Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?


We can’t fool you!   You know that the answer to the question “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” It’s Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. - - But the answer to the question “Who signed Grant’s memoirs?” is a little trickier.

After he left office, Grant fell on hard times and lost his fortune to corrupt politicians and sleazy businessmen.  Faced with cancer and watching his finances dwindle, he decided to write and publish the story of his life and military career so that his family wouldn’t be left completely penniless.


Art & Nature’s Beauty Join Together at: The Brandywine River Art Museum

by Karen S. Murray

The Brandywine River Art Museum in Chadds Ford, PA is set in the scenic Brandywine River Valley, housed in a converted 19th century grist mill on the banks of the river. It holds thousands of works of art and features the Wyeth family, spanning 3 generations of amazing talent.

  Photo Credit: Brandywine.org                                                             

Take Me To Your "Holograph"

If you ask Leon Castner “What's a holograph?” and he’ll say, “It’s all Greek to me.”  He’s right!

Holograph come from the Greek words “graph” (writing) and “holo”  (with the hand).

Ask Daniel Webster, and the old dictionary writer would probably reply, “It’s a document written entirely in the handwriting of the person whose signature it bears.” Way to go, Dan!  And although you might be tempted to confuse them with holoGRAMS, holoGRAPHS are a very collectible kind of autograph.

While he was in office, President Lyndon Johnson may have signed lots of legislation, but he hardly ever wrote anything entirely by hand. That’s why an LBJ holograph letter may be worth 10 times more than a similar piece of
correspondence produced on a typewriter, but with his signature. (Remember, in Lyndon’s day, they didn’t use computers the same way we do today!)

Andrew Jackson's Autograph Turning Point

By: Brian G. Kathenes, ISA CAPP

Officially, all land grants were required to be signed by the President of the United States.  All Presidents prior to Jackson signed many thousands of land grants.  Jackson apparently had enough of this procedure, and by the beginning of his second term, (1833), passed the task along to his son.  Other Presidents continued the “tradition” after Jackson left office.  Almost all land grants after that date were signed by secretaries and not by the President.

Collecting Contemporary Entertainer Autographs


By: Brian G. Kathenes, ISA CAPP

Collecting contemporary entertainers is an incredibly popular hobby.  Movie stars, TV personalities, comedians, stage actors and actresses are just some of the categories collectors love.   It is my opinion, based on over forty years of experience as a dealer, collector, and a certified appraiser, that the vast majority of contemporary entertainment autographs in the marketplace are not authentic.  Collectors must understand the volume of requests that overwhelm an entertainers’ mail.  Celebrities combat this onslaught with secretarial signatures, printed signatures, pre-printed postcards, and pre-signed photographic reproductions.


Hollywood: Tales from Tinseltown

"Hollywood is where they shoot too many pictures and not enough actors"  ~Walter Winchell

SO WHAT IS the first great Hollywood movie or movie character people started collecting? Was it Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, or Star Wars? Bet the answer might surprise you.

We don't think it was any of the above. In fact, we think it probably was human, and it also wasn't Star Wars - although that 1977 movie was most likely the first to actually market the characters in a big way and create a whole new collectible.

The answer is most probably Mickey Mouse. Disney combined the magic of the animal kingdom with the big screen and created memorable characters that were sought by children and adults alike. The 1932 Klondike Kid movie poster sold at auction in 1995 for $57,000. Disney created generations of children who adored their loveable family. Movies spawned books, toys, dolls, trinkets, and decorations. That made Walt almost as famous as his mice.

Wallace Nutting: A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

By Leon Castner

Wallace Nutting was a nationally known printmaker and furniture expert of the 1900-30's era. His work is highly collectible and now recognized by most antique lovers. Decorators particularly love his simple and somewhat romantic view of the American Colonial era. Museums as well as collectors avidly seek his furniture, which copied early pieces of historic Pilgrim and Federal examples. His work was detailed, careful and of high quality.

Collecting Entertainment Autographs

Collecting contemporary entertainers is an incredibly popular hobby.  Movie stars, TV personalities, comedians, stage actors and actresses are just some of the categories autograph collectors love.

