About 2 weeks ago I put the word out that I had an authentic autograph of a famous person, Muhammad Ali it so happens.
I showed a picture of it here, in the book held by Peggy in front of my house. It had a story of how she obtained it and all the rigamarole that entailed. Peggy had the signature verified by an expert though I could tell right away it was the real thing (I had been selling autographs for years, probably since about 1978 if you can imagine that! (Tal vs Botvinnik 1960! I had several of them and could see the autographs in a dream done with a fountain pen!) Which it was.
We Are Talking Real Pieces of History Here!
Back in the 1970s I was doing something I no longer do–I sold chess stamps and special chess cancels. I was “lucky” (I don’t believe in luck!) to obtain autographs of famous (Is Steinitz famous enough for you?) and not so famous chess players at tournaments or matches.
During that ten year tenure I got to know the important people in the chess collecting of of rare chess stuff. Naturally this attracts a few barflies. These people are the scum of the collecting world. But, I had some fanciful moments too such as in selling an autograph of Wilhelm Steinitz and I obtained some “secret” information about Steinitz’ signature which has a tale-tell sign about whether it is real or a forgery.
Feather in my Cap!
It became natural that I would gravitate towards autograph collecting and selling. I had a source for some of these bits of business from behind the Iron Curtain before collecting such things became such a big deal. But soon I was hearing from others who came to know the Chesstamps Informant guy (me). During that time I even published a small magazine of such information and along with it photographs of the special stamps and special cachets and cancellations. Seriously I don’t know how or why Mercedes put up with my messing with that stuff. But she did. Years later I discovered there was a special philatelic unit of the ATA (American Topical Association) who put out a magazine and all kinds of “feel good” information. As I bought the stuff for resale, I still have lots of special quantities of “goodies” from those days. I knew Arno Bederke and Egbert Meissenburg and many other such as B B Jensen… names which probably mean very little to today’s collectors or accumulators.
At one point a few years ago I blabbed that I wanted to sell all my inventory to anyone who was a member of the ATA. There were no takers. Everyone, it seems, wants Easy-Street. Give them a list or a catalog of what I have or tell them what is filled in binders. If I did all that few could afford the final price. However, you can VISIT me or I can visit you. I mean I learned a lot from this procedure years ago after 8 grueling hours in a hotel room with a very annoying collector. We never took a break for food or anything. The guy was a grade A ass—-.
He wasn’t the only one. I got a call from two guys who lived in Chicago. One was a dentist and the other a bail bondsman. I told them what I wanted for all this inventory (a lot of inventory). They came to visit me. Said they would go home and discuss it. (That’s the kiss of death which told me I was going to get a serious low-ball answer.) What’s worse is these two genius Junior G-men told me they knew nothing about the value of chess stamps, cancels, covers, etc. Really? Then how could they bid on it or make an offer? I think they offered $6K which meant to me they were looking for someone who had something valuable to sell, desperately, and might take the $6K. Dreamers.
Years ago I got a call from Las Vegas from Lawrence Totaro who wanted to do a book on Fischer Forgeries. He asked if I had seen the offer on the ChessBase website of a Fischer autograph for $750 or something like that. I said I had. He asked me what I thought and my reply came quickly, “FAKE.” Since he deemed it the same we struck up a deal to publish his book Fisching for Forgeries. My Thinkers’ Press published 100 copies in full color! We sold them all in no time and they were never reprinted. Now it’s a big time collector’s item. Lawrence purposely kept the number low so they would be rare and he got his wish.
Over the years I have sold a lot of Fischer’s autographs including one I had for myself in My 60 Memorable Games when I got him to sign it in 1971 when he beat Larsen 6-0. I regret to say that later I sold it.
At Any Rate
I’ve sold Larsen, Tal, Reuben Fine, Al Horowitz and many more over the years including Korchnoi, Filip, Petrosian, Geller and others from 1962 Curacao.
NOW, WHAT’S THE LATEST?
I still deal with collectors and stuff that will make your eyeballs spin. For example not long ago I got two postcards signed by GM Edmar Mednis, American Grandmaster, signifying he would soon be appearing at several international tournaments. Price is an inexpensive $25 each. I get 20%, the guy who sent them to me will get $15 each. As some of you might know, Edmar has been gone for quite awhile, since 2002 or 16 years ago. He was born in Latvia, same as Mikhail Tal and became a GM in 1980. He was a popular writer (author) too.
