Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bonnie & Clyde Memorabilia-- So Often Fluff, Masquerading For the Authentic.

Reuters put it this way-- (Reuters) - "Two guns believed seized from gangsters Bonnie and Clyde in 1933 after a deadly Missouri shootout with police sold for a combined $210,000 at an auction on Saturday in Kansas City to an unnamed online bidder".  Also and of perhaps greater note, this same news outlet reported on the now famous RR auction in this way-- (Reuters) - "Two pistols found on the bodies of famed Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after they were killed by a posse in 1934 have sold at auction on Sunday for $504,000". 

Now did these Hamer family treasures (the Bonnie & Clyde pistols from the death car)-- possess a stronger provenance than the Thompson submachine gun and shotgun reportedly seized from Bonnie & Clyde's Joplin hideout??  In my view-- yes.  But to some Bonnie & Clyde Historians who've spoken out-- even Bonnie's supposed "squat gun" is suspect.  However in reality-- only those present at the ambush would know.  So does Hamer's description of this now storied gun, trump others recollections who never spoke of such a weapon??  Apparently it does, although logic would neatly support the opposite conclusion-- that since others didn't remember it-- it may not be so.

But having personally spoken to Joplin's Chief of Police at one point-- re: their Bonnie & Clyde files and admitted inability to retain Bonnie & Clyde physical evidence from within their own ranks-- I would bet on the Hamer weapons before the Joplin ones.  Plus as many in the know know-- Clyde didn't at all favor the unreliable nature of the Thompson, but rather in every case I am aware of-- when a machine gun was employed by The Barrow Gang, it was a BAR. 

The recent failure of the Carroll Rich .32 to bring even a reasonable bid at auction, to me illustrates a point concerning the shallow nature of Bonnie & Clyde memorabilia and within a wider realm-- of memorabilia in general these days.  Some historical pieces are quite common-- while others can be remarkably rare.  Based on realities which exist within Bonnie & Clyde History-- true artifacts from this history and most individuals associated with it, are "exceedingly" rare.

For instance, we now know the truth regarding the destruction of Bonnie's remaining personal effects.  We also know most of Clyde's belongings were retained by the Barrow family-- with a portion of them being made available by family members over the years.  Such was the case, with Marie Barrow's apparent gesture of love-- in wanting "the kids" (as they were affectionately known by those closest to them) reinterred, so they could RIP together forever. But as it turned out, even though more than an adequate amount was raised for this purpose-- other family dynamics came into play, which negated such an effort.

With many family-held Bonnie & Clyde pieces destroyed, under wraps or dispersed-- that leaves the search for authentic Bonnie & Clyde artifacts to include items from those who may have "happened upon" the famous couple, or to law enforcement who seized remnants of the West Dallas duo's adventures over the relatively short time they were on the run.  Some of these remnants have logical and strong provenance-- while others so often appear to be cases of "wishful thinking". 

As I feel fortunate to own a number of authentic Bonnie & Clyde artifacts-- I often receive e-mails from those who feel they too have real Bonnie & Clyde pieces, and ask for assistance in trying to discern their reality.  As some may know, almost all my Bonnie & Clyde pieces-- came from family members.  My Bonnie poem "The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde"-- came from Blanche's Estate. Billie's unfinished manuscript, came from the Parker family via Blanche's Executrix with permission of Bonnie's niece-- whom I made certain knew I had it, and who so graciously allowed me to retain it.  Rhea Leen's such a sweet lady.  And so many remaining personal effects of Blanche, came to me via her Estate-- with provenance beyond reproach. 

The only Bonnie & Clyde artifact I own which came from unknown waters, are my dual Bonnie & Clyde signatures-- which
with help of the best experts I could find, much time and objective effort was spent authenticating.  The signatures, are one of those someone "happened upon" Bonnie & Clyde pieces.  But even The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures may have been obtained by a Barrow relative-- a possibility still being explored.

However among many candidates I've viewed which are obvious fakes-- there are some pieces out there I and others feel could be real.  In perhaps a surprising gesture to some, but surely not to me-- I do feel another pair of Bonnie & Clyde signatures could exist-- apparently signed on some sort of Drug Store container.  I say this, because I feel it's clear-- no authentic Bonnie signatures had surfaced prior to Bonnie's script within my piece, and also on Steve Haas' Bonnie poem "The Street Girl".  Bonnie formed her signature in a most unusual way-- and the Bonnie script on the Pharmacy container is formed similarly.  However, as only an image of this possibility exists, but no evidence of this container's owner or physical whereabouts is known-- I'm not sure how to advance this idea??

hen there are the Coach's Corners of the world and like memorabilia houses in Las Vegas and elsewhere-- who market "rare" and for many "suspect" alleged signatures like Bonnie & Clyde's, as if they were as common as the air we breathe.  My advice is simple-- be wary of any entity that promotes memorabilia backed by "authenticators" who've been cited within exposes' on forgery. 

