Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Twain's 'Last Manuscript' readies

September 29, 2009
Posted by Noah

I am one of those who ritualistically returns to certain books at least once a year, and if not once a year then at least every other year. Riddley Walker by Russel Hoban, Orwell's 1984, Entering Fire by Rikki DuCornet, Ada by Nabokov and Suttree by McCarthy, among the few. I can usually pour through these books in about a week -except for the Nabokov.

The list grows by the year, as does the gap in between how often I can get to them . One book, however, that I do not miss and which I have never grown tired of, is Mark Twain's Huck Finn. Simply put, it is The Great American Novel. Even if it does not top your personal list - as it does not top mine - I defy anyone to deny its greatness. With this one book Twain single-handedly broke open American conventions and consciousness about literature.

All this makes it even more poignant that our upcoming Oct. 16-17 Historic Manuscripts Auction contains what is known as Mark Twain's "Last Manuscript," two pages, both autographed, that Twain write in Bermuda during the waning days of his epic life. It is a rare chance to own an amazing piece of America's foremost writer and humorist - a man whose time still has yet to come, such was his genius.

The first manuscript dated March 6, 1910 is actually a humorous device created in playful response to his Bermudian hosts:

"Bay House, March 6/10," It reads. "Received of S.L.C./Two Dollars and Forty Cents/in return for my promise to believe everything he says hereafter."

Helen Allen has signed her name in full beneath acknowledging the payment received. The payment of $2.40, as comically intended by Twain, made it a binding legal agreement. The legendary writer was now free to tell his most outlandish stories and Ms. Allen was now "legally bound" to believe him without question. A photograph accompanies the lot that shows Twain and Ms. Allen, both in swimsuits bathing in the waters at Bay House, the Allen home, taken two years earlier, shows the warm friendship that obviously existed between the two.

The second manuscript written on the adjoining page was almost certainly written between April 8 and April 11, 1910, just 10 days before Twain died, and just before he left Bermuda, under orders from his doctors, in a final effort to salvage his rapidly failing health.

It reads, in full: For Sale. The proprietor of the hereinbeforementioned Promise desires to part with it on account of ill health and obliged to go away somewheres so as to let it reciprocate, and will take any reasonable amount for it above 2 per cent of its face because experienced parties think it will not keep but a little while in this kind of weather, and is a kind of proppity that don't give a dam for cold storage nohow.

Twain cites his "ill health" as the reason for his forced departure from Bermuda. After suffering a severe heart attack, his doctors ("experienced parties") told him if he were to stay in Bermuda he would soon die there (that he "will not keep but a little while in this kind of weather"). In his final line he declares that he does not want to die, "a kind of proppity that don't give a dam for cold storage nohow."

Twain is unquestionably writing about himself and specifically about his declining health and desire to stay alive. He likely returned the handwritten "promise" to Helen as a keepsake; the added passage explaining the reasons for the return and delivering the "punch line" to what had originated as a comic device but quickly became a touching memento. He died nine days after leaving Bermuda, on April 21, 1910.

Great stuff. Wish it could be mine...

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-Noah Fleisher

Monday, September 28, 2009

Coin Monday: A 'Fair' Coin

Sept. 28, 2009
Written by John Dale

The Texas State Fair started on Friday, Sept. 25, and from my office window, I can just make out the Ferris wheel in Fair Park. It’s a little bit surprising, now that I think about it… somewhere in the area of that Ferris Wheel, a vendor is serving deep-fried butter (That’s deep-fried butter, not batter. The latter can be found just about everywhere!). Texas may be well known for its outlandish fried food, but every state fair has its quirks. One such quirk of interest to numismatists belongs to the Missouri State Fair, which had an intriguing souvenir on offer in 1921: commemorative half dollars celebrating the centennial of Missouri’s statehood.

In the years following the successful Illinois commemorative halves of 1918, several other states got in on the statehood centennial celebration bandwagon: Maine in 1920, Missouri in 1921, Alabama also in 1921 (notably, these were two years late to the party), Arkansas in 1935 (and every year through 1939), and Iowa in 1946. There are also a number of near-misses; Texas, for example, chose to celebrate the centennial of its independence from Mexico instead.

Going back to Missouri, the commemorative halves honoring its statehood centennial make specific reference to the Missouri State Fair… once you know where to look. On the reverse, below the feet of the two figures, is an exergue with the incused word SEDALIA. The meaning would have been abundantly clear to any fairgoer, since the fair was (and still is) held in Sedalia, MO. The coins don’t say STATE FAIR anywhere on them, but they might as well have!

One variety of Missouri half was sold at the fair, but there’s a second variant which features the numerals "2" and "4" flanking a star. Ostensibly, this symbolized Missouri adding a 24th star to the U.S. flag; in practice, that star should’ve been a dollar sign, because all it really meant was the creation of an artificial variety to fleece coin collectors. While collectors generally handled their coins with care, the “plain” Missouri halves mainly sold to folks who didn’t have the foggiest idea how to tend to their new souvenirs. Such half dollars were often cleaned in a misguided attempt to keep them shiny, and many of them slid around in pockets.

Still, a half dollar is a durable souvenir, much more likely to survive a day of fair-going than a silly hat or a cheap plastic sword. Speaking of which, I hear there’s a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed diving show this year…

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, September 25, 2009

A night in Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater? I'll take two!

Sept. 25, 2009

Posted by Noah

... Okay, so it's actually not a night in Fallingwater, but two evenings in a house on the property and a day and an evening to hang out, eat, talk to others like yourself who love this house, and the overall work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the master...

So what if a lot of Wright's designs, while revolutionary and undeniably gorgeous, came up a little short on the sustainability scale. What matters is that it looks good. If you've studied any of Wright's designs, read his work, and made a point of touring his buildings - and I'm betting a few of you out there have - then you know what I'm talking about.

Throughout my journey as an antiques, art and auction writer for the last (mumble,mumble) years, great Modern architecture has been a constant. The first big story I wrote for a Northeastern antiques paper was on Wright - Russel Wright, actually, the industrial designer. I know that's the wrong Wright, but his personal Manitoga house in Garrison, NY made sure to set me on the right path and I've followed, studied and written about Modern Architecture, and Modernism, very closely ever since.

