Signature Showcase

Signature Showcase

From the first time I heard that deep baritone honk I was in love. Gerry Mulligan’s smooth, cool sound still has me hooked on west coast jazz. Any of the piano-less quartet stuff he did with Chet Baker or Art Farmer is pure gold, in my opinion. 1959’s “What Is There To Say?” is not only my favorite album of those quartets, but is also in my top 10 all-time favorite jazz albums. As is another album of Gerry’s, “The Age Of Steam” from 1971.

The first copy of Gerry’s autograph I was able to purchase took some time to find. I had only seen one or two and they were a large (and poorly) signed album cover and a typed signed letter, which still occasionally pops up on eBay, that was more than I wanted to spend. Since snagging that first one, I’ve acquired two more and have seen several other nice ones. Like Dizzy Gillespie, I will undoubtedly acquire more for the right price.

mulligan-1_zpscinyutlpThe first and favorite of my three. It’s the only one with his name signed all on one line. At about the size of a business card, it fit my size requirements and was successfully pulled out of an autograph album. It ended costing me the equivalent of about $80. It was originally from England and the auction was in British Pounds.

mulligan-2_zpspsvafvisThis one I scored for a whopping $5! I wasn’t sure on the size, but it was too nice of a signature to pass up at that price. It turned out to be just small enough.

mulligan-3_zps5za4yn9wThe newest edition was another cheap find. At $15, including shipping, it was a steal in my opinion. I had thought that it was a bit smaller than it actually was. I was worried when I got it that it would be be too big to trim down, but I made it fit.

If you’re in the market for a Mulligan signature, my advice is be patient and don’t overspend.  Nice, clean ones have started to pop up more frequently.  Gerry passed away in 1995 so his autograph isn’t too rare, which is nice if you’re on a budget.  Be weary however, because you’ll most likely be bidding against me!  😉

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Signature Showcase

Signature Showcase

The idea of an autograph collection came from my Grandmother.  She sold traveler’s insurance in a kiosk at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  It wasn’t too long after she was hired that she noticed the occasional celebrity or politician and decided she’d start up an autograph album.  She had the signature of either John or Bobby Kennedy, I just don’t remember which one.  I don’t know whatever happened to that book, but it would be really cool to flip through it now and see who’s in there.

When I acquired my first jazz autograph (Duke Ellington) and saw that it had likely been cut out of an album page similar to the one I imagined my Grandmother to have had, it clicked.  At the time I was fed up with the current state of the sports card industry.  When I was a kid, there were 3 card companies and collecting your favorite player was pretty easy.  Nowadays, there are far too many to count.  Not to mention all of the parallels and memorabilia.  It’s ridiculous that in 2014, Mariners rookie Mike Zunino had 179 cards.  I don’t even want to look up how many somebody of Derek Jeter’s caliber had.  Though I still have a soft spot for my Mariners, and a handful of cyclists and wrestlers, I sold or traded off the rest.  It was going to be jazz signatures in my collecting spotlight from then on.

That was 8 years ago.  Today, I’ve surpassed 50 sigs and continue to hunt and search for my favorites.  There are still some heavy hitters out there that I don’t have or that I may never have because of rarity or price or fear of counterfeits, like Miles Davis or John Coltrane, but I still entertain the idea.

When I started, I set some guidelines to follow.  First: Only small signatures.  Nothing bigger than a traditional trading card.  I wanted to have as many authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA as I could and because everything has to match or I’d go crazy, I wanted them all to be in the standard sized slab.

Second: Clean signatures.  By that I mean several different things.  Nice, legible, non-smeared.  Also, clean as in a solid color background.  I didn’t want anything so busy that the autographs would get lost.

Third (and most important): Try to stay under $100.  I’ve had to pass on some really nice ones to uphold that guideline.  I have gone over, but only twice.  I would very willingly go over, way over, for the 4 or 5 sigs at the top of my wishlist.  You’d think names like “Bix”, “Fats” and “Jelly Roll” would be up there, right?  Sure, but I’d be over the moon with delight if I could ever find another Joe Gordon.  I’ve only ever seen one and I passed on it because it was in a program with a dozen or so other signatures and waaaaay out of my price range at the time.

