Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures
Questions and Answers-- 1st in a Series

Hi all. Having answered questions recently about Bonnie's lost poem "The Street Girl"-- which is a "remarkable" B&C artifact, and one which was intimately involved with the authentication of Bonnie & Clyde Signatures-- I thought it might be interesting to post questions I've received, or logical extensions to questions I've received-- concerning The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures. With a positive response to this idea-- I will continue to include these signature stories on the blog, from time to time.

Question: Why did you take the chance you did, in purchasing these seemingly "impossible" dual autographs over the internet-- when you had never trusted in the internet before, for an autograph purchase??

Well, to quote a chapter from my upcoming book on the signatures-- "Beware" The Internet!?-- Just Make Sure Your Caution Doesn't Cost You-- "The Find of a Lifetime"!!

It is true, prior to my purchase of The B&C Signatures from Irving memorabilia dealer Michael Still, I had never bought any of my autographs (historical or otherwise) over the internet. I had always trusted in what were deemed "reputable" old school dealers. That's the accepted way to purchase autographs and memorabilia you know. But this "is" the age of the internet-- and this great modern tool of our time, has materially changed the way we do business-- and greatly enhanced the opportunities for virtually all recreations we enjoy today, including the marketing and purchasing of historical artifacts. Even the major auction houses, utilize the internet effectively today-- to expand their reach in offering historical artifacts world wide.

You know the feeling-- when you see an item that captivates you-- to the point you just can't help but re-visit it over and over, for reasons you don't fully understand?? Well that's what happened to me, when I first viewed what were purported to be, the dual signatures of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow offered for sale on the internet in 2006. Seemingly, Michael was offering these scripts through more than one outlet, both through his e-bay memorabilia store, and through a broker within a separate offering. At first it was apparently "no one" believed these signatures could be real. One e-bay auction went by-- then a second, and no seemed willing to take the gamble, on what I knew would be truly rare signatures individually-- but were within the "nearly impossible" realm-- for both B&C signatures to have been paired and authentic. I can only guess, there were no collectors out there at the time, both equal to my passion for taking the big leap-- and trusting in Michael and these remarkable scripts.

After deciding not to purchase the signatures during e-bay round one-- I was surprised to see them re-listed again. I'd thought for sure, someone somewhere in the world-- would have bought them. Fortunately for me, they didn't. It was at that point I geared up and began to investigate, to learn all I could as quickly as I could-- about the signatures of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. As there was no single resource available, with which to locate info on B&C's signatures in the short time I had available to me-- I literally had to piece together images of as many generally accepted examples of B&C signatures, as were known at the time. Although I found some signature samples, it became clear there were not that many authentic examples with which to compare. Thus, as the close of auction 2 neared, I still felt unprepared to commit to the risk these purported signatures presented. As an interesting aside was the fact, that Michael had a buy it now option, available during this roughly 3 week period. Therefore anyone, could have snatched the signatures up while I was busy researching them, in order to feel comfortable taking what I knew-- was a gamble.

Remarkably, auction 2 came and went without a resolution. Again the next morning I looked, and what to my eyes did appear-- but a vision of the signatures "still" available and having not sold-- "again". It was at that point I remember thinking to myself-- why couldn't these signatures be real?? Clyde's signature did appear to clearly resemble other known Clyde Barrow scripts. But it was Bonnie's signature which was the enigma. With only 2 (or thereabouts) known signatures with which to compare, depending on who you believed-- at that point, identifying Bonnie's handwritten script was literally a crap shoot. However shortly thereafter, what ended up being the "deciding" factor in my choosing to buy the signatures-- which interestingly had little to do with either signature, became evident to me.

Clyde had mysteriously tagged his signature, by writing the words Dallas, Texas beneath his name. At the time, I had no idea why he might have done this-- but that curious addendum seemed so unusual, I thought it important. I would later learn from an insider source, why Clyde likely added this tag to his signature, but at the time-- I didn't know. Anyway-- I felt somehow, the key to these signatures might be this Dallas, Texas tag. Thus I needed to find some example-- "any" example, where Clyde was known to have written the words Dallas, Texas. Improbably-- an exact example of this action did exist!! I found the match I needed, on the image of the postcard addressed to Cumie Barrow, apparently written to arrange one of the clandestine family meetings-- as posted on Frank Ballinger's Bonnie and Clyde's Hideout Website. As I've often said-- "Thanks" Frank!!

I felt few would write a capital T which looks so plainly like a capital L-- as we would form today. But Clyde did on the postcard, as well as within these signatures. In fact, the entire and unusually formed handwritten Dallas, Texas fashioned within the postcard address, couldn't have been much more similar-- to the tag on the image of the dual signatures. It was at that moment, I felt the same chill I always get in remembering this story-- the very same chill I'm feeling now in recounting this memory for you. At that point I recall thinking something along the lines of "My God-- these signatures could be real". But even with this exciting revelation, along with a most interesting and what I'd discovered to be plausible provenance-- I felt I needed to resolve one nagging question I had re: the signatures. For a pair of signatures potentially this historically important-- why didn't Michael take these signatures to Sothebys, to reap the benefits of what surely could have been, a most intense and profitable auction-- instead of selling them himself??

Although Michael and I had exchanged e-mails re: the signature's provenance-- I felt it important to call Michael and speak with him directly, for this query. I found Michael to be engaging, knowledgeable and passionate re: his love of
memorabilia. He explained his philosophy and ways of conducting his business, which he had apparently abided by for many years. I learned he had held onto these signatures for some time, and was now ready to part with them. He also provided an answer to the question searing within me, which although at the time I still found curious-- none the less after enjoying a long conversation with Michael-- I felt I had no reason to doubt him. Having been around the block more than a few times in life, I truly felt no hesitation in trusting in the signatures after speaking with Michael. It should be noted, when I traveled to Dallas for the unveiling of the signatures, I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Still. At that time, he provided me with additional, heartfelt and somewhat personal answers to that question, I had so earnestly attempted to resolve prior to my purchasing the signatures. I'm most happy to have learned what I did from Michael, as his comments provided an acceptable and kind closure-- for that question I had always wondered.

Getting back to the story-- having resolved the last of my concerns re: the signatures-- of course it was about then I realized, that I had been so busy researching my rationale for buying the signatures-- that I hadn't lined up my money to be ready to pull the trigger. Needless to say after a bit of anxiety-- I worked this issue through in short order, and with one last pause and a deep breath-- clicked on the buy it now button. Next time, perhaps I'll tell you about the adversary I later learned, could well have purchased the signatures before I did-- but due to his abrasive style in approaching Michael Still behind the scenes-- caused Michael to decide not to sell him the signatures. That's a remarkable story in itself. I really should look this person up and thank him sometime, for apparently exhibiting the unique charm he did in dealing with Michael. Interestingly this man's actions, helped assure me of obtaining the signatures-- based on his failed attempt to obtain them covertly.
More on that another time. But the moral of this story is clear-- it always pays to be straight forward and polite.

But once I had the signatures, the real journey would begin-- a now more than 3 year experience which has included forensic handwriting analysis, microscopy, provenance verification and the like-- needed to establishing authenticity for these historic dual signatures, of America's most iconic outlaws. For more info on The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures and their authentication-- please visit Bonnie and Clyde's Hideout--
http://texashideout.tripod.com/bc.htm Look for the signatures of Bonnie and Clyde on the main page, or within the Tattler section. My thanks, for the many questions regarding the signatures over the years. I'm happy to answer questions about this unique, and perhaps most personal of B&C artifacts-- whenever asked.

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