Of course, when I read the story linked to above I also ran to the handy Heritage Archives to see what evidence of the master's handiwork had come through Heritage and didn't come up disappointed. There is a healthy dose of FLW associated stuff, topped by a spectacular archive relating to the building of Wrights Parkwin Village in Kalamazoo, MI. Great stuff, really, and at just more than $13,000 in Oct. of 2006, a relative steal to be able to get inside the creative process of the such a brilliant and influential mind. There are also books that have sold for $10, and everything in between. Wright did not discriminate between his great and small projects - whether it was Fallingwater, Taliesin or one of his many "working class" Usonian structures, Wright did not hold back his talent. Neither does Heritage hold back in offering Wright-related artifacts that are five figures, two figures and everywhere in between.

No Wright structure seems to have captured the world's imagination like Fallingwater. Sure, The Guggenheim Museum is spectacular. The Johnson Wax building is sublime, both Taliesins (Spring Green, WI and Phoenix, AZ) are a special treat, and the Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo, NY is amazing, while even the Kalita Humphreys Theater here is Dallas is a rambling and intriguing piece of Wright madness - whose future is now in doubt, btw - and countless movies and TV shows have made use of his futuristic and ahead-of-its-time design. Somehow Fallingwater is the one that turns everyone on.

As one of the curators of the place says in the story above, "it's the tree house you always wanted to live in."

That's about Wright, er... right. (You would've done it, too, were you writing this post. You know it.)

To get the one hour tour of Fallingwater costs about $18. To spend two evenings around Fallingwater and a day in it, will set you back a cool $1195. Pocket change, right? Perhaps to some. I personally would love to do it if I had the cash. It would indeed be a dream come true. It will have to wait, however, as I doubt my 3-1/2 year old daughter, cute, sweet - and brilliant, I might add - as she may be, would quite yet understand just why it's not a good idea to climb in that tree.

"But Papa, it's right in the living room!"

Chances are I'd probably agree with her and we'd both get kicked out. So much for my dream of spending a big chunk of cash to pretend for a day that I lived in the most famous private residence in America!

Wright does, however, still figure prominently in my life. I read about him whenever I can, I go to his buildings wherever I can and I remember very well that he said that the blocks he played with as a child unlocked his architectural genius at an early age. Needless to say, one of the first things we got our daughter when she mastered her hands was a set of blocks. I have a feeling she might be getting a whole new, and sizable, addition to her collection over the holidays. I have no doubt that she will directly channel Wright's genius.

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coin Thursday/Collector’s Corner: A Smithsonian Encounter

Sept. 24, 2009
Written by John Dale

In May 1997, I was a newly signed-up member of the ANA, thoroughly in love with coins and coin collecting. I was also far too busy to think about them much, between a deluge of seventh-grade homework and obsessive studying for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. (It’s the Scripps National Spelling Bee now, but it was Scripps Howard then, and I still call it that.) When I got on a plane with my mom and dad and flew out to the Bee, though, both of those distractions stopped.

The National Spelling Bee has emphasized this pause, to spelling families and the outside world alike — after winning a paid trip to Washington D.C. for a week, spending the whole time huddled in the hotel and obsessing over Latin roots is a terrible waste.

An hour of studying just before bed is fine, but during the day, there will be sightseeing and other activities, like the ice cream social (chocolate for me, with hot fudge and about half a jar of maraschino cherries) and the Memorial Day barbecue (which hosted sack races and other contests that were almost as hotly contested as the Bee itself). Then there were the museums, monuments, memorials, and moments when tour guides realized they were facing down several dozen scary-smart kids who were not shy about asking difficult questions.

As many activities as were booked, though, there were mornings and afternoons the spellers and their families had to themselves, and it was on one of those afternoons that I set out with my parents, seeking the perfect souvenir for the trip.

After a good deal of calling-around, my parents had discovered that a few commemorative Smithsonian Institution silver dollars, struck in 1996 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Institution’s establishment, were still in stock at the gift shop in the Institution’s National Museum of African Art. (For reference, here’s an example of the design in our upcoming October Dallas U.S. Coin Signature Auction.)

That particular museum hadn’t been on our radar beforehand, but while we were there, we couldn’t help but look around before finding the gift shop. There, I bought my proof Smithsonian dollar, paying for it with traveler’s checks in my name (those traveler’s checks made me feel like such a grown-up!), and we went back to the hotel, where I packed it away for safekeeping… but not before taking a good, long last look.

At the Bee itself, I managed a respectable tie for 36th place, but in the fifth round, I heard that dreaded bell tell me I was wrong. (I will never, ever, ever misspell “myocarditis” again!) The two days I actually spent spelling, though, are the part of that week I least remember. What have stayed with me more strongly are the memories made away from the Bee - the conversations over ice cream or behind the back of a docent, the times I’d look out the window of my room and see legions of inflatable dictionaries staring back at me, the quest that took me to a museum I’d never thought to visit. It’s just one of the uncountable stories found at the intersection of a coin and a memory.

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Got a great story about collecting? Send it to CollectorsCorner@HA.com

Sept. 22, 2009
Posted by Noah

When we first opened the Collector's Corner to our readers stories several months ago we got a lot of great responses. Now we want to open it up a little more. Heritage's Collectors Corner (CollectorsCorner@HA.com) is looking for any great story on collecting you may have hidden in the cobwebbed corner of your collectors brain.

Whether it's about your area of collecting, your particular collection, or the collection of your Mom or Dad, we want to hear the story and use it in our Collector's Corners post at www.HA.com/Connect, and on this blog.

Did you ever witness something amazing happen at a show, or an auction, that made you re-think how you viewed the pursuit of collecting? Did a family member pass along a great story, or a piece of family history regarding a family collecting? Do you just know a good joke about collecting and you want to share it? Well, that's what we want for Collector's Corner.

Just so you know, we reserve the right to use any submission in our Collector's Corner, edited and presented anonymously - it's just about the story.

Remember, that's CollectorsCorner@HA.com, and we want your story!

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, September 21, 2009

Coin Monday: One Collection, Seven Spectacular Coins (Part Two)

Sept. 21, 2009
Written by John Dale

A quick recap:

On Friday, I introduced the Little Rock Collection, a small but dynamite Featured Collection in Heritage’s upcoming October Dallas U.S. Coin Auction. I covered the 1871-CC double eagle and the 1892 double eagle, which both qualify as the “good stuff.”