That’s enough history for now.  Let’s get to the good stuff!

I figured I should lead off this series on autographs with the namesake of this page and my personal favorite, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.  I have 8 autographs of Dizzy, 6 of them authenticated by PSA/DNA.

gillespie-1“To Jason, Be Bop.  Dizzy Gillespie ’84”.  Imagine my surprise when I found this.  After hunting for a signature of Diz, that fit all of my guidelines, for quite some time and finally finding one AND IT’S PERSONALIZED TO ME!  Well, okay, not to ME, but boy do I benefit by also being named “Jason”.  I snagged this as fast as I could and at $35 it was a steal!  It is pretty much my favorite thing I own!

gillespie-2Razor Masterpiece 1 of 1.  Slabbed by Beckett.

gillespie-3This was a W.C. Handy first day cachet that I trimmed down.

gillespie-4I picked this one up for 2 reasons.  The inscription and the date.  Both were different than anything else I had.

gillespie-5This was a postcard that I trimmed down.

gillespie-6Notice the lack of inscription or date, which led me to acquire this one.

gillespie-7The scribble to start the “D”, the breaks between the “Y” and “G” and the “S” and “P”, and the fact that it was really small led me to not really like this one that much.  The price was right though so I figured I’d have it authenticated and then turn around and sell it, doubling my money.  However, before I could do that a sport card forum acquaintance, who dabbles in custom card making, offered to help.  I liked the end result enough to keep it.  The card design is loosely based on 1981 Topps Basketball, in case anyone was wondering.

gillespie-8This one was actually purchased for another signature (James Moody) that was also on the back of what used to be an LP cover.  I have no idea if Diz signed through the red stamp or if someone stamped through his signature.  Either way, it’s distracting.  I also don’t care for that crazy tail on the “P”.

All, but one, of these autographs I’ve been able to pick up for $50 or less.  If you do your homework and you’re patient, you can usually find a pretty sweet deal!

Eight is not enough!  I’d love to own every Dizzy signature ever, but know that’s not possible.  I always have my eye out for others that I can add for the right price.  My dream piece, or pieces rather, would be a signed “The Cool World” LP cover and/or a dual signed (with Count Basie) “The Gifted Ones” LP cover.  Two of my favorites for sure.

The Well Traveled Art Farmer

The Well Traveled Art Farmer

 

Back in January, I purchased an autographed Art Farmer LP on eBay. It was a fantastic looking example and on top of that the seller was a reputable guy from St. Louis, whom I’d purchased from before. He notified me of shipping and gave me the tracking number all within a few hours and also left me positive feedback. Exactly all the things, as a buyer, that I want out of an eBay transaction.

Thanks to the “My USPS” app, 3 days later I got an alert on my phone that it was “out for delivery” and then later another one saying it was “delivered to front porch”. The rest of the work day flew by and I started my bike ride home eagerly anticipating opening my package. When I got home, I grabbed the rest of the mail from the box and made my way down our long, shared driveway. As I approached our house I noticed that there wasn’t anything on the front porch. I looked all around to see if it was hidden or in a different spot than odd-sized items are usually left, but no dice. I wasn’t really concerned because I thought that my roommate and coworker must’ve come home at lunch, which he does all the time, and grabbed it off the porch and took it inside. I let myself in to again find nothing. Not on the dining room table, or as we call it “the post office” because that’s where we sort out and leave everyone in the house’s mail, not upstairs by my bedroom door, not downstairs, not anywhere. Now I was concerned. I went to the USPS website to double check the tracking number and that’s when I saw it. It went out for delivery and was delivered to the front porch…… of a house in Van Nuys, California.

