For those who aren't familiar with "Pawn Stars," it's a show on the History Channel about a family who owns and operates a pawn shop in Vegas. I'd seen ads for it now and then while channel surfing, and at first glance, it looked like yet another crummy reality show featuring a dysfunctional group of people trying to run a business while fighting with each other. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the show is more like "Antiques Roadshow," where customers with an eclectic array of rare and unique items are looking to sell them for some fast cash.
One of these oddities was a quilt that contained over 300 signatures. The autographs covered a wide range of areas: Hollywood (Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock), politics (Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, FDR), space (Buzz Aldrin) and even murder (Charles Manson). As the owner explained it, a woman who ran a small museum in Ohio would write to the celebs and include a piece of fabric, asking for their autographs on the material. With every new signature, she would add it to the quilt.
Rick, co-owner of the shop, was intrigued by the item, but he asked a friend of his to come in and authenticate the autographs. Long story short, the sigs were deemed real, but here's the rub: In creating this cultural time capsule, the woman who made the quilt stitched over the original ink signatures to save them for posterity.
It's one thing to have Yul Brenner's autograph on a piece of silk. Is it nearly as valuable when the ink has been traced over by yarn? What if it was just one piece in a much larger collection of people who made important contributions to history and pop culture?
In the end, the authenticator struggled to put a price tag on the quilt. While acknowledging the legitimacy of the autographs, she questioned how much of the value was significantly altered by having the signatures stitched over. Lots of dollar amounts were tossed around, ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. The seller was looking to get $50,000, but the co-owner of the shop didn't buy it. In his mind, there were just too many unknown variables as to whether or not it would be worth it.
What do you think?