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Category Archives: Autographs

Collectors gear up for Elvis auction

A major sale of artefacts from the life of Elvis Presley is due to take place at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee later today. The auction consists of 72 lots and includes everything from his marriage certificate to his front door keys.

Ahead of the event, let’s take a brief look at some of the most interesting lots.

Early signature

The signature is one of the  earliest known examples

The signature is one of the earliest known examples

Elvis signed this library card in 1947 when he was in 7th grade. During that year he was beginning to gain recognition for his singing and performed twice on local personality Mississippi Slim’s radio show.

The piece is one of the earliest known examples of Elvis’ signature, meaning its likely to attract a high degree of interest from collectors.

Shooting target

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis had an enormous collection of guns. After a number of death threats he carried one on his person at all times, even while he was on stage.

His penchant for firing at the TV whenever singer and longtime rival Robert Goulet appeared onscreen in the stuff of legend.

This target was set up in his smokehouse in the grounds of Graceland, which he used as a shooting range.

Marriage certificate

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

This marriage certificate records Elvis’ wedding to Priscilla in Las Vegas in 1967. The couple spent a total of eight minutes in the chapel before jetting off for their honeymoon.

Ironically it was sent back to the marriage office stamped “return to sender” and was kept by one of the clerks, who sold it at auction in the mid 90s.

Keys

These keys were used in the couple's honeymoon

These keys were used in the couple’s honeymoon

This set of keys for Elvis’ holiday home in Palm Springs, California were taken on his honeymoon with Priscilla. The couple spent a couple of days in the luxury apartment before flying on to Memphis.

A Los Angeles Police Department keyring is a nice touch. Alongside his gun obsession, Elvis was an avid collector of police badges.

by Tom

The world’s most valuable signature

Day in day out we sell some of the world’s rarest autographs.

From James Dean to Henry VIII, if you can imagine it we’ve either got it or can get it.

However, there’s one I can guarantee that we’ll never have in stock.

I’ll give you a clue.

It belongs to the greatest writer in history.

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare has led some to speculate that the bard may have been Jewish

There are only six known copies of William Shakespeare’s autograph in existence – all of which feature on legal documents and are housed under lock and key in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

If one was to ever sell, it’s estimated that it would go for around $5m.

That figure would increase significantly if it was attached to a manuscript copy of one of his plays, not a single copy of which has ever surfaced.

Shakespeare's will - one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

Shakespeare’s will – one of the few manuscripts to feature his signature

The extraordinary value placed on his signature is far above that for any other person, a phenomenon that can be explained both by his extraordinary contribution to literature and the air of mystery that surrounds him.

Despite his fame and status, we still known very little about Shakespeare.

The fact that very few records or relics are known to have survived means that there is no market for memorabilia pertaining to him, despite enormous demand.

As a result copies of his folios, printed after his death, regularly break six figures – with one selling for $6.1m in 2001.

Curse of the Hemingways – a hereditary horror story

Around a month or so ago at PBA Galleries, an archive of Ernest Hemingway’s family photos came up for auction.

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

The young Ernest Hemingway stands awkwardly at the far right

A great set of collectible photographs from a great writer, but little more. They sold for $4,800.

Then, last night, I was channel hopping when I came across a documentary on Hemingway’s life. Having read a few of his books, I decided to give it a watch.

If nothing else, his famous Action Man-style machismo would keep me amused…

Ernest Hemingway family

Hemingway with Pauline and his sons

I was surprised when the show featured a number of Hemingway’s relatives. It’s rare that any great writers’ family want to be interviewed, especially with the famously unhappy childhood that Hemingway’s children shared.

The man was stern and had little time for small children. One of his sons remembered being yelled at for making the smallest noise while his father was writing upstairs.

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

The model family: Pauline Pfeiffer worked for Vogue and showed little interest in her children

Their mother, Hemingway’s second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, was a socialite who worked in Paris for Vanity Fair and Vogue – she had little affection for the children, spurred by difficult pregnancies, and they would be ushered in to kiss her on the cheek before school, their only contact with her each day.

“I hated her guts!” Patrick Hemingway exclaimed in the documentary.

Hemingway shared an equally unhappy relationship with his own mother, but had a fondness for his father, whom he often favoured in his parents’ endless arguments: “I hate her guts and she hates mine,” he wrote in 1949. “She forced my father to suicide.”

Of course, Hemingway followed in his father’s footsteps. A heavy drinker, possibly suffering from bi-polar and severe depression, he shot himself in 1961.

A gloomy bunch, but it’s not just these two generations of the Hemingway family that have been blighted with this curse.

Hemingway and sons at the writer's Finca in Cuba

Hemingway and sons at the writer’s Finca in Cuba

In fact, in four generations of the Hemingway family, there has been five suicides – Ernest, his father, his sister Ursula, brother Leicester and granddaughter Margaux. Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, lived a chequered life after having gender reassignment surgery, and was described by Ernest as having “the biggest dark side in the family except me.” He died in 2001.