Now that the good stuff is out of the way, it’s time to talk about the better stuff.

The 1885 double eagle, graded MS61 by PCGS, certainly qualifies. From 1882 to 1885, double eagle production at Philadelphia was minimal or nonexistent, at least as far as circulating coins were concerned. In 1883 and 1884, the Philadelphia Mint coined only proofs of the denomination. In 1882, there were only 571 business strikes produced. The year 1885, which this coin represents, saw only 751 double eagles struck for circulation at Philadelphia. With a mintage figure that small, is it any wonder that the 1885 $20 is very scarce regardless of grade?

Finishing off the theme of low-mintage, high-desirability Liberty double eagles is an 1891 $20, graded AU58 by NGC. It’s one of the best surviving examples from an issue of just 1,390 business strikes. The 1891 and 1892 Philadelphia $20s are the last of their kind; beginning in 1893, the main Mint struck a much larger number of double eagles instead of letting San Francisco do all the work.

Rounding out the collection is a trio of tempting Saint-Gaudens $10 coins. Leading off is a Wire Rim 1907 eagle graded MS64 by NGC. The Wire Rim eagles may be considered an analogue to the famous High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagles, in that they are the first issue in the series that can be collected by more than, say, a dozen numismatists. Only 500 Wire Rim tens were struck, and examples this nice don’t come up for auction every month. Take note!

Two late San Francisco issues finish off the collection. The 1920-S eagle, represented by an NGC MS62 example, was heavily melted in the wake of the gold recall of 1933, leaving only a small scattering of lightly circulated and Mint State coins. The 1920-S is even rarer than the San Francisco eagle issue that followed it a decade later, the 1930-S. The Little Rock Collection sports a lovely MS64 representative of the 1930-S eagle. Its story is much the same as it was with the 1920-S, though surprisingly, more examples of the 1930-S have survived; it’s believed that at least one roll of 1930-S eagles was saved and eventually distributed to collectors.

So, there it is… seven coins, one collection, and plenty of excitement. Join us in October to bid on these golden treasures!

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coin Friday: One Collection, Seven Spectacular Coins (Part One)

Sept. 18, 2009
Written by John Dale

“Big things come in small packages.”

An old saying like that sticks around for the truth that’s in it, and the Little Rock Collection is as good a reason as any to trot it out. The Little Rock Collection doesn’t appear on the Heritage Web site yet (that’ll come in the next few weeks, when the October Dallas U.S. Coin Auction comes out of previews), and when it does appear, it won’t take up much real estate on anyone’s monitor. There are just seven lots in it, you see.

On the printed page, however, the Little Rock Collection is going to make itself known: out of seven lots, five of them will have a whole page to themselves, and the other two - the relative laggards of the bunch - aren’t far behind.

As I type this, all seven of the coins in the Little Rock Collection are imaged, though two have not been described. Coincidentally, those two are the “laggards” that just missed out on landing a full page in the catalog. I’ll touch on those two coins briefly and then continue on to the already-cataloged pieces.

The two undescribed coins are Liberty double eagles. First is an 1871-CC double eagle graded AU55 by NGC, and while I haven’t had the chance to check this coin in person, from the images it looks gorgeous. Early Carson City gold is a longtime collector favorite, and that interest is almost certain to carry over for this AU55 coin - AU55 is an excellent grade by the 1871-CC double eagle standards.

Then there’s the 1892 double eagle graded MS62 by PCGS, one of just 4,430 business strikes made for the year. While the 1880s has a string of low-mintage or (no-mintage) Philadelphia business strike issues, the trend continued only briefly in the 1890s.

In fact, the 1892 double eagle is the last $20 gold piece to have a four-figure production total. Once again, I don’t have access to the coin proper, but it’s pictured on the Web, and I like what I see.

Next time: two Liberty double eagles, three Saint-Gaudens eagles, five full pages. See you then!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mr. DOB: A Murakami Lithograph Coming in October

Sept. 15, 2009
Written by John Dale

The recent posting of the October 2009 Modern and Contemporary Art Auction had me browsing the lots, and as I was drawing close to the end, I saw a name and broke out into a grin. The name was Takashi Murakami, and his work appears in lot 63117, a lithograph on paper titled And then, and then, and then…Variation 4. Mr. Murakami is famous for his artistic and commercial prowess - to be more specific, his remarkable faculty for managing and merging the two.

Based on my slight [Slight?! Slight?! – Noah] penchant for Japanese popular culture, as previously mentioned in “Thoughts on Assorted Japanese Imports-,” it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that I’m intrigued by Mr. Murakami and his art, which counts Japanese popular culture, particularly the otaku subculture frequently associated with manga and related phenomena, as an important inspiration. The lithograph being offered by Heritage shows that inspiration clearly: the face of Mr. Murakami’s signature character, Mr. DOB (check the ears), dominates the space with his wide eyes and broad grin. The wide eyes in particular are an important part of the manga aesthetic.

Artistic influences such as Pop Art and manga, however, are only part of Mr. Murakami’s appeal. He operates not only in “fine art,” as it is understood in the West, but also in a variety of more commercial fields. His firm Kaikai Kiki, a combination studio and agency representing Mr. Murakami and selected other artists, pursues a variety of merchandising opportunities: “pillows, bags, towels, key chains, sticker sets, and even soccer balls” bearing the designs of Mr. Murakami and other represented artists, according to the site. It’s worth noting that Kaikai Kiki is listed as the publisher of the lithograph in the auction.

Through his strategy of selling products and lending his name and designs to commercially successful projects, Mr. Murakami has continually raised his profile as an artist and the demand for all his work, costly art and inexpensive sticker sets alike. When he collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a line of products bearing his “Multicolore” reinterpretation of the famous LV monogram pattern, both parties benefited. Similarly, his art for a series of Kanye West singles (no VMA jokes here; those are so 48 hours ago) and West’s Graduation album introduced Mr. Murakami to a broad and previously unaware audience.

With an estimate of $1,000 to $1,500, this lithograph makes for a relatively inexpensive introduction to Mr. Murakami’s work. As for myself, well…maybe I’ll settle for a key chain.

