Friday, November 27, 2009

"Hey"-- Those Signatures Sure Look Familiar!!

You know, with such good samples of authentic Bonnie and Clyde signatures now available to view-- I guess I'm surprised it took so long, for what are likely new bogus signatures of the iconic Depression Age outlaws to surface. Unfortunately these days, so many autograph mills, seemingly have no shame and hesitation in offering suspect signatures-- often with the backing of suspect "authenticators". Apparently this is so often the game played today, in the autograph biz. "Hey, we don't really know if signatures are real-- but we'll sell 'em anyway, since we can pay someone who'll say they think they could be real."

Well with that mentality, I suppose almost anything goes-- which unfortunately appears to be the case now. "Certificates of authenticity" seem as common now, as the bathroom tissue which lines the shelves in the back room of some autograph concerns-- and unfortunately is often worth just about as much. In fighting this scourge of non-professionalism, and what many might feel is a not so veiled attempt at thievery-- the old adage holds true-- "buyer beware". Now there "are" many reputable dealers, where you can purchase verified historical signatures. But as mentioned last time, even entities such as Christies seem now to be more about the money, in "hedging"-- when it comes to diligence in assuring that authenticity rules-- within signatures transactions. I was going to provide an outline of B&C signature analysis, as well as a detailed history concerning this latest case for this post-- however as it's turned out, I don't feel I need to.

Long story shorter, I was recently made aware of the existence of purported dual signatures of B&C (the signatures on purple paper shown above)-- which others have commented and I agree, look remarkably like the dual signatures of Bonnie and Clyde I possess. These scripts are located in Las Vegas-- and have been offered for sale by a memorabilia outlet called The Art of Music. Upon obtaining an image of these dubious scripts, I spent much time and energy detailing to The Art of Music's management-- why the signatures they are selling, logically are not authentic.

Of course I was pleased, when TAOM seemingly acted with caring and diligence-- in pulling the signatures from sale and view, based on my concerns and pending analysis which I suggested be performed. They initially agreed that scrutiny was needed, but based on the scrutiny conducted-- apparently agreed only to a point. This shortfall became evident, when their good will gesture, quickly turned from caring to insult-- when they rolled out "authenticator" Christopher Morales, who's reputation seems anything but clear. Instead of providing any sort of comprehensive forensic analysis for The Art of Music's B&C signatures, Morales issued a cursory at best, one page certificate. Without providing a "shred" of detail concerning a true forensic analysis, regarding these alleged B&C signatures-- Christopher Morales simply stated that "The individual characteristics and writing habits are consistent with the known writings of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker".

A fox in the chicken coop??-- My response to this supposed authenticators jumble of noncommittal and less than meaningful words-- was that by definition, any forger would be happy to have the backing of Mr. Morale's comments. A careful read of this one line certification (which lacks the benefit of "any" forensic documentation)-- reveals it would indeed support any good forgery-- as well as authentic signatures. Let's see if I can make up a "convincing" statement of my own?? The signature's examined, possess an uncanny similarity to known B&C exemplars-- found within various sources thought reliable. I like my "certification" better-- but neither statement really says anything concrete from a forensic perspective.

More than a slight issue-- Upon examination, there's quite a bit of written criticism available of Mr. Morales and his techniques or lack of them. Indeed from reading quoted statements concerning Morales, his reputation as a document examiner seems questionable at best. Principals at a number of auction and memorabilia houses have expressed opinions in this regard, such as Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions who stated "we will never use Morales". In commenting on Christopher Morales, Mike Hefner of Leland's is quoted as saying "I can't tell you that I've ever seen anything he's authenticated that is actually real". Not exactly glowing words of praise.

Morales was also apparently caught in an HBO "Real Sports" investigation sting, when HBO sent several forged pieces to Mr. Morales-- who authenticated all the forgeries provided him. Concerning his part in HBO's investigation into a number of "authenticators"-- Morales has said he felt he was "set up". My response to that would be, what difference does it make where forgeries come from-- a trained forensic examiner should be able to identify them. Most recently Morales has been involved in a Beatles memorabilia controversy, involving his certification of an alleged Beatles signed guitar-- which some Beatle experts are disputing.

Within his credentials, Morales lists among his experience-- being a Faculty Adviser and Adjunct Faculty Member, of the Forensic Science Department of George Washington University. However according to an article published by
concerning self styled authenticators, they quote M. Schanfield, Phd Professor and Chair, Department of Forensic Science (GWU) as somehow needing to clarify Morales' affiliations with the University.

Upon learning of Mr. Morales, one quote of his really caught my eye. He has apparently said that as long as he has an exemplar, he can determine the authenticity of any signature-- "handwriting is handwriting". I find that to be as cursory as statement, as his forensic analysis seems to be. From working with Forensic Document Examiner Emily Will, I can tell you-- there are often good reasons not to be so cut and dry when examining signatures. A person's signature can change over time. Also human factors such as age, alcohol or drug use, sickness and stress can often come into play within a person's signature. As far as having an exemplar to work with, I guess-- as long as the exemplar chosen isn't fake itself. More on this later.

