Self-Serving Antipathetic Steve Koschal

by Herman Darvick

I would like to state that I have no vested interest, financial or otherwise, in the authenticity of the Lyndon B. Johnson signed White House card discussed in this article.

Self-proclaimed autograph expert Stephen Koschal has once again perverted the hobby of autograph collecting with his self-published pamphlet “The History of Collecting Executive Mansion White House and The White House cards Signed by the Presidents and their First Ladies,” in which he asserts self-servingly, “When it comes to ‘The White House’ cards signed by Lyndon B. Johnson collectors and dealers for the most part agree that not a single genuine example has surfaced to date!” Why “self-servingly”? Because Koschal doesn’t own one in his incomplete collection of “Executive Mansion White House and The White House cards Signed by the Presidents.” Clearly a sour grapes attitude revealing his antipathetic nature when it comes to everyone who disagrees with him. And, as usual, he is wrong.

Koschal has altered the image of the LBJ White House card illustrated on page 79 of his pamphlet. He has changed the dimensions of the card. On Koschal's illustration (below left) he has drawn a rectangle around it, with the dot under the “B” exactly half-way across the card, making it appear that the signature was penned mostly in the card’s center. In actuality (below right), the top of the “d” in “Lyndon” is exactly half-way across the card. LBJ ended his signature with his final stroke going off the right edge.

Koschal's illustration of the signature (small rectangle) and the actual White House card signed by Johnson

Why is the placement of the signature important? Because a secretary signing for President Johnson would start the signature more to the left so that the entire signature would be neatly placed in the center of the card. Only the President wouldn’t care where he signed on the card.

Page 2

The actual image of the LBJ signed White House card and, for comparison, a card signed for Johnson by a presidential secretary is illustrated on page 6. You will notice that the size of “The White House / Washington” lettering is identical on all three images.

Koschal has distorted the truth. He is misleading those who unknowingly consider him an expert just because he has a website in which he spews his slanderous accusations against individuals and organizations he hates. Collectors and dealers know that only one genuine example of a Lyndon B. Johnson White House card has surfaced. It is the one illustrated on page 568 of autograph pioneer Charles Hamilton’s “American Autographs” published in 1983 and captioned “White House card signed as President.” The same one is pictured on page 158 of “From the President’s Pen” by Larry F. Vrazlik and Michael Minor, published in 1991.

Who recognizes Stephen Koschal as an autograph expert? In September 2007, Judge Matthew C. Kincaid of the Boone County (Indiana) Superior Court issued a 46-page ruling in the case of dealer Bill Daniels v. Mastro Auctions. The Court found that the proposed experts Daniels produced at trial, Richard Simon and Stephen Koschal, were not qualified to render expert opinions. Judge Kincaid concluded that Koschal was “not qualified to render an opinion on anything having to do with autographs.” The Boone County Courthouse has all the legal records concerning case #06D01-0502 -PL- 0060.

In his pamphlet, Koschal continues, “At one time some people believed that a genuine ‘The White House’ card signed by LBJ existed. It was illustrated in the fine book about presidential autographs ‘From The President’s Pen’ by Larry Vrzalik and Mike Minor. After receiving this generously illustrated reference book, and after carefully examining the illustration of ‘The White House’ card signed by LBJ, we determined the signature of Johnson was not genuine. We discussed our findings with one of the authors and all agreed the signature was not genuine. A correction will be made in a revised printing of ‘From The President’s Pen’ which may be available shortly. An article about this apocryphal signature made front page news in the journal of The International Autograph Collectors Club and Dealers Alliance ‘Eyes, Ears And Voice Of The Hobby,’ Vol. 5, No. 4 July/August 2001.”

Page 3

“From the President’s Pen” by Larry F. Vrazlik and Michael Minor was published in 1991. In their chapter titled “Lyndon B. Johnson: The Surprising Modern Presidential ‘Button Gwinett’,” the authors note they “personally know of only one White House card which bears an unquestionably authentic signature (see illustration on page 158).” Are we to believe that Stephen Koschal hadn’t seen the book until ten years later when he wrote about it in the journal of the IACC/DA, an organization he co-founded? Or that he hadn’t seen the identical “The White House” card in Hamilton’s 1983 book?

