The Price of Infamy
Q: I collect autographs, and a few times a year, Westchester has big autograph shows. There has been so much on television this year about O.J. Simpson, I was wondering if his autographed stuff has any value on the market, especially the stuff he signed in prison. —Jeff McCready, Pleasantville
A: JP Sports and Rock Solid Promotions is the name of the company that puts on the autograph shows in White Plains. I asked Kevin (who didn’t want to share his last name) in their office how The Juice’s stuff does here in the 914. He said, “O.J.’s items at one point went for top dollar, but they’ve come down in price. There are collectors for him, but usually it is stuff from his football career that goes for the most, not the stuff from prison.”
That opinion was confirmed by national expert Jordan Gilroy, director of acquisitions for Lelands auction house in Bohemia, NY, who told CNBC this year: “O.J. sells if it’s a game-worn item or something of importance, but his regular signed footballs, photos, jerseys, and cards are not that valuable.” Still, it is uncertain what the future will bring. In the world of collectors, the disgraced Black Sox, who threw the 1919 World Series, especially banned-for-life Shoeless Joe Jackson, command premium prices to this day.
And they didn’t even get away with murder.
Q: There was an old, beautifully painted antique advertisement on the side of what I think is an apartment building on Cortland Street in Sleepy Hollow. It has since been painted over. Do you by chance know what it was? —Roberta Alvarez, Tarrytown
A: The hand-painted sign on the side of the brick building on Cortland Street was what is known as a “ghost sign.” They are the faded ads that were hand-painted by artists called “wall dogs,” and there is a growing nostalgia for this art as they fade both literally and figuratively from our culture. The one you referred to in Sleepy Hollow had been a Coca-Cola sign.
“I remember that sign from my youth. It was faded back then, and I guess the owner wanted a fresh look for his building, so he painted over it. I think more and more people are valuing these old signs and are leaving them intact as part of the appeal of a building,” says Rob Yasinsac, who is a trustee of the Westchester County Historical Society and co-creator of www.hudsonvalleyruins.org.
Today, conservators often seek to preserve the signs, and there is even a commercial line of chemical products designed to delay the fading of the paintings. The signs were most popular in the years before the Great Depression, but they continued to be painted well into the 1960s. Often, when buildings are being demolished, previously unknown ghost signs are revealed on adjoining buildings. In some cities, there are debates about repainting versus preserving the ghost signs. Most conservators prefer preservation.
In most jurisdictions, however, ghost signs are not yet protected as a significant architectural feature.
Q: My sister and I have a debate going about when the water tower on Yonkers’ Executive Boulevard was erected. I say it was around 1975, but she insists it was much later than that, like in the mid-’80s. Can you settle the issue for us? There’s a pizza on the line. —Marty Sobinski, Yonkers
A: I hope you know what your sister likes on her pizza, because you’re going to be financing one for her.
Let’s start by saying that it kind of depends on how you define “erected.” (I just realized how much that last sentence sounded like Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky testimony.) Anyway…
My hero, Patrick Raftery at the Westchester County Historical Society, tells me planning began as early as 1978 but that the construction bids didn’t go out until 1983, likely due to some funding delays and bureaucratic red tape. Patrick also sent me a photo from the county planning department, showing the tower under construction and nearing completion in 1986.
The mayor’s office confirmed that groundbreaking took place in September 1985, and it went into service in August 1986.
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