There’s something I’ve often wondered about when it comes to buying autographs. The idea that they may have come in a way that is illegal. Let me explain. When I was around 20, I was looking at buying a contract that a famous actor had signed. It ended up being a bit out of my price range, but...I noticed it had their address, social security number, and other info that I’m sure the star wouldn’t want out there.
There was a company that was selling checks (a popular item among autograph collectors), signed by The Doors keyboardist, Ray Manzarek. Now, I had interviewed him a few times and wrote a radio show he narrated (Legends A to Z). I brought this to his attention, and he acted all weird about it. That’s when I realized...he probably sold his old cancelled checks to this company. I do know there was some musical equipment he made money off of from a company that sold it for thousands (somebody on this website has it). It included a letter from Manzarek saying that Jim Morrison sat on that amplifier, as if Morrison’s butt made it more of a collectors item.
I thought about this all again because something came up for auction recently. It’s the Birmingham jailhouse logbook, that has 12 different pages signed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The dates on the pages are all between March 4, 1963 and November 27th. That’s around the time he wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” which is a big part of history.
So here’s what I can’t figure out. These pages were saved by a jail employee who was told to destroy the ledger. He kept it. This is what Hakes Auctions says. Well, wouldn’t that be “stealing”? Sure, it might not be the same as stealing $1,000 from your work, but if you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you, even if it’s something that was supposed to be destroyed, well...I’d think that the jail could sue this guy and get the item back; or they could let it sell for the thousands and thousands it will surely bring in, and then claim that money.
Aside from all the King signatures, another famous activist jailed at that time, Ralph D. Abernathy, has signed the book three different times.
The logbook was passed down through the family of the original jail employee.
In case you’re wondering what King was jailed for, it was after his group was denied a parade permit and they marched despite that. This resulted in him spending eight days in jail.
The auction is going until February 24th so if you’re interested, you better hurry. It’s currently over $20,000.