaut signed index cards. Obviously, price may vary widely based upon condition, selling venue, signature quality, etc. I believe cuts from books and other sources will generally sell for less than signed index cards.

Moonwalkers

  • Neil Armstrong - $1,000 - $1,400

  • John Young - $300

  • Buzz Aldrin / Harrison Schmitt - $250

  • Charles Conrad / Jim Irwin / Dave Scott / Alan Shepard (neat full name) - $150

  • Bean / Shepard (sloppy shortened signature) / Mitchell / Duke / Cernan - $100

Other select astronauts

  • Gus Grissom / Ed White - $400

  • Mercury 7 (other than Grissom and Shepard) - $75

  • Roger Chaffee - $600+

  • Mike Collins - $200

  • Bill Anders - $350

  • Christa McAuliffe - $400

How to remove nasty smells from collectibles

Nauseated.jpg

If you are an avid collector, chances are, this has happened to you...

You finally find an item you've been looking for a long time. You count the days until it arrives. When it is delivered, you open the package in glorious anticipation... and then... UGH... it reeks of cigarette smoke or some other musty smell.

If it is a common item, you can return it. But, what about tough-to-find items in otherwise good condition you don't want to return?

You may be tempted to "Febreeze" it or use some other product to mask or cover up the smell. These methods typically do not work well, and you risk staining the item when spraying it with any chemical.

The key is using baking soda because it doesn't doesn't mask odor; it absorbs odor. I have used this method to successfully remove undesirable smells from books, comics and baseballs.

  1. Dump a box of baking soda in the bottom of a Tupperware container big enough to hold the item. Avoid a container that is excessively large.
  2. Put a wire rack or something in the container to suspend the item above the baking soda.
  3. Place the item in the container and seal it tight.
  4. Give it a few weeks to a month and check the item. If there is still smell, replace the baking soda with a fresh supply and give it more time.

This method should work to remove most, if not all, of the nasty smell.

Good luck!

Not all astronaut Autopens are created equal

Apollo 17 Autopens.jpg

Would you believe that both Apollo 17 signed mats are the same Autopen patterns? Look at the variation in the G in Gene, the R in Ron and the E in Evans! I suspect the Autopen arm was bouncing around due to the bumpy surface of the mats.

There can be a great deal of variation in the same Autopen templates due to the armature vibration, the item being pushed through too quickly, the template wearing out, etc. Often, some people will claim an item is NOT an Autopen because there is a tiny variance from a published pattern, even though the remaining 98% of the signature is a total match. Don’t believe them!  

With practice and a sharp eye you can identify Autopens that vary from published patterns. If you are not sure, I can help!

12 Moonwalkers Letter of Authenticity

12 Moonwalker LOA.jpg

One of my clients is assembling a "12 moonwalkers" display using various cut signatures. Before framing, she asked me if I could review the signatures for a single letter of authenticity for all 12 signatures.

This is not something I have done before, but I figured it would be an interesting challenge! I've done letters for countless group pieces before, but not a single letter that had 12 separate signatures.

I like to keep the signature images large, so it forced me to go to both sides of the LOA. I'm pleased with the results... think it turned out well.

Is there anything I can do to help you with a project like this?