Koschal says that he discussed his findings “with one of the authors” and that they “agreed the signature was not genuine.” You would think that since there were only two authors, Larry F. Vrazlik and Mike Minor, founders in 1982 of Lone Star Autographs in Kaufman, Texas, Koschal would have identified the author with whom he discussed his findings. However, Koschal’s “Authors’ Acknowledgments” thanks “Mike Minor of Lone Star Autographs” and others “for their help in furnishing information and material in the preparation of this study.” Sadly, Mike Minor passed away on December 23, 2008. I recently spoke with Larry F. Vrazlik more than once about what Koschal had stated and he told me that he had never seen Koschal’s pamphlet. He said that he had never spoken with Koschal about the LBJ White House card and that if Mike Minor had discussed the card illustrated in their book and “agreed the signature was not genuine,” he most certainly would have mentioned it to him, which he hadn’t.

As far as a correction in a revised printing of “From The President’s Pen,” Vrazlik assured me that he and Mike never planned a revised printing. The only book planned at the time of Mike’s untimely passing was a study of First Ladies’ autographs, from Washington to Obama, which would have included examples of their husbands’ signatures.

Page 4

A prior owner has suggested that the White House card bears an Autopen signature of Lyndon B. Johnson. From "The Pen and Quill," May-June 1992: "The signature of Lyndon B. Johnson illustrated below [illustrated is The White House card in question]has just been identified as an Autopen pattern. It is also shown on page 13 of 'The Collector's Guide to Autographs' by George and Helen Sanders and Ralph Roberts, and on page 568 of 'American Autographs' by Charles Hamilton. Neither book indicates the signature to be an Autopen example, but according to George Sanders, the signature in his book was not taken from the White House card illustrated by Hamilton. Since both the first and last names in both examples superimpose perfectly, it can be concluded that this signature was produced by an Autopen machine."

George Sanders asked me if he could use some of the signatures in my collection as illustrations if they were needed, so I know that he reproduced signatures that were not in his own collection. In his book, he placed signatures beneath unsigned photographs of himself with famous people. The photograph of Sanders interviewing LBJ was not signed; the signature was placed by Sanders beneath the photograph. All Sanders said was that he did not take the signature from Hamilton's book. It may have come from the then-owner of the signature or a previous owner. If it were an autographed photograph, he would have said so. George asked me if I would write the Foreword to his book and I did so, gratis.

There are many reasons why The White House card signed by President Johnson is not an Autopen. Yes, "both the first and last names in both examples superimpose perfectly." Can it "be concluded that this signature was produced by an Autopen machine"? NO. Charles Hamilton wrote in his 1965 JFK Autopen study, "The Robot That Helped to Make a President," that an operator of the machine at The International Autopen Company, showing him how the Autopen works, said, "And if I sign with the machine working at top speed, the o's and e's and a's tend to fill with ink. Or if the pen is fastened in the holder too low, there may even be an extra flourish in the signature. Or too high, whole letters may disappear. Definitely this machine has a mind of its own." In addition, the odds that two signatures exactly superimpose in the exact same spot on two White House cards is astronomical! Let's examine two White House cards bearing the same Lyndon B. Johnson Autopen pattern:


*The placement of the signature on each card differ. *The dot touches the lower part of the "J" in B, but not in A. *Little flourish at the top first stroke of the "L" in A, not in B. *Wider space between the right top of the "y" and "n" in A than in B. *The "d" touches the next stroke in B, not in A.*Note the difference in the lower portion of each "J": sharp point in A, not in B.

One more very important point. It's been over 41 years since Lyndon B. Johnson left the White House, yet no one has uncovered another White House card, or letter, or photograph, or any signature signed with the alleged "Autopen pattern." Only photocopies exist which, I am certain you already realize, are all photocopies of the same, only authentically signed Lyndon B. Johnson White House card that is known to exist.

Page 5

In his July 4, 2005 “Breaking News” article on his Autograph Alert website, Koschal accused me, by name, of presidential forgeries (including one of Johnson which he illustrates on page 83 of his pamphlet) captioned, “Not only was Mr. Darvick capable of signing the names of modern presidents, he also wrote out short notes which appeared to be in the president’s hand.” In this 2005 article he also illustrates three other presidential autographs captioned “Richard Nixon signature with four word sentiment written by Darvick,” Gerald R. Ford signature written by Darvick,” and Jimmy Carter signature written by Darvick.” Needless to say, I didn’t create any of these forgeries. I can only presume that Koschal forged those four presidential signatures. He even illustrated a non-existent card on the cover of his "Collecting ... White House Cards..." pamphlet: an Executive Mansion card signed “Abraham Lincoln.” Executive Mansion cards didn’t exist until Ulysses S. Grant was President. And when Lincoln signed his autograph on a card, he never signed his full name; he always signed “A. Lincoln.” One wonders what other spurious “signed” cards are illustrated in his pamphlet.