This would be a cheap way to start an autograph collection of famous chess people. Some can be extremely nice as they don’t take their famousness for granted. I knew Korchnoi personally but never thougtht of asking him for an autograph! Ed Edmondson helped procure several Fischer autographs. Bob Woodworth writes about this (collecting) in an upcoming issue of The BOX.
Several years ago I offered some autographed postal cards to a collector in Holland, I think it was. The offer wasn’t out one day and he snapped it up and paid immediately. These dudes know what they want. He too got a deal.
Similarly, the autograph of Muhammad Ali was snapped up for $500 very recently from me. It was owned by my friend Peggy and it had been sitting around in her library for years (or maybe it was in a box). I wrote the story about it, how we got it authenticated AND that she wanted to get “rid” of it because it was owned by her late husband, Bill.
The fellow who bought it was an Ali fan and he identified the book that the autograph was written inside of. So our friend the collector knew what he was doing. However I wanted to add a more personal touch and showed that Ali had inscribed it to Bill and beneath his name had put an Ali “smiley face” in the book. I had checked 1300 Ali autographs on eBay and I only found one with the smiley face and the buyer said he saw two (I think). My eyes had gone numb from looking at all those autographs of trunks, gloves, robes and photos. So Peggy wanted to list the price at $500 and that was the magic number and it was SOLD the very next day. We’ve since traded the autograph for the $$$ and everyone was happy! The Art of the Deal. Would regular chess players go for something like this? I have my doubts but anything is possible, esp. since it was dated 1983! 33 years old as Ali had passed in 2016.
ONE reason the buyer bought it besides his affection for Ali is that he KNEW me (Bob Long) and trusted that he was getting the real deal. And, he did!
I think it is getting harder and harder to know who to trust in autograph collecting these days. Especially Sports figures (football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey). Lots of frauds out there I am told. For years, thank God, these conmen ignored chess. Now they haven’t. But just recently I ran across something I had from 1970 the Mallorca Interzonal (not the 1967 Interzonal in Tunisia which Fischer partially played in!). In this event there was a boatload of autographs on this special chess card. Not facsimiles, the real McCoy with such stalwarts of the chessboard as:
Geller, Larsen (both deceased now), Uhlmann, Uitumen (Mongolian!), Gligorich (deceased), Smyslov (deceased former world champion), Portisch, Ivkov, Hort, and the biggie Reshevsky (deceased). This is a raft of hi-level GMs playing for the right to be the candidate to play Spassky. I was able to get this signed card from a friend who was in Spain. We were always trading things. Benko has his name signed on the card though he gave up his position in the Interzonal to Fischer who went on to win the Interzonal, but Fischer’s name is NOT signed on the card, which would have made it hugely invaluable. My guess about Benko is that his name was added later as an homage for letting Fischer play. This puppy is scarce. I only have this one and I want $500 for it, or the same amount as the Muhammad Ali signature, plus S&H. This is an extraordinary collectible. If Fischer’s name was on this, it would probably go for $2,000 or more. For your edification, Jensen put the names of some of the players in parentheses (!) I reserve the right to withdraw this souvenir autographed card at any time and realist it later at a more (higher) realistic price).
On August 11th and 18th I will be having an Open House at my place with Special Sales, souvenirs, possibly more autographs, chess sets (including the Great Grand Turk), Discounts, and more, PLUS, I will have the $800 board (inlaid) on display with the Grand Turk ($995 in bud rosewood, possibly on sale). Mark steddom saw it in person today and was completely BOWLED over and I think I only have two on hand. I’ll know more next week. Also, some more new books expected in next week. Plus lots of chess magazines too.
Subscriptions to The BOX will be available on July 25th when issue #2 is expected to be released with some great articles recently contributed. $75 for a limited time, 36 pages.
This is going to be fun.
Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Drop me a line. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. If you want me to see if I can get you reasonable room rates let me know (563-271-6657). I hope to have some locals show up for this one. 1524 LeClaire St., Davenport, IA. 52803.