In the show I was watching, the two surviving brothers, Patrick and Jack explained they had a friendly competition to see how long a Hemingway can survive for. An old documentary, Jack died in 1991 following heart surgery.

But it seems there may be an answer to their family’s plight, albeit a little too late…

Both Hemingway and his father’s behaviour became increasingly erratic in their later years. His father was extremely paranoid, locking all the drawers in his home obsessively and distrusting all those around him. Ernest followed suit as he reached old age, becoming constantly worried about taxes and the FBI’s investigations into him.

Checking himself into the Mayo Clinic, he was treated for hypertension with electroconvulsive therapy. It was here that they discovered that Hemingway suffered from hemochromatosis, an overload of iron in the blood that causes mental and physical deterioration.

Exacerbated by his drinking, this was certainly a strong contributor to Hemingway’s suicide. What’s more, it was also revealed that his father might also have suffered with the hereditary disease.

Yet it’s not certain what exactly drove so many Hemingways to despair, with depression, the family’s secretive nature and other mental health issues also to blame.

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

The Hemingway memorial in Idaho

You can find out more in Running from Crazy, a 2013 film by Barbara Kopple starring Hemingway’s granddaughter and actress Mariel Hemingway.

by Joe

Kurt Cobain Day makes debut this week

Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington holds its first Kurt Cobain Day this Thursday – on what would have been the Nirvana frontman’s 47th birthday.

The city’s mayor, Bill Simpson, said the day of commemorations is “in recognition of his artistic achievements.

“Aberdeen residents may justifiably take pride in the role our community played in the life of Kurt Cobain and the international recognition our community has gained from its connections with Kurt Cobain”, he added.

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana 1992

Kurt in 1992, two years before his death

The move has caused controversy in some quarters, with complainants arguing that Cobain’s drug taking is not a subject to celebrate.

I can see their qualms, yet if we follow that line of argument the only musician we could celebrate with a clear conscience would be Cliff Richard. No offence, Cliff.

But my reason for discussing Cobain today is this:

Kurt Cobain Day is evidence that he still matters. That his influence is still felt keenly. And that he will continue to be celebrated for years and decades to come.

Which is why I feel Kurt Cobain memorabilia is among the most exciting collectibles markets around. His Mosrite Gospel Mark IV guitar, for example, auctioned for $131,000 in 2006.

You can see the Top 10 Kurt Cobain memorabilia sales here.

One sector that looks undervalued to me is his signature, with signed photos auctioning for around £200 ($333).

And if you’re in the Washington State area, Thursday could be a great place to start your Cobain collection. Because amid the musical performances and the unveiling of a statue, a Cobain-signed guitar will be up for auction.

And if you’re not based in the north-west of the US, why not give us a call and we can source your Kurt Cobain memorabilia for you?

Email info@paulfrasercollectibles.com or call 44 (0)117 933 9500.

Dan

The mystery of The Hollywood Hat – an autographed anomaly

A hat mysteriously appears at auction, covered in the signatures of 400 of the top names of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, the list goes on.

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The Hollywood Hat has since revealed its secrets

The huge Stetson cowboy hat is a remarkable relic, but autographs just aren’t what those in attendance are looking for, and bids are slow to appear.

One man, realising the hat’s potential value, puts his hand up and places the winning bid – it’ll make a good talking point, if nothing else.

Yet when our bidder takes the hat home, he’s drawn by its power. Just how does one person get all of those autographs? Where did it come from? How much is it really worth?

You might say our enterprising bidder – Joe Blitman – was hooked on the autograph collecting hobby…

And so, research got underway. With limited experience in autograph collecting, Blitman was uncertain to say the least. However, after hours of pondering, he noticed one thing: all of those that signed the hat worked for either MGM or Fox, as opposed to other major studios Warner Brothers, Paramount or RKO.

What do Fox and MGM have in common? Blitman was at a loss, noticing only one similarity: they’re both on the same side of Hollywood, with the other situated on the other side of town.

Blitman began to dissect the hat (not literally, don’t panic collectors!), grouping together the autographs that fill every inch of space. 90% were actors, with a couple of boxing champions thrown in for good measure.

The history of the hat still eluded its new owner…but then Blitman struck gold.

Four of the names on the hat were those of make-up men. Very few collectors would bother to trouble a make-up artist for their John Hancock, so all clues pointed to an insider…but who?

A guard at the gates, a receptionist, a work experience kid. It could’ve been anyone.

Digging deeper into those four names, Blitman became dismayed at the lack of information. Turns out, very little knowledge of the early make-up artists was passed on to future generations, and there was almost no trace of Jack Dawn, Ward Hamilton, Bob Stephanoff or Cecil Holland to be found.