I fully expect more unfounded accusations against me to appear on Koschal’s website after this article is published because that is the way vindictive, unrestrained people react when confronted by the truth.

In 2006, Dwayne A. Bridges published his “Lyndon Baines Johnson 1908-1973 Reflections in History: A Personal Collection” (Dallas: Brown Books Publishing Group, 2006). Of the book’s copiously illustrated 251 pages, Bridges devotes 25 pages to a Lyndon B. Johnson “Signature Study,” pages 188-212. In addition to studying signed items from the estates of Texas District Judge Duncan Holt, White House photographer Robert L. Knudson, and White House Social Director Sanford Fox, Bridges spent time at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum examining signed Johnson photographs and letters donated to the museum.

Might the questioned Lyndon B. Johnson signed White House card bear a secretarial signature? On the following pages, the authentic Lyndon B. Johnson signed White House card questioned by Koschal is labeled “A”. The actual LBJ signed White House card, before the size of the card was altered by Koschal, is to its right (not labeled). A secretarially signed LBJ White House card is labeled “B”.

Four known authentic Lyndon B. Johnson presidential signatures reproduced in Bridges “Signature Study” are labeled “1” – “2” – “3” – “4”.

Page 6

Page 7

"A" is from the authentic Lyndon B. Johnson signed White House card questioned by Koschal . "1" "2" "3" and "4" are from known authentic Johnson signatures. "B" is from a frequently encountered secretarial signature.

The patterns of slant and angulation flow from habit. The initial down stroke of the "L" in the authentic LBJ signed White House card ("A"), as well as in known authentic examples "1" "2" "3" and "4", slightly angles from the upper left. In the known secretarial LBJ ("B"), the downstroke is almost perpendicular.

As the pen continues to form the "L", it sharply changes direction to the upper left and then, with an almost perpendicular downstroke, it falls to the baseline. This is evident in "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4". In the known secretarial "B" there is a clearly seen curve to the baseline.

While the general slant of a signature might be common, the pattern of variations in slant and angulations in the downstrokes and upstrokes become quite complex and difficult to successfully imitate.

LBJ wrote the first "n" in "Lyndon" with a fast rhythmic pen movement as he continued to the "d" which formed a trriangle with varying space at he apex. As he concluded his first name, there is a slight change in slant as he formed easch of the letters "o" and "n" in "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4". However, in secretarial "B", the second "n" in "Lyndon" is formed exactly the same way as the first "n".

Page 8

"A" is from the authentic Lyndon B. Johnson signed White House card questioned by Koschal . "1" "2" "3" and "4" are from known authentic Johnson signatures. "B" is from a frequently encountered secretarial signature.

President Johnson gave instructions that no secretary or aide was to sign his name on letters, books, or photographs with a period under his middle intitial. The dot appears in authentic signatures "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4" but not in secretarial "B".

The downstroke of the "J" passes through the horizontal stroke connecting his middle initial to the point at which Johnson begins the "J". This is evident in authentic "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4". In secretarial "B" there is a noticeable space between the beginning of the "J" and the downstroke of the "J".

As the pen continues upward from the lower loop of the "J" to form the "o", a point at the baseline of the "o" - resembling a "v" - is made as LBJ continues on to the "h". This is shown in authentic "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4" but not in secretarial "B".

After his fast pen movement completing the "h" in authentic "A" "1" "2" "3" and "4", Johnson concludes his signature with a swift, almost perfectly horizontal line with a slight wavering at the first "n". In secretarial "B", the "h" is completed with a precise stroke, adding a clearly penned "n", identical to the two n's in the secretarial "B" "Lyndon" depicted on page 6.

I believe that I have shown that the signed Lyndon B. Johnson White House card identified as "A" is not secretarial nor is it Autopen. It is authentic, the only known genuine example that has surfaced in the over 46 years since Lyndon B. Johnson moved into the White House.

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Comment by Eric Keith Longo on August 25, 2022 at 12:32pm

RS with an assist from SK tried to tag team me on a Lugosi - until I located a small diagnostic everything they were showing me lacked. Money returned. Lesson learned. Lugosi destroyed, despite still being online as an exemplar...


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