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The Authentic Experience

Autographed Quilt Featured on "Pawn Stars"

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?

Views: 3542

Comment by Steve Grad on December 19, 2009 at 8:46am
I saw the piece as well. The quilt, at the most is nothing more than a nice blanket and something to talk about. It's value, maybe $50-$100 on a good day. The autographs on there are worthless because they unfortunately were destroyed by being stitched over. And from what I could see by the brief time they spent on them most were secretarial signatures of the stars.

The person they used to look at the quilt was not qualified to examine the piece and she should have instantly recognized many of the signatures as secretarial versions.

Cool piece, but completely worthless. The guy who owned it claims it's worth 50k. I think he needs a dose of reality.
Comment by Andrew Killgallon on December 20, 2009 at 8:44pm
I did also see this piece and I have seen many items similar to this where the person would stitch over the signature. Although this is a way to preserve it, its ruining it completely. Its the same as saying the john lennon autograph that I have tattooed on my arm is worth as much as any other autograph of his. If you want to create an item as this, simply send a notecard to the celeb (odds are they will sign it) and copy it over to what ever you are creating. This was you have the actual autograph as well as your finished project!
Comment by Brandon Mysinger on December 26, 2009 at 11:05am
Right, The autographs were "official" only in the fact that the secretarial autographs were issued under the command of the notable name. It was good PR for the celeb at the time but ended up creating an item that was littered with problems once the item was taken off of display and looked at as a rare and valuable collectible.

The item was meant to be shown in pblic as a "who's Who" of the time...That's the only function that it could possibly serve. Outside of that venue, it has no place in the market.

I can only assume the seller thought it was the same type of gathering as the Tonight Show or Saturday Night Live green room sign-in books, or other similar autograph groupings that have brought great amounts of money in the past. The problem here is that those gatherings offer 100% authentic in-person and verified signatures...this item did not. Plus, any signatures that were authentic were destroyed in a manner that made it valuless to autograph collectors.
Comment by Robert Babb on December 30, 2009 at 4:47pm
I just caught this rerun recently and have to say one thing that i like about this show is that the pawn shop owner tries to be fair and not just out to rip off the seller of the item. It is to bad that the quilt is not authentic!
Comment by John Adams on October 25, 2010 at 2:38pm
I notice there were signatures that cannot be correct, for example Franklin D Roosevelt dated 1976. FDR died in....1945.... There were a few that were dated '76 by people long dead. I'm surprised no one has noticed this.
Comment by karen brent on April 17, 2011 at 2:35am
FDR had a son also named Franklin D. Roosevelt who died in 1988, so it was probably him.

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