My take concerning Mr. Morales from what I've seen reported on him, is to state that if these revelations are so, then as Ricky Ricardo once said-- it seems this "authenticator" may have some 'esplainin' to do. As far as I'm concerned, with all the negative comment and controversy apparently swirling about concerning Mr. Morale's reputation as a document examiner, for me the conversation is over-- The Art of Music can stand down, and their "authenticator" can have a seat.

As I've been witness to some of the best forensic professionals and their techniques, in discerning the authenticity of my signatures-- I've come to expect an exceptionally high level of forensic professionalism and skill, in dealing with B&C signature matters. I suppose some of the seemingly self styled authenticators I've run into lately-- can only "wish" to dream of having such skills. As this is the 2nd in a series of expose's, concerning a flurry of alleged and unverifiable Bonnie and Clyde signatures-- which seem to be popping up within trendy memorabilia stores and internet signature sites, let me state my opinion concerning the Art of Music's B&C signatures.

Above you will find 4 examples of B&C signatures. The top 2 are considered authentic. The "Your son" salutation and signature, is from Clyde's Nov 18th, 1931 letter to Cumie Barrow-- written from The Eastham Prison Farm. The dual signatures below that Clyde signature, are the dual signatures of Bonnie and Clyde-- which I've owned since 2006. As many are familiar with the quality of forensic signature analysis and material science testing performed on The B&C Signatures-- I don't feel I need to re-state that wealth of analysis here. For those unfamiliar with the testing performed on my signatures, please review the signatures link>> blog right. Needless to say, the real dual signatures of B&C, have "legitimately" been tested 9 ways to Sunday, with impressive results.

The other scripts shown above, are not thought to be genuine. The yours truly example, hails from the purported Clyde letter to Henry Ford, which at this point-- most seem to believe is not authentic. Please note the striking similarity of the purple signatures-- (as I find myself calling them now) to both my signatures and the purported Clyde signature from the Henry Ford letter. After 4 years of intensive research into the signatures of Bonnie and Clyde, I'm so used to looking at B&C signatures, I can usually pick out which genuine or fake B&C signatures were used to create ones thought bogus.

To me, the purple signatures, appear to be a cross between both real and fake B&C scripts. The positioning of these signatures seems to mimic my signatures. Also Bonnie's signature seems a close recreation of the Bonnie Parker script within my authentic dual B&C signatures. However Clyde's signature appears to employ 2 distinctly different elements-- a very close recreation of the Henry Ford letter signature (minus Clyde's pseudo middle name)-- combined with the unique and completely distinctive "Dallas, Texas" tag which appears within only "one" verified B&C artifact. In fact, the inclusion of this Dallas, Texas addendum-- likely reveals these alleged signature's falsity. As noted within The B&C Signatures investigation, the "only" true example believed to exist of this most unusual Clyde Barrow trait-- appears within my B&C Star Filling Station signatures. As L.J. "Boots" Hinton has provided an affidavit, detailing the source of knowledge concerning this "incredibly" rare personal Clyde Barrow trait (Ted Hinton who knew Clyde)-- it's my belief to copy this trait in a virtually identical way within TAOM signatures-- is a dead giveaway, to these signatures almost surely being recreations.

Indeed, the Dallas, Texas tag beneath Clyde's name, is a "key" element-- and one which those who wish to profit, from offering non-authentic signatures need to wary of. Prior to 2006, it's apparent that only "one" living individual (L.J. "Boots" Hinton)-- likely knew of this "uniquely" rare Clyde Barrow trait, which until now appears only within the authentic B&C signatures. Little did those know, who purport the Las Vegas B&C signatures to be authentic-- that they were walking head long into the teeth of a buzz saw, concerning that element within their signatures. Also note, that the lines of both "purple" signatures appear to be of similar manner and writing pressure-- as if written by one individual. This was not true of my dual B&C signatures, where a discernible depth differential in writing pressure was noted between Bonnie and Clyde's signatures. Indeed in real life, and knowing the slight physical stature of Bonnie Parker when compared to Clyde Barrow-- this would make perfect sense.

When I first saw the image of these alleged B&C scripts, I thought it apparent, that someone had attempted to copy The Bonnie and Clyde Signatures-- but with the twist of blending copies of both authentic "and" non-authentic known B&C signatures. It should be obvious, that it's important to know which B&C signatures are considered real-- before stating any are consistent with known examples. Shouldn't it be the goal to compare only "authentic" signatures to a purported signature?? Within a "very" loose sense, I suppose some could say that any B&C scripts mimic any known exemplars, whether real or forgeries. But that doesn't prove anything. Without detailing "which" known and authentic signatures are being compared to an alleged one, and exactly how-- in my view you cannot portray any judgment short of that as having merit. Then I would say inks, writing instruments and paper analysis needs to be conducted-- as part of material science testing-- to eliminate forgery. To me, creative semantics does not an authentication make.