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The cautionary tale of Lenny Dykstra

Sept. 15, 2009
Posted by Noah

If you're remotely a fan of sports - as a concept and and industry - then the name Lenny Dysktra is familiar to you. If you follow any sport religously then you have watched SportsCenter enough times to have heard at least something about Lenny Dykstra. And if you are reading this blog post, then you probably know that Dykstra's demise has now partly intersected with Heritage Auctions in the form of the trove of his World Series and MVP memorabilia that will be in our Oct. 1-2 Sports Auction.

Over the weekend AP broke the story about the auction and it has since traveled to hundreds of outlets worldwide - yet it is a bittersweet PR victory. It's always good to have our name out there in association with an important collection or individual lot, and even better when it attracts potential bidders, but would that Dykstra had never pawned his memorabilia to a high-end shop in Los Angeles. Desperate times led the man known as nails to such measures. It is well-chronicled in the story from the New York Times that I have linked to here.

I'm not one to pile on the man, he certainly has his fair share of detractors, but I take his story as a cautionary tale, one so atypical yet sadly typical of professional athletes. His rise from MLB star to financial wizard - almost a poster boy for the lost wealth of the last year - is equaled only by the dizzying fall from grace at breakneck speed. If, for some reason you don't know the story, just Google his name and take your pick. Dykstra's hubris earned him much animosity when he was at the top, and it has resulted in an entire huge sector of Cyberspace dedicated to salaciously documenting the tumble.

From my perspective, I hope the auction makes a ton - it's a superb collection of amazing stuff, and the Dykstra material is just one course in a huge meal, a buffet, a virtual smorgasbord of the rarest stuff you've ever seen, even if it's not quite as juicy as the older, more-seasoned slice of Lenny Dykstra.
To leave a comment click on the title of this post.
-Noah Fleisher

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coin Monday: Songs and Gold

Sept. 14, 2009
Written by John Dale

It’s as good a day to have a song stuck in my head, and this time, it’s “The Virginia Company” from the turn-off-your-mental-fact-checker-and-enjoy-the-ride Disney film Pocahontas. The Jamestown expedition never found any gold, either in the film or reality, but while eastern Virginia was not the promised land of gold, there was gold in the southeastern United States, most of it found in western North Carolina and northern Georgia, in areas corresponding with the southern part of the Piedmont region.

The twin gold rushes in the southeastern United States were the first in the still-young nation’s territory, beginning at least two decades before the much more famous discovery of gold in the then-California Territory. In fact, a number of the earliest California miners to arrive from outside the territory came from the gold fields of Georgia and North Carolina. The start of the private coinage associated with gold fields (commonly called “Territorial gold” collecting, though this term is less inclusive than “private gold issues” collecting) is also a Southeastern native, as Christopher Bechtler (or C. Bechtler, as his name appeared on the coins) opened his private mint in Rutherford County in western North Carolina in the early 1830s.

His gold dollars, such as the Kagin-1 30-grain piece coming up in our October 2009 Dallas Signature Auction, date from a period between 1831 and 1834. It’s well worth noting, as the cataloger does, that Mr. Bechtler’s gold dollars, which proudly state they are made from Carolina gold, were first struck a full 18 years before Congress, reacting to the news of California gold, authorized the gold dollar as an official U.S. coinage denomination.

The Bechtler coinages span across two decades, from 1831 to 1852, and the Bechtler mint was a family operation, with Christopher Bechtler’s son August, and a nephew also named Christopher, producing coins in $1, $2-1/2 and $5. They eventually struck both Carolina and Georgia gold, even after the opening of official U.S. Mints in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia in 1838.

The Mulkin Collection, an upcoming featured collection for our October 2009 Dallas Signature Auction, contains the Kagin-1 C. Bechtler gold dollar as well as a whole host of other private gold and U.S. Mint issues. Keep watching the previews to see what’s been added to this exciting coin auction event… cataloging the Mulkin Collection alone has been quite the adventure!

(Postscript: I spend much of my time thinking about coins, but this past week, they weren’t much on my mind. I’ve been taking a vacation, visiting family and friends in northern Indiana and southern Michigan. Northern Indiana is where I grew up, in a fairly small town called Logansport surrounded by farms and fields. It used to have a railroad-themed fair each summer. They called it the Iron Horse Festival. Then most of the trains left town, and one year the Iron Horse disappeared from the Iron Horse Festival. Eventually, the festival left, and so did I.

Anymore, the trains pass through Logansport more often than I do, except in my memories. One weekend summer night, I was nodding off as I stared out the window of my mother’s minivan, watching passing headlights land on the tall corn along one side of the highway. The last song I remember on the radio, Jo Dee Messina was singing “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” That sounds just about right, doesn’t it?)

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, September 11, 2009

In Memoriam: 9/11 eight years later

Sept. 11, 2009
Posted by Noah

Where were you eight years ago this morning, and what were you doing?

I hope no one will have any problem today with me taking a little time off from regular Heritage blogging to commemorate the sadness of today's date, and to celebrate the incredible bravery and spirit it inspires. Sept. 11 is indeed one of those days where absolutely everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing.

On that Tuesday morning - it was a bright and brilliant early fall day - I was driving the back roads of Duchess County, New York, from my home in Rhinebeck to the offices of Taconic Press in Millbrook, some 35 minutes away, where I was then editor of the Rhinebeck Gazette Advertiser and the Hyde Park Townsman (Hyde Park, NY, the home of FDR). It was deadline day and time to put the papers together. I relished that drive, and was just passing the last long stretch of open country, past the estate that Bette Midler had just purchased, when the report of the first plane hitting the towers came on NPR.

Like most people, I assumed it was a small prop plane and that some joker thought it would be funny to buzz the towers and got too close. I worried that someone on the ground might get hurt.

Once I got to work, I went upstairs to my friend John's office, where we waited patiently for CNN.com to open up. It was, understandably, inundated with hits. When the site finally picked up, and the first image came on, the initial horror set in. This was no prop plane. We sat in flabbergasted silence for several long minutes before I finally said, "I need to get to work."