The photo above of an alleged Clyde signature-- is apparently one of Coach's Corner's latest forays into their sea of suspicion. They claim
"Your Son" is added as a bonus, and book value approaches 3 grand on the hard to find piece".  Well for those who obviously know so little, and sell incredibly rare pieces for a pittance (and why would anyone do that?? unless afraid of greater scrutiny)-- the true value of a legitimate Clyde Barrow as noted through previous sales, might require the leveraging of someone's house.  "Many thanks" as always  to Chris-- for the pic and head's up.  But even some of the most "reputable" and respected auction houses as I view it-- can be guilty of shoddy diligence when it comes to promoting Bonnie & Clyde artifacts.  This was evident concerning that supposed signed photo of Bonnie, as sold by Christies and profiled here some time back.


The photo in question, sported an alleged and incorrect Bonnie signature with salutation and signature in 2 different inks backed by an iron-cladly "wrong" provenance.  When I contacted Christies on behalf of both the buyer and individual wrongly named as proof of this item's authenticity-- Christies hedged in claiming they never promoted Bonnie's supposed signature as the focus of this item.  A tale hard to swallow-- when most of this item's provenance centered around the signature, and when a news photo without script-- would've likely fetched hundreds of dollars-- not $7400.  Seemingly not much caring for truth or what's right??  "Cha Ching"!!!  Note: Another
photo w/Bonnie signature "identical" to the one sold by Christies-- was touted by yet another memorabilia site concurrently (yep)-- and reportedly sold for $15,000.  "Aye Yi Yi".

Guns seem the easiest items to promote, as having been in the presence of Bonnie & Clyde.  However o
ne of the latest things touted as a Bonnie & Clyde piece, is a ledger of unknown origin-- passed down through a family in Texas.  At 1st, based on the location of this item and possible connection to the flight path of an expanded Barrow Gangs' escape from their Eastham Prison breakout-- it was thought by some including me, that Bonnie & Clyde signatures within this ledger could be real. 

However, what wasn't disclosed by it's initial owner, but rather the gentleman who bought it-- was alleged multiple signatures of Bonnie & Clyde within this book, among the signatures of many celebrities sans explanation.  To my way of thinking this may have signaled some fun loving people's pranks-- to sign this Hotel register or whatever it was, as Bonnie & Clyde.  Probably not an unusual possibility-- as this dangerous, romantic and paradoxical couple were both admired and hated back in '34. Anyway-- with the reality of multiple versions of Bonnie & Clyde signatures apparently present-- I and others have backed away from this reported Bonnie & Clyde relic in the name of wariness and prudence. 

Long story just a touch longer-- such a "stand up" and respected Carroll Rich deserved better, than to have someone end up with a death car gun for 12 grand-- which to me, is an injustice to Carroll and this history-- considering a suspect Thompson fetched 10 times that within the same Mayo auction house.  But I suppose consistency is the key-- as Joplin sports some of the more blatant and likely Bonnie & Clyde fakes.  These include the Bonnie Parker Highway Patrol fingerprint card, located at the Missouri Highway Patrol Museum-- and the door at the
Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, supposedly from the top of the stairs at the Joplin hideout-- but with bullet holes in it??  Now a Thompson, reportedly taken from the Joplin hideout.  But how much can you say, when fighting an uphill battle??

"As much as it takes".  


Joe said...

Hello Winston
Long time no talk. The Clyde signature style of just a piece of paper looking to be cut from a letter looks very familiar to me.

Sometimes, I guess in earnest to own a piece of history we often make decisions from the heart wanting to believe it to be true. Our trusting character is sometimes taken advantage of. Now the question beckon that if the items is over $250 and the postal service is used... is this Postal fraud?

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Joe-- It seems some haven't taken time to discern and accept artifacts with provenance and rigorous objective testing-- from those which haven't those advantages. It also seems "sour grapes" may come into play in criticizing (no matter how creatively)-- those who take the time to do right by history. Unfortunately, not everyone can have real artifacts related to Bonnie & Clyde-- when pretty much any physical remembrance of them can be so incredibly rare. And not everyone is in a position to develop relationships over time, where additional B&C artifacts from sources beyond reproach-- have been offered and entrusted for their preservation.

What's disappointing to me, is listening to some seemingly good and upstanding individuals, who apparently hold some sort of grudge-- when good form would be to accept reality and wish others well, concerning their devotion and desire to preserve history.

And to answer your question-- yes the scenario you address would likely be considered interstate mail fraud. Those who address forgery of historical signatures and documents, feel they know the forgers involved. But due to the difficulty in breaking the lucrative relationships involved between forger and sellers of phony memorabilia-- prosecution of these individuals has been difficult. I have been approached, informing me of an person willing to purchase Bonnie & Clyde fakes from out of state-- to try and enact justice on one particular memorabilia seller, known for peddling Bonnie & Clyde wares. This is of interest to me-- and I will help within this effort if I can.