During my many years in studying the signatures of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, I've come to terms with a few indisputable facts. One of those facts is-- that real Clyde and Bonnie signatures are as rare as all get out. In the 75 years since their deaths, I believe just 9 Clyde Barrow signatures have come to light which are believed authentic-- and just "3" complete Bonnie Parker signatures are thought to be genuine. Indeed an authentic Bonnie Parker signature, may be one of the rarest scripts "ever" sought-- perhaps as rare as William Shakespere's script, which is generally considered the rarest signature on earth. As far as B&C's signatures together are concerned, to my way of thinking-- there's one additional dual set I've seen only an image of, which "could" have a shot at being real. These scripts appear on what seems to be, an old drug store lid of some sort, which was imaged a few years back. If only this example could be located, it could be tested for authenticity. But without this example being found, we can only go with what we know for now-- concerning authenticated signatures.

Some additional facts concerning the Art of Music's purple or rose colored Bonnie and Clyde scripts, which should be known are-- that "no" provenance has been offered concerning any reported source of these signatures. I have asked politely numerous times for this provenance-- but without a response. At first I was told, if I were to purchase the signatures-- I'll learn the provenance. I believe that statement to be unethical. There's no way any responsible and discriminating signature collector, would pay nearly $7500. for signatures they didn't know the provenance of in advance. My belief is as no provenance has been offered, that no provenance is known-- concerning the alleged B&C scripts written on purple paper.

Speaking of money, the asking price of these signatures $7350.-- flies in the face of reality concerning both previously offered and currently available authentic B&C scripts. There are 2 verifiable Clyde Barrow signatures available now for purchase-- Clyde's letter to D.A. Winter King, which is being offered for $95,000. and Clyde's November 18th, 1931 letter to Cumie Barrow which is available for $35,000. Those are of course singular Clyde signatures without Bonnie's signature. For those interested, no matter where my dual B&C signatures travel to be viewed-- they are required to be insured for well more than double, the Winter King letter asking price. Links to these available Clyde Barrow signatures can be found here--

The Art of Deception?? I would hope not. I trust The Art of Music is a reputable firm, who may have just been fooled by one. But I have pointed out to The Art of Music, my feelings as to why I believe they are offering in this case-- signatures which may not be authentic. Unfortunately in response, the best they've been able to do in attempting to justify their position-- is to employ the services of an "authenticator" who's documented and controversial circumstances, seem to create more issues than they solve. I must have made some impression on this memorabilia concern, but perhaps not enough of one. As I own a registered copyright concerning my dual B&C signatures, I am now looking into further options-- in order to protect the integrity of a legitimate pair of B&C signatures.

There's yet another in this series of B&C signature expose's yet to come, so look for that soon. My thanks to those who have expressed their opinions, on these posts concerning questioned B&C signatures. I find it heartening, that so many seem interested in this aspect of B&C History.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Upon close inspection, the "purple signatures" do indeed appear to be a hybrid version of the previously-known samples.

Most experts - including Marie Barrow, herself - do not believe that the letter written to Henry Ford was written by Clyde. I tend to agree with this theory - for the most part. The handwriting was far too "fluid" as compared to his usual style; the spelling, grammar, and punctuation were beyond par to known samples; and the capital "C" and capital "B" in his first and last names were somewhat "fancier" than the 100! authenticated signatures were.

HOWEVER--I still wonder if this letter could possibly be real. Even though the "C" and the "B" were embellished to some degree, the rest of his names looked very much the same as in known signatures. And we must also consider the actual content of the letter. Even Marie admitted that the letter sounded very much like something Clyde would have said. When you read the letters Clyde wrote regarding Raymond Hamilton, it's plain to see that he had an exceptionally wry sense of humor - as also evidenced in the Ford letter. So to me, it's still a bit of a toss-up as to whether or not it was actually Clyde who composed, wrote, and sent this letter.

But these "purple signatures" are obviously a fraud (like the bogus signature on the Bonnie "cigar photo" pic was, as well) - as far as I'm concerned. Someone duplicated Clyde's signature (whether authentic or not) from the Ford letter -- and then they also reproduced or re-created --Winston's proven-to-be-authentic signature of Bonnie's -- and somehow produced a "new" dual-signature to cash in on. Did they even make purple paper back in the early 1930s??? Even if so, it was probably quite rare. And the fact that no one even seems interested in attempting to prove the signature's authenticity - or in discovering it's provenance - only reinforces my belief that this is yet another total fake.

It boggles my mind to think of all the get-rich-quick schemes people dream up these days to make a fast buck - and all the people who are so naive, and so willing to fork over good money for something so totally worthless. Fortunately, we have people like Winston - and others - who are willing to expose these charlatans, and the truth can then be known. Buyer beware!