Once downstairs, at my desk, I tuned the office radio to NPR - much to the chagrin of several other editors who dismissed the crash and wanted to hear the latest on the ubiquitous sports radio that constantly numbed my brain on those days. 10 minutes later, when the report of the second plane hitting Tower 2 broke, there was no more protest. Clearly something major was amiss.

We all worked on in stunned silence, knowing that something terrible was happening just an hour south of where we were. When the towers crashed an hour later the only sound in the room was the stifled sobs of reporters and editors alike. We went into crisis mode.

The Hudson Valley is home to countless weekend houses and commuter towns for NYC, so this was really close to home for us. There were casualties from all of our neighborhoods, and many of the firefighters, first responders and police that raced to the city were zooming down the streets right outside our windows on their way to ground zero.

For me personally, I was but a year or two removed from my life in NYC, and 90% of my friends were still down there. Many worked in the area and I fought uselessly to get through to anybody's cell phone. Within 48 hours I had discerned that my friends were okay, but that the city was devastated, of course. When I made my way down there a week later the palpable sadness in the air was only equaled by the smell and the pall of the dust from the collapse.

I thank my lucky stars every day that we have avoided and stopped further attacks since that day, and that America - despite all its political squabbling and differences - has held together, united in our determination that nothing like Sept. 11, 2001, will ever happen again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh to be Prince Caspian afloat upon the waves: Signed first edition 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' at auction. Oct. 16-17

Sept. 10, 2009
Posted by Noah

I am, ever, enamored of C.S. Lewis's fifth chronological and third published book in his Chronicles of Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If you know these books, have read them dozens of times throughout the course of your life, then I can only assume you are agreeing with me right now. Am I a fan of the movies? So far? Not so much... They've taken the soul out of them, literally... 'Nuff said.

Since I was a little kid I have read Lewis's masterworks many many times - so many times, in fact, that now I only go for Voyage when I want a Narnia fix. There is nowhere else in the series that Lewis's prose was so poetic and moving, his passion for his characters so inspired and his creativity so on fire. For me to point to a favorite part of this book is impossible because the world and the narrative are so rich. Just thinking about Caspian and the Pevensies getting closer to the end of the world, where the water is crystal clear and sweet, where the sun is impossibly bright and the days never-ending, makes me want to pick up a copy of the book right now and while away the afternoon engaged in this amazingly magical world.

Fortunately for me, though I can nary afford the estimated $10,000-$15,000 price tag, Heritage is offering a truly sublime C.S. Lewis-signed first edition of the book in our Oct. 16-17 Rare Books auction. Amazing, truly. I actually got light-headed when James Gannon, our Director of Rare Books, told me about the lot. There are things that come through here that I would truly and deeply love to have, and would never ever give up as long as I live. I have to say that this is one of the top three or four. Just simply great great stuff.

The Narnia books are, of course, greatly beloved the world over. Children and adults of all stripes and sizes love these books for good reason. Put aside, for the moment, Lewis's wonderful and accessible exploration of his Christian faith in the books, and you have, simply, a superb and epic adventure story. Taking Lewis's faith into account and you have one of the great religious philosophy treatises ever written. It doesn't matter what faith you were raised with, I defy anyone to not be moved by how deeply Lewis examined his own beliefs in the books, and most specifically in Dawn Treader.

In my 20s, during a time of great gnostical turpitude, I undertook a survey of every religion I could read about. I poured over thousands of pages of material in an effort to gain some kind of insight and shed the trappings of existentialism and phenomenology that had given me little but headaches. While recovering from a serious illness I re-read Narnia and was moved very deeply. I quickly made my way to Lewis's Mere Christianity, which didn't implore me to convert - Lewis is not about that - but rather gave me a fresh perspective on the Christian experience. It did, ultimately, allow me to make my own decisions on what faith meant to me; ideas which are with me strongly to this day, but which I am not prepared to talk about in a public forum such as this (if you really want to know where I stand, shoot me an email).

To know that this volume is in-house right now somehow gives me great comfort. It is one or two degrees at most removed from the master's hand. There are many books I have wished I could somehow send myself into to participate in the story, but none have ever intrigued me as much as this one. What I wouldn't give to have just a day with Caspian and Reepicheep, in that fast and beautiful boat, afloat upon the waves...

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Collecting Primer: Superb Doug Nowine Interview at AppreciatingFineAntiques.com

Sept. 8, 2009
Posted by Noah

(The below interview with our Music & Entertainment Director Doug Norwine, was posted last week at www.AppreciatingFineAntiques.com. Besides being great with his words and sage with his advice, Doug is fascinating character and one of the most knowledgeable in the business. His interview with Mike McCleod is nothing less than a primer for how and why to collect. Most of all, Doug's passion for the business shines through, and that is more valuable than anything. The interview also contains a lot of great info about Doug's prolific career as a professional sax player - did any one know that he is, most famously, the music behind Lisa Simpson's saxophone, and that of her mentor, Bleeding Gums Murphy? Oh yes, oh yes... read on and be impressed. - Noah Fleisher)

A Conversation With Doug Norwine, Director of Music and Entertainment Memorabilia at Heritage Auction Galleries

Editor: Tell me about yourself and about your background in music and entertainment memorabilia.

Doug Norwine: When I was 10 years old, I wrote to Charles Lindberg, Jimmy Stewart, and Boris Karloff requesting their autographs, and they all answered me back. That began my passion for collecting autographs and memorabilia. And here I am today with 50,000 autographs. At the age of 12, I started playing the saxophone. I eventually attended Berklee College in Boston and taught there for two years. In 1977, I moved to Los Angeles and pursued a successful career as a studio saxophonist for 22 years. I worked with Chaka Khan, Frank Sinatra, Sheena Easton, Melissa Manchester, Ray Charles, and others. I also played the saxophone on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” which led to “The Simpsons.” I didn’t think much about it at the time because it was just a cartoon show, but it is now the longest-running cartoon show. On it, I played sax for Lisa Simpson and the cartoon character Bleeding Gums Murphy, who teaches Lisa Simpson how to play. That episode won an Emmy.

