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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.

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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

How to spot Lord Lucan

Is Lord Lucan still alive?

And if so, where is he?

This blog post won’t help solve either of those two questions, I’m afraid. But it will give you a better chance of spotting the errant Lord should you ever run into him.

Lord Lucan is widely believed to have bludgeoned to death his family’s nanny in London on November 7, 1974, after mistaking her for his wife.

His car was found in Newhaven on the south coast the following day, but since that time his whereabouts are unknown.

Many think he committed suicide out in the English Channel, others believe he escaped abroad, with some evidence suggesting that Lucan was in hiding in Africa for several years.

Lord Lucan

Lord Lucan with wife Veronica Duncan

Sightings have ranged from a restaurant in San Francisco to a bar in Botswana.

The High Court pronounced him dead in 1999.

Now medical notes from a Harley Street doctor, which reveal that Lucan suffered a badly broken nose in 1963, are coming to auction on September 26, reports the UK’s Express newspaper.

“This medical card is a small clue that could be used to easily identify the absconded Lord Lucan, if he was ever found,” Deborah Doyle, from auction house Duke’s of Dorchester, told the publication.

The notes state: “Struck nose on steering wheel of boat columnella profuse bleeding at time.”

The notes have a £150 (approx. $250) estimate, a fair valuation considering a Lucan-signed letter sold for £430 ($700) earlier this year.

So if on your travels you spot a man in his late 70s, with an aristocratic bearing and signs of a once-broken nose, ask him for an autograph.

We’d be delighted to add it to our autographs for sale.

Dan

Einstein correspondence – my favourite PFC Auctions lot

Without a doubt, my favourite item that has been consigned to the latest PFC Auctions sale – which, by the way, is currently open for bidding  – has to be the correspondence between the great Albert Einstein and socialist philosopher Corliss Lamont.

Einstein signed letter, Einstein, Signature, Autograph, Corliss Lamont,

Einstein and Corliss would later meet at Einstein’s home to discuss the matter further

Regarded as a genius, Einstein was called upon for his advice on numerous subjects as he became more famous, many of which were far removed from his physics background. The turbulent times that followed the second world war meant that few could avoid holding an opinion on matters such as civil rights, communism and the threat of the cold war, and Einstein was at the forefront of the intellectual debate.

His connections with Germany and zionism, as well as his socialist ideals and relations with leading communist figures, also ensured that the distrustful FBI held a file on him, which would grow to over 1,427 pages. Like many intellectuals in America at the time, Einstein felt oppressed under the watchful eye of his adopted government.

These remarkable letters show attempting to maintain an amicable relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Lamont was the president of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, an organisation supported by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Orson Wells, Katharine Hepburn and Gene Kelly, to name but a few.

Over the course of the four letters, Einstein’s characteristically calm and eloquent manner is portrayed brilliantly, providing a fascinating insight into his character. He is clear and decisive in his writing, and demonstrates his strong awareness of the political climate at the time.

With a minimum bid of just £100 each, the letters are sure to be snapped up by hungry collectors, although if anyone is feeling generous I would very much like them as a birthday present! Another 1954 letter in which Einstein shares his views on God and religion was reportedly sold for $3m on eBay in October 2012, so act fast.

by Joe

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