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September 23, 2012 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Dan Roam reminisces about walking into a Russian bookstore in 1993 and picking up a one-of-a-kind item...
posted by Blazecock Pileon (23 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to rain on the parade but is there a possibility the autographs might be bogus? Not as in the shopkeeper trying to pull a fast one, but perhaps the previous owners.
posted by crapmatic at 10:44 PM on September 23, 2012


In 1993, in the so-recently-former USSR? I highly doubt it. Besides, had there been any intent to capitalize on the signatures, it would have sold to someone who understood their value and would not have been sitting on a shelf like that.

Without a fully authenticated provenance, though, as a collectible its value is limited, though there are probably plenty who would buy it regardless.

I don't know when I had a chance to look at that book -- perhaps the Beloit College library -- but I devoured every page. It's gorgeous, authographed or not.
posted by dhartung at 10:56 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, it matches Neil Armstrong's signature pretty perfectly, for one, and Buzz Aldrin's matches pretty well, too. And stuff didn't get around as much in those days, let's remember.

Basically, if someone faked it, that means they had access to an original copy of Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's signatures. And maybe that could have happened... just seems a bit unlikely. If you wanted to make money selling an autographed copy of that book in 1993, I imagine you'd just fake it without a reference. But I may be wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 PM on September 23, 2012


is there a possibility the autographs might be bogus?

Sure but Occam's Razor is as she said. If they were forgers they would have been trying to sell it elsewhere not a small used book store in Russia. The signature inside the "O" is playful and not the mind of a small time thief trying to make it look official. If the shop-keeper sold it for $100 she probably bought it for $10, those are really good looking forgeries for that kind of money. It's all possible, but seems unlikely. Seems more likely there has been a lot of memorabilia passed around between American and Soviets as tokens of good will during the Cold War and these people are dieing off and their book collections filled with signatures are getting scattered to used book stores by relatives who don't know or care about collecting.
posted by stbalbach at 11:02 PM on September 23, 2012


I recently bought a first-novel by a Pulitzer Prize winner from Goodwill sight unseen for $1+sh (through Amazon rated generic "Good") and it showed up a mint first edition signed by author. It's not common but hardly rare, people die with 100s of 1000s of books and they just get tossed into the used-book system.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 PM on September 23, 2012


Maybe not *quite* One of a Kind but pretty cool, nonetheless.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:37 PM on September 23, 2012


(the book pictured in my previous quote, signed to the author, recently sold for $3883.75)
posted by ShutterBun at 11:43 PM on September 23, 2012


I find it deeply, deeply pleasing that Collins signed his name within the confines of the "O". As if it were encapsulated.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:04 AM on September 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


As an investment, he'd have done better with that original El Lissitzky “Red Wedge” poster that he went into the store to buy (if it really was an original, that is, and not a later reproduction). A copy sold at auction a few months ago for $182,500.
posted by verstegan at 12:37 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy shit.
posted by flippant at 12:54 AM on September 24, 2012


As an investment, he may have done better, but as a collector, it's best to collect what you love, and he was clearly captivated by that book.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:14 AM on September 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I must be a dirty commie, because I was more excited about the "Beat back the whites with the red wedge" poster.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:28 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a great story! A bit like stumbling across buried treasure.
posted by PhilD66 at 3:41 AM on September 24, 2012


Sadly, it's unlikely this is a unique, one-of-a-kind item, since the Apollo 13 astronauts often did mass signature sessions on limited edition items like this. Even NASA and the military turned a blind eye to this sort of commercial enterprise, considering it a perk and a way for them to build a retirement fund. But still, it's cool and fairly rare.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:48 AM on September 24, 2012


But what about the El Lissitzky poster?
posted by Flashman at 4:51 AM on September 24, 2012


A similarly-signed copy of the same book was auctioned in 2009 and reached $3800+.
posted by misteraitch at 6:14 AM on September 24, 2012


Sadly, it's unlikely this is a unique, one-of-a-kind item, since the Apollo 13 astronauts often did mass signature sessions on limited edition items like this. Even NASA and the military turned a blind eye to this sort of commercial enterprise, considering it a perk and a way for them to build a retirement fund.

This article suggests all those autographs weren't so much for retirement as life insurance.
posted by TedW at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2012


> If they were forgers they would have been trying to sell it elsewhere not a small used book store in Russia.

Just to be clear, it wasn't "a small used book store in Russia," it was one of the biggest bookstores in the country. But yeah, the point stands—there's no reason to think there's anything fake about this. Great story; thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2012


That 2009 auction also included an autographed letter from Armstrong, who apparently stopped signing autographs in 1994, so there's part of your price.

The book itself runs under three figures, depending on condition (and his jacket looked pretty rumply). No idea what it was going for back in the day.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2012


What a great story!
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2012


This is exactly why I always go into used book stores when I travel. (Well, that and the awesome bookstore cats.)
posted by JoanArkham at 10:44 AM on September 24, 2012


It's not a "used book store," it's a very large bookstore (think Barnes & Noble) that has some special items like this for sale.

Another bookstore in Moscow, which is most commonly described with the adjective “huge”. Moskovskii Dom Knigi (Moscow House of Books) ranks among the city’s favorite bookstores and it also has an extensive English literature section, which can be found on the second floor. It is mostly focused on contemporary fiction and classics. The English selection of this store is thus not limited in size, but as it’s true for most of these huge bookstore institutions, it’s a bit limited in scope. You can also find maps and Lonely Planet guides in English. Besides books, Dom Knigi also offers an audio and video section, postcards, a gift shop, some parts of the store are rented to other enterprises.

posted by languagehat at 2:07 PM on September 24, 2012


My parents commented that in '92, when they were leaving Russia, they sold *all of their belongings* for a sum that equaled $100 USD.

So - this is a respectable amount of money for '93 Russia...
posted by olya at 4:36 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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