Then one fateful day in 2004, I got an email from Heritage, looking for someone to head up their Music and Entertainment Department. I told my then fiance that I was a saxophone player, not a memorabilia dealer, so I sent a short response, never thinking this job was for me. They replied back with interest, and the next thing I knew, I was meeting with the owners of Heritage at a coin show in California, and what they told me was quite intriguing. They brought me to Dallas for an interview, and then they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I realize now that my whole life has been training for this job at Heritage. My job is wonderful and rewarding; every day is like Christmas. I get to see the finest memorabilia in the world.

Do you still have your 50,000 autographs?

DN: Yes. I have an 18-year-old son who is expressing interest in the collection. I sold some of it through Heritage to buy a car for him after I found some boxes of autographs that I didn’t know I had. Beatles’ autographs on Elvis’ personal stationery. The Beatles visited Elvis at his home in Bel Air. At first in awe of one another, the group warmed up to each other after playing guitars together (with Ringo banging on a chair instead of drums). Jerry Schilling, a member of Elvis’ “Memphis Mafia,” got the Beatles to autograph a piece of Elvis’ stationery and dated it “8/27/65.” It sold for $59,750.

What else do you collect?

DN: In addition to autographs, I have a lot of the machinery from the original “Frankenstein” movie. I learned how to repair it, and I have it all working. I love to work on old high-voltage equipment.

You must have great Halloween parties at your home.

Every day is Halloween at our house! I am good friends with Boris Karloff’s daughter and Bela Lugosi’s son.

Collecting should always be fun, but where would you steer the serious collectors, the ones who want to have fun and have their investments appreciate?

DN: I think you should never collect as a pure investment. Collecting has to be fun. You have to have a passion for it. If you are doing it just to make money, you will probably get stung. Collect for love and then investment. My advice is, find something you love that’s unique, that others aren’t collecting. I have a friend who has collected memorabilia related to Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners since he was a rookie, and now he is surely headed to the Hall of Fame. That collection will be worth money. Right now, good investments are the Beatles and Elvis, as well the top names in sports like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio. Always collect the tragic stars like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. Because they died early, their memorabilia will only increase in value.

What is hot in music and entertainment right now?

DN: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Jim Morrison, Buddy Holly, Elvis.Anything signed by all the Beatles—pictures, albums, contracts—will increase in multiples. I have never seen a guitar, or any instrument, authentically signed by all the Beatles; that is rarer than a hound’s tooth! We have sold a Paul McCartney-signed guitar for $17,000 and Kurt Cobain’s Mosrite guitar for $131,000. The Beatles band-signed “Please Please Me” album cover. These three signatures date from mid-1963. The Ringo Starr autograph was taken from another “Please Please Me” album cover that was signed by him in 1964 and affixed to this one by a professional paper restoration expert. The album sold for $10,755. Stevie Ray Vaughn (October 3, 1954-August 27, 1990) is hot and will increase in value, as he was such an important pioneer in music.

Heritage’s 20th Century Icon auction coming up will have a November 22, 1963 “Dallas Morning News” signed by JFK on his picture on page 1. A maid got him to sign it that morning in Fort Worth, and it could be the last signature he did, or at least one of last. This will be a hot item in the sale.

What would you say are the “sleeper” memorabilia, the items under the radar now that will really increase in value in the future?

DN: Seinfeld memorabilia is going up; they are getting fantastic prices for signed scripts. Look for reclusive stars like Billy Bob Thornton. Bob Dylan rarely signs autographs; his is one of the fastest increasing in value. Many stars have secretaries who sign for them so make sure the autographs are authentic. Paul McCartney signs autographs, and we’ve seen what has happened with Lennon’s. John’s signature is money in the bank.

With the death of Michael Jackson, some collectors are wondering which of his memorabilia will appreciate?

DN: We have been flooded with questions about him. Michael Jackson’s signature has value, but I don’t think it will go through the roof. He signed a lot of items.Now, his sketches and handwritten lyrics are really desirable and valuable, as is performance-worn gear with photo proof that he wore it. The jury is out on how he will be regarded in future years. I think he was the greatest entertainer at one time, but it will be interesting to see how history judges him. There is a glut of his stuff on the market now, so choose the best of the best, the closest to one-of-a-kind you can get.

Which music or entertainment items have surprised you with their auction prices?

DN: Paul McCartney-signed Hofner basses have gone for $20,000. Buddy Holly always goes for great prices. The watch he wore in the plane crash went for $155,000. I was surprised by the prices of some sketches from the Brown Derby. A set of two framed sketches of Jimmy Durante with his nose extending into the second sketch sold for $26,000. The hat W.C. Fields wore in the movie “Poppy” went for $35,000. Theda Bara’s costume archive sold for $100,000. [Silent film star Theda Bara made more than 40 films from 1914-1925 and was known for her risque costumes.] By the way, her real name was Theodosia Goodman.
Of all the items you have seen over the years, which do you wish you owned?

DN: Buddy Holly’s watch, some of the signed Beatles items we’ve had, the application that James Dean filled out for the race in Salinas that he never made it to, and the handwritten instructions James Dean left for feeding his cat the night before he died. Buddy Holly’s 14 karat white gold Omega wristwatch (1958) that he was wearing when his plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 3, 1959. The watch sold for $155,350.

What would you say is essential information for a serious collector to know right now?

DN: Buy wisely, buy from reputable dealers, do your homework. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There is a great incentive these days to fake autographs. Be very careful; many people are trying to make a quick buck.

What are the top quality items?

DN: Items from all of the names mentioned before and from music or entertainment figures of huge stature who died young. How many signatures of theirs are there? Collect the people who changed the entertainment medium like Paul Newman (who didn’t like to sign autographs) and Katharine Hepburn. Presidential autographs are valuable, but they often use autopens.
Focus on the major names who changed history, all the pioneers. People should pay attention to space collectibles. Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrich are the Christopher Columbuses of our generation. Armstrong does not like to sign autographs, by the way.

What do you think of the crypt above Marilyn Monroe’s selling for more than $4 million on eBay?

