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!