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Magic of Provenance

The Artifact is the Prize,
the Provenance is the Magic that Makes it Come Alive


In the collecting world,  the first thing we all want to know is..   IS IT REAL?  IS IT AUTHENTIC?

Because after all,  that's what we invest in,  that’s what gets us excited.    If I am turned on by owning a one million dollar Honus Wagner baseball card,  its value is set by a very high level of authenticity confidence.  In other words, did it pass the most reputable authentication process?  Is there a trail of provenance?    Does it contain all the expected authentic indicators?   Do the most "gifted eyes" in the industry have any doubt of its authenticity?

Which is why provenance from the source, IF possible, is so extremely valuable.     In others words, if you bought a Babe Ruth signed baseball with a 9 graded signature for $250,000, how much would the value go up if you had a letter from the person who acquired it , in person from the Babe?      Possibly double right?

Not only because of the value of a direct link provenance , but what most collectors crave is the STORY!   Imagine a letter that accompanies that baseball where the original recipient discusses the details of his encounter with the Babe,  how did he get it, did the Babe actually talk to him, what was he wearing,  what does he remember about the Babe's mood and how he interacted with his fans?,.. did he say anything unusual?.. was he nice or grump?   Yes, the signature is of course the prize, but it is the STORY that we are mesmerized by.  It’s the Story that injects the magic that brings the prized artifact back to life!

Just like the Story Mom or Dad told us when we were 4 years old.    The public pays BILLIONS of dollars a year to hear Stories from movies, TV shows, books and even sporting events! 

Just think how many people,  have told their version of the  Superbowl?  The all have their own version depending on what side they were on...       If Tom Brady decided to do an interview discussing his side of the Story about his missing Superbowl  jersey, I bet millions of people would tune in to hear his version.     Of course we'd all have our own opinions and create our own stories of what happened.   Same thing with politics.   Depending on what side of the political spectrum you lie, your story of what happened in the 2016 Election is completely  different with the other side.. Lets face it, we ALL Love a good story.

When I am fortunate enough to meet someone who encountered a historical figure and hence acquired an autograph I jump on the opportunity to have them write a detailed letter pf provenance describing everything they remember form that historical moment, that once in a lifetime frozen moment in time they encountered greatness.    And often, the story can overshadow even the tangible artifact.  Its one thing to land an exciting authentic autograph from Frank Sinatra.  BUT, to actually meet the man and sit and talk with him for a while, is something few people alive today can claim.

Last week, I was contacted by a man who had such an extraordinary experience in 1957 , when he was 12 years old.    He was invited to see Frank Sinatra at the Sands in Las Vegas.   Mr Sinatra took TWO of the original programs for that show and signed both of them in the perfect location for this young boy .  And 60 years later that "young boy" decided to finally let them go and hence, open up the opportunity for someone else to enjoy them for a lifetime as he did     And the letter of provenance he wrote for each program is a fascinating Story that takes you back 60 years to a remarkable 20 minute frozen moment in time.   See it HERE...

I am surprised other dealers and auction houses don't take the initiative to acquire this invaluable asset, "first hand" documented provenance,  when they have the chance.  A professional COA is nice to have, but a historical letter of provenance from the original recipient, with the real life Story,  is Priceless!.    . 

Last year we had a gold money clip that was personally owned by Curly Howard of the “Three Stooges”.   The only reason it had any value was the extremely credible provenance.  The provenance is what specifically made that item worth $10,000+.  Without that trail of valuable provenance from highly credible sources, it was basically worthless.

In the end, maybe the real Holy Grail , is the Provenance!  It brings that extraordinary moment back to life for those of us that can only dream of being there...  Not often can first hand provenance be obtained.   But, when the opportunity arises, don't let it get away.  I certainly don't!

Watch out in the coming weeks for the Nationwide issue of Antique Weekly , as they will be featuring an article about Conway's Vintage Treasures and the most critical high-value-collectible's asset,  the original recipient Letter of Provenance. 

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