DN: Someone who was passionate about Marilyn, hopefully, bought it. The question is, will someone pay $4 million for the crypt near Michael Jackson in 45 years? That I am not sure of.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Coin (Friday &) Monday: The Oregon Trail Commemoratives’ Overstayed Welcome

Sept. 7, 2009
Written by John Dale

(Ah, the end of summer... Bittersweet, certainly, but not so much as it used to be. I can remember, as a kid, that when Jerry Lewis sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" it meant there was just a single meal and a night to sleep before school always started the next day... Where was I? Oh yes! Blog post... Right... Given the long weekend, and the pile of work still in front of me, John Dale has consented to let the blog use his regular Coin Monday post for today through the long weekend, and for that he has my thanks. A numismatist of deep knowledge and many strengths, John Dale is not without a sharply honed sense of humor and irony - really - as this post on Oregon Trail commemoratives shows. Coin writing is not necessarily known for its humor, but the young man does a fine job with an interesting subject. Thanks again, John Dale, and I hope you enjoy. Happy Labor Day. - Noah Fleisher)

The history of the early or “classic” commemorative coinage of the United States has its good points and bad. Some commemoratives, like the various Oregon Trail half dollars, combine both. As has widely been noted, the design for the Oregon Trail half dollar — a collaboration between the Frasers, a “power couple” in American art in their time — is among the most beautiful in the commemorative series.

The Conestoga wagon design was done by James Earle Fraser, who was famous for monumental art and Western-themed work, such as his sculpture End of the Trail and the Indian Head or “Buffalo” nickel. Laura Gardin Fraser, whose design showed a full-length portrait of an Indian over a map, had crafted several previous commemoratives with subjects including Alabama, Ulysses S. Grant, and Washington state’s Fort Vancouver.

As a one-off issue, the Oregon Trail half dollar would be celebrated mostly for its beauty. Later circumstances, however, led it to become infamous instead. First, a batch of 48,030 pieces (later reduced by 75 coins melted) was struck in Philadelphia in 1926. So far, so good.

Then 100,055 examples were struck at San Francisco; this raised a few eyebrows, since it was the first time a single commemorative design was struck at more than one mint, meaning that collectors would have to pick up both the Philadelphia and San Francisco coins to have a complete set.

It gets worse: The authorization for the Oregon Trail commemoratives stated a mintage of “not more than six million” pieces, a quotation that is often highlighted; more disturbingly, the authorization did not specify where and when the pieces would be struck. It was a loophole big enough to drive a Conestoga wagon through, and the Oregon Trail Memorial Association, beneficiaries of the proceeds from the Oregon Trail halves, took full advantage.

Their initial request for 1927-dated Oregon Trail halves was rebuffed, since the 1926-S issue had not sold out. Still, the Association persisted, and in 1928 they wheedled another batch of half dollar strikings out of Philadelphia; the Treasury blocked these from release, however, until the 1926-S coins sold out. The 1928-dated coins stayed in limbo for five years, until the remaining stock of 1926-S pieces was melted, creating an artificial “sellout.”

It gets worse: Under the influence of a new distributor, Scott Stamp & Coin Company, all but about 6,000 of the 1928-dated halves were melted, and these were sold alongside a small mintage of new halves, struck in 1933 at the Denver Mint. Even more small-mintage issues followed: 1934-D, 1936, 1936-S, and 1937-D, the last of which was sold by the Association instead of Scott.

It gets worse: In 1938 and 1939, all three mints (Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco) struck Oregon Trail halves! In the first year, there were 6,000 such sets produced, plus a handful of coins for assay, or silver content testing; in 1939, that number shrank to 3,000 sets, again plus a few assay pieces. In August 1939, legislation prohibited the striking of commemoratives first authorized in March of that year, finally putting a stop to the shenanigans.

In the end, the Oregon Trail half dollars spanned 13 years and 14 distinct issues, a longer run than some U.S. coinage denominations (the two cent piece and twenty cent piece come to mind).

The lessons learned from the exploitation of the various Mints have influenced Treasury policy regarding commemoratives ever since. While collectors usually obtain either a single Oregon Trail half for a commemorative type set or all 14 for a date set of all 144 silver commemorative issues, a “mini-set” of the 14 Oregon Trail halves is another possibility, one that has been suggested as an in-between endeavor by cleverer heads than mine.

For those willing to take on the challenge, Heritage’s September Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction and October Dallas U.S. Coin Auction are great places to start!

To leave a comment click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Isn't it funny how a bear loves honey? Buzz, buzz, buzz, I wonder why he does: Signed first edition Pooh books ready for October auction.

September 3, 2009
Posted by Noah

Who doesn't love Winnie The Pooh? Really?

If you've just raised your hand then I am sad for you, and for the cold little piece of charcoal you call a heart... Just sayin'...

There are certain pop culture tests you can use on people to find out what their personality really is, or what they would like to believe their personality is: Which Beatle would you be (I always thought of myself as George)? Which cast-member of Scooby-Doo (I think I'd probably be the van)? Which member of the Superfriends (Gleek, The Wonder Monkey)? And, of course, which character from Winnie the Pooh...

Have you answered yet? We'd all love to be Pooh. Of course we all would. I'd have to say that I'm probably more Eeyore than anything, though I find that Tigger makes me really nervous, so I'm probably more Rabbit than I want to admit... Still, Eeyore sticks with me... I find myself thinking many times a day: Somebody took my tail. How like them...

There probably aren't more than a handful of true Winnie-The-Poohs on the planet at any given time, and if they are truly Pooh, then they probably aren't aware of it themselves...

Why am I filling your time with such mundanity on this gorgeous Thursday? Well... Since you ask... I was going through the upcoming Oct. 16-17 Rare Books auction - and let me tell you, it's a mighty good one, stellar, in fact - and its superb selection of Children's literature, when this lot jumped out at me: a set of all four first edition Winnie The Pooh books signed by A. A. Milne himself.

I cannot tell you how much I would love the get these for myself, er... I mean my daughter. Barring my stumbling upon upwards of $25,000, however, I don't reckon it will happen anytime soon... Still, I can and will dream, and I can and will steal down to the secret undisclosed location of these treasures and covet them in silence for a few minutes... Yes, I firmly believe I have the best gig in this whole place...

One look at the lot descriptions and pictures of the books themselves and you can see this is a tremendous grouping, and a rare one at that...

So, be honest now... Which character would you be?