As professional appraisers, we see thousands of signed celebrity photos each year.  Not surprisingly, most of them are not authentically signed.   Autograph collectors must understand that the volume of requests overwhelms an entertainer’s office.  Celebrities combat this onslaught with secretarial signatures, printed signatures, pre-printed postcards, and pre-signed photographic reproductions.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Four Score and Seven Years Ago someone printed copies of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and gave them away.  Today people are selling them as the real thing.  Now I'm not sure if it was 87 years ago, but there are a number of printed facsimiles of that most famous work floating around the country.  It is printed on two quarto (8-1/2” x 11”) sheets.  On the verso (the back) is the printed text; "A Donnelley DEEPTONE Offset Facsimile / R.R. DONNELLEY & SONS COMPANY / The Lakeside Press."  They are very attractive, and could fool the novice collector or dealer.  I have seen some framed and matted.  Under glass the printer's note is not visible, and it is difficult to tell it not authentic.


We’re not talking about Brian and Leon - - - we’re talking about small figures that wiggle their heads. (I guess maybe we are talking about Brian and Leon).  They’re called bobbing heads, wobblers, or bobbleheads.

Sports bobbleheads first appeared on the baseball scene in the 1950’s.  They were paper mache figures, about four or five inches tall, that had stationary bodies and a spring that fastened the head. Any slight movement would cause the head to move back and forth, up or down, or just “bobble.”

HOARDING Being Left with a Difficult Situation

by Leon Castner

Appraisers see the results of a hoarder’s life, often in dramatic fashion.  A recent estate appraisal brought me to a great looking colonial house in New England.  It had the exterior appearance that salivated my glands as an expert valuator of American Federal furniture and early 19th century accessories.  The only problem was getting in  the front door since a large dumpster had been parked there, in the process of being filled to the brim with objects too numerous and unrecognizable to mention.

Autograph Appraisals: What YOU Need To Know


There has been a great deal of 'chatter' lately about unqualified appraisals of autograph material.  Improper and unprofessional appraisals are being provided to many unsuspecting collectors and donors. The potential financial damage to you and your collection can be devastating.  Proper appraisal procedures are not being followed.  Important valuation techniques are being overlooked.   Untrained, incompetent appraisers are ignoring IRS regulations and appraisal standards. 


Americana: Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue

Americana: Is There Such a Thing?

     Each January, New York and other major cities vie for customers and big bucks at their annual Americana auctions. These are supposedly different from other auctions during the year in that they consist of specifically American made or consumed goods.

     That limits the field somewhat, since most of everything made today is manufactured in the Far East, although it is consumed in America. To be a purist, Americana items are items that were usually handmade, or at least included a hand process, here in our country, to be consumed by our own people. They are antique (maybe 100 years old or more) and have a definite flavor (like apple pie). They are often important to our own history or the history of American craftsmanship.


Robots That Forge Signatures

By: Brian G. Kathenes, ISA CAPP

Terminator III?  No....   R2D2 turned crook? No... Robocop gone bad?   No...   This mechanical forger goes by the name of "Autopen."  It has become a modern technological wonder for busy VIP's, celebrities, and politicians, but has become a headache for autograph collectors.

Knowing that autopens exist is not enough.  An autograph collector must be able to determine which signatures in his or her collection were written by this mechanical forger.  That is not an easy task.

The term "Autopen" has become the standard term for all machine signed signatures, just like "Jello" has become the generic term for gelatin.  The Autopen is a machine designed and manufactured by the International Autopen Company of Arlington.   The machine uses a fabricated matrix to reproduce signatures.

Weller Pottery - What's in a Name?

By Leon Castner

Most people can tell a piece of Weller pottery when they see one.  It has the name Weller right on the bottom.  But did you know that most of the plain color Weller we see with the large scrawled name is not the stuff that made the pottery famous?

Weller was the invention of a man called Sam Weller-hence the name Weller.  It was a utilitarian pottery hand made by Sam (son of an Ohio farmer) in a log cabin in Fultonham, Ohio in 1872 (he was no relation to Abe Lincoln).  His adventure grew and he soon found himself moving to Zanesville-a much larger town and commercial center.


Vintage Pedal Cars

by Karen S. Murray

Pedal Cars have been a hot collectible for many years. What started out as a kid's toy, has become much more serious than child's play. One only needs to peruse Ebay and auction sites to see the value of these tot-sized automobiles. Alderfer Auction, of Hatfield, PA recently sold a single owner collection of more than 40 vehicles. These included both restored and unrestored cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains, boats, airplanes and 3 (very unusual) bulldozers. Their June 17th sale occurred both in-house and online and brought sale prices in the thousands.