Just a few short biographies of each exist, yet one mentioned that Cecil Holland had a daughter, who Blitman discovered is still alive. A chance email is fired off, but Blitman isn’t hopeful and is on the verge of giving up.

A week passes and no reply. Then…

Dear Mr. Blitman,

I was delighted to receive your email with a request for information about the cowboy hat. You have reached the right person for its background. It was my father, Cecil Holland, who got all those signatures from the actors who sat in his makeup chair… many of whom later became friends … It was his pride and joy.

Margaret, Cecil Holland’s daughter had replied – and what a reply it was!

Joe Blitman was now the owner of Cecil Holland’s pride and joy. But who was Cecil?

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Clark Gable signing the Hollywood Hat

Blitman lists him as an “accomplished actor, engraver, etcher, photographer, painter, jewelry maker, sculptor, wood-carver and most importantly, a dedicated and deeply talented make-up artist”.

An Englishman born in 1887, Cecil Holland shared the same enterprising nature as Blitman, embarking on several varied careers before becoming a make-up artist at the dawn of the silent-era. He went on to provide the make-up of almost every star of the era, as well as acting alongside the likes of Rudolph Valentino.

As each of the stars entered his make-up room, Holland would request their autograph, each dutifully adding their name to the historical hat.

Obviously, Blitman isn’t keen to part with the hat now, but he is eager to tell the story of Cecil Holland, a remarkable star whose name should never have been forgotten. Learn more about Holland’s Hollywood Hat here.

by Joe
IMAGES: JOE BLITMAN/AUTOGRAPH MAGAZINE

What makes Beatles records so valuable?

All records signed by all four members of the Beatles are exceptionally rare, but some are rarer than others.

Please Please Me, the debut album which was released in 1963, is the most widespread – with around 70 known examples, according to Autograph Magazine’s census. Despite the record being the most commonly signed, it is not unusual for copies to sell for upwards of $15,000.

Lill-Babs and The Beatles took part in the Swe...

The Beatles performing on Swedish television in 1963

With the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night are far rarer, with around 15-20 and 8-10 known examples respectively – meaning examples very rarely come up for auction.

However, with preceding albums – including Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver – the number of signed copies available drops dramatically – down to just one or two known examples worldwide.

So why the sudden drop in signed records in the mid 1960s?

Well, at this time the Beatles were at the height of their creative powers, no longer the fresh faced teenagers who had inspired such mania amongst young girls on both sides of the Atlantic. They grew their hair long, tuned into the counterculture and shook off their teenybopper fans – becoming less approachable as they slowly imploded.

This capping of the market early on has ensured that the value of their records will continue to rise as long as demand remains consistent.

In 2011 the record for the most valuable Beatles record was set by Meet the Beatles, which realised an impressive $150,000.

47 - 1963 - Beatles, The - Meet The Beatles - ...

Meet the Beatles was the band’s second album in the US.

That figure has since been outstripped.

So what is the most valuable autographed Beatles record today?

That record was set in April of this year by a copy of the seminal Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which made an incredible $290,500 – soaring past its initial valuation by 868.3%.

The Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club ban...

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The value of Beatles records keeps on climbing, with the value of a signed album page up a solid 6.3% between 2012 and 2013.

You can view our signed copy of A Hard Day’s Night here, one of the 8-10 in existence.

Tom

Collectibles have made me the man I am

Before I started this role at Paul Fraser Collectibles, I’d never tasted a drop of single malt whisky.

Three years on, and that has all changed. It’s what this job does to you, I’m afraid.

It’s not the tight deadlines, you understand, that have me reaching for the hard stuff.

It’s the immersion in the collectibles business.

When, week after week, you’re researching, writing and proof-reading articles on the world’s finest whiskies, gaining an understanding of the distilling methods, learning how the combination of the malt, the peats, the barrels, the water and the ageing process combine to produce unique tasting whiskies, I think it’s only natural that one might be tempted to try a dram or two.

Jura, The Macallan, Laphroaig …

“Full nose,” I may now be heard to remark of a Saturday evening. “Hmm, caramel undertones.”

In essence, I’ve become a whisky bore.

Somebody slap him.

It’s a process that I’ve recognised in other areas that our news service covers, too.

The other day saw me jumping off the bus in London so that I could take a look at an Inverted Jenny (that’s a stamp) in the British Library, while not so long ago I took myself off to view a collection of paintings by the Group of Seven (there’s eight of them really).

Inverted Jenny

An Inverted Jenny: well worth getting off the bus a stop early for…

Would I have been doing this four years ago?

Would I heck.

I’ve always been fascinated by both history and the collecting world, but before this job I had never involved myself with the minutiae of any one subject.

That’s all changed.

“How many signed Beatles albums exist in the world?

“Who is the world’s most valuable living artist?

What year did Neil Armstrong stop signing autographs?

I now know the answer to all three questions, and so could you, if you become a regular reader of our news site.

So thank you Paul Fraser Collectibles for making me the man I am today.

Dan

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