I immediately emailed him and brought this to his attention. I asked if maybe he mixed up the tracking numbers or possibly mislabeled the packages and I would eventually receive the one destined for the person in Van Nuys. He responded back later in the evening saying that he had accidentally put the wrong address on my package, but had emailed the person my LP was delivered to and they would be mailing it back to him. He said he’d email me once he received it back and once again after that to give me the new tracking number.

A couple of days passed and I didn’t hear back. I resisted the urge to email him. I told myself to take him at his word and trust that he would do what he said he would. After a full week I checked the original tracking number just to see if it was still valid because I wanted to know where my stuff was. Come to find out it was! It took 5 days for the person in Van Nuys to return the package to the post office, but the return had started, the LP was moving. Little did I know, that even now on the tenth day since purchasing, I still wasn’t half way done waiting for my package.

Most of the problem had to do with the Hazelwood, Missouri post office. Screw up once? That’s okay. Twice? What the hell?! Three times? Sorting, scanning and reading shouldn’t be in your job description. What a bunch of hillbillies.

Listed below is straight from the USPS tracking, with the approximate miles
traveled added. Notice the giant clusterfuck in the middle where the Hazelwood post office not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES sent the package off to an incorrect destination.

St. Louis, Missouri to Hazelwood, Missouri ~20 miles
Hazelwood to Van Nuys, California ~1850 miles
Van Nuys to Hazelwood ~1850 miles

Hazelwood to Bell Gardens, California ~1840 miles
Bell Gardens to Hazelwood ~1840 miles
Hazelwood to Des Moines, Iowa ~340 miles
Des Moines to Hazelwood ~340 miles
Hazelwood to Bell Gardens, California ~1840 miles
Bell Gardens to Hazelwood ~1840 miles
Hazelwood to St. Louis ~20 miles

St. Louis to Hazelwood ~20 miles
Hazelwood to Federal Way, Washington ~2090 miles
Federal Way to Issaquah, Washington ~30 miles
Issaquah to my house ~7 miles

~13,927 total miles over 34 days

It was delivered on a Saturday while I was out on a bike ride. Again, thanks to
the USPS app, when I stopped at the market to buy some salad fixings I got the alert. I tried to not get too excited. I didn’t want to get home and be disappointed again. My worry was that it was cursed and now it was going to be the wrong album. I was thinking of all kinds of doomsday scenarios on the last leg of my ride home. When I pulled into the driveway, I saw it there sitting on the bench by the front door. As I opened it I was finally able to breathe easy as it was the correct album, undamaged, with the signature intact.

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A normal person would have stopped right there, but I’m not that kind of guy. Three quarters of my jazz autograph collection has been authenticated by PSA/DNA, the world’s leading third-party authentication service for autographs and memorabilia (cheap plug). With Art Farmer not being a household name or headline performer like a Dizzy Gillespie or a Miles Davis, I had to work with PSA to get them to do their homework and add him to the list of autographs they would accept.  Along with Art, I got them to also add James Moody, Arturo Sandoval & Chick Corea.  You’re welcome fellow jazz autograph hunters.  Also, as I write this, they are currently working on adding Dexter Gordon and Benny Golson, thanks to me. 🙂

When I got the green light from them on adding those names to their index, I sent off an order of 5 signatures for authentication and encapsulation. Along with Art Farmer went James Moody, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins. I paid extra for the 5 business day turnaround time instead of the normal 20 business day option. By my best guess I figured I’d have them back in 10 to 14 days. I would have had them back on the 13th day, had everything gone according to plan, but I would have to wait an agonizing 9 more days until I finally had them back in hand on the 22nd day.

As I’ve done this quite a few times, I knew after my card was charged that my order was done and would be mailed back the following the day. I thought it was weird that I didn’t get the shipping notice through my trusty USPS app the next day. Or the next. Or the next. What I got was the email invoice from PSA/DNA. The invoice usually comes several days later after payment & shipment, as this one did. However, I don’t think there has been a time where I didn’t already have my items back in my possession when the invoice arrived. I started to worry. I reviewed the invoice and caught the minor, but huge, mistake. I