To leave a comment, and to tell me which Milne creation you would be, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Put me in coach! Landry's Fedora(!) part of October Sports Auction

Sept. 2, 2009
Posted by Noah

In the second episode of the eighth season of The Simpsons, "You Only Move Twice," Homer is offered a job at The Globex corporation, working for a seemingly benign boss, Hank Scorpio, in the bucolic little burg of Cypress Creek. It turns out Scorpio is bent on world domination, but that takes a backseat to Homer's problems concerning his family's homesickness for Springfield. In fact, I'm getting choked up thinking about it...

It's one of my favorite episodes for many reasons, not the least of which is that Homer manages to do what so many great supervillains have not managed to do in more than 40 years; that is, stop James Bond. "I stopped a a slacker at work today," Homer tells his dejected family.

What I really love this episode for, besides Albert Brooks' awesome voicing of Scorpio ("You have 72 hours to deliver the gold!") and remedial kid Gordy in Bart's class who is in the class for no other reason than he is Canadian and speaks with an accent (I'm laughing as I write this just thinking about it) is that Homer, in order to motivate his workers to get the nuclear reactor online in time reveals to Scorpio that he has always dreamed of coaching the Dallas Cowboys, and subsequently buys a Tom Landry signed fedora for use as a motivational tool. Hilarity ensues...

All of that is a long way to get to the fact that you can have your own Homer/Scorpio moment this fall as a Tom Landry game-worn fedora, sported regally on the sidelines of Texas stadium during the 1980s by the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach, will be up for auction as part of the Oct. 1-2 Signature® Sports Memorabilia Auction.

The hat is just part of an impressive trove of Cowboys' memorabilia that will certainly have die-hards of America's Team keenly attuned to the early October event at Heritage's Uptown Dallas headquarters. Tom Landry represents everything hallowed about the glory days of the 1970s Cowboys and there was no symbol more emblematic of those amazing '70s teams than Landry's iconic fedora.

Along with Coach Landry's stylish 7-3/8s Churchill, Ltd. Gray hat, Heritage will also be offering a 1970s-era Coach Landry game-used clipboard complete with handwritten plays and coaching whistle, making a complete suite of game-used Landry memorabilia and an enticing grouping for any coach or fan aspiring to the greatness achieved by Dallas's favorite head coach.

A game-used jersey worn by Roger Staubach and an early 1990s game-used uniform from Troy Aikman - easily the two most-beloved Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks - are being offered in compliment to the Landry lots, and will be yet another reason for Cowboy fans to keep a close eye on the early October auction.

The Staubach jersey is from the early '70s. It's a version of the dark blue uniform worn by the cowboys mostly as road-jerseys during that part of the decade. My mother always insisted that the Cowboys would lose when they wore those jerseys, and I don't remember her being wrong. Ever. Since the dark blue jerseys were worn with much less frequency than the home white there is much less wear and tear on this shirt than you might otherwise find, which makes it all the more desirable.

Troy Aikman's circa 1992 game-used uniform comes to Heritage in fantastic shape and is a hard-to-find relic from the beginning of the 1990s Cowboy dynasty, of which Aikman was arguably the biggest part. Aikman may well be the one Cowboy player able to rival Staubach in terms of fan adoration. This uniform bears the battle scars of those intense 1990s-era battles that saw the team dominate like no other.

Yes, you too can own a Landry hat and motivate your employees like Homer did. If, by wearing it, you can help your employer take over the world, then good for you! You'll probably benefit greatly from your actions, though I can't guarantee that you'll be given - as Scorpio rewarded Homer - the Denver Broncos. I can guarantee, however, that, just like Homer, you'll be equally disappointed it's not the Cowboys...

Marge: I think the Denver Broncos are pretty good...
Homer: Oh... You don't understand.

To post a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In praise of Commander Lovell: The astronaut as philosopher, Oct. 8, at Heritage

Sept. 1, 2009
Posted by Noah

Just read this:

"Well my first chance was interrupted by CSQ requesting a fuel cell purge. Lift off was great... Plenty of engine noise, little vibration - but a definite knowledge of moving up... As the acceleration built up, the horizon came into view - absolutely beautiful - black sky - bright blue band around the horizon and dazzling white clouds... Spacecraft separation accomplished and commencing the turn around... we see sitting majestically behind us - the second stage of the booster. Brilliant silver in the sunshine - venting fuel that forms a million stars around it...

"I can't get over the beauty of the earth from here (a 121-171 orbit). Sunsets are fantastic - all shades of blue... 0g is amazing - I wonder if I will get used to 1g when I get back to earth? This book just floats in front of me when I let go of it...

"Tonite (sic) - flight called up to ask if we wanted to abort the mission... As we were deciding whether to land tomorrow or go to Saturday - the lite(sic) went out and decided it for us. Yes - there is a Santa Claus."

All of the preceding comes from Commander James Lovell's (the Pilot Lovell) personal flight log written during his first space flight, Dec. 4-18, 1965, in what was at that point the longest manned space flight. It will be up for auction as part of the Oct. 8 Space Exploration event here at Heritage, and I can't tell you how much I love these sales…

The log is also, I can pretty much guarantee, the closest you will ever get that kind of amazement and insight into the inner emotional state of any early astronaut - or any astronaut of any period. It is beautiful, moving stuff, for sure; simple and unguarded. The not considered words of a poet, but those of a not-so-ordinary man bearing witness to the whole of creation as it was known - just the earth - and to the astounding possibility of the future as it was unfolding - putting a man on the moon and conquering the stars.

Gemini 7 may have gone on to be eclipsed by the Apollo missions and the successful moon shots, more than a few of which Lovell took subsequent part in. None, however, would ever turn out a piece of ephemera like this one. To think of anything associated with the space program is pretty moving, but the astronauts were not trained to be sensitive. They were trained to be analytical technocrats with infinite capability to do their jobs - and that they were - but for a few brief days, when the moon still lay unconquered and the technology to get there still just a blueprint, Lovell gave voice to the awe and wonder that the entire planet was feeling at the quest. One of the touchstones of the whole human experience is that we can bear witness to our own existence. But bearing witness to the whole of existence, the whole planet? It simply had not been done… Until Lovell took pencil to paper and wrote this extraordinary log.

This is indeed one of the most extraordinary pieces of Space Exploration that you will ever see in your life. It is singular, epic… I may not get to outer space in my lifetime, but if this is as close as I get, then I will die a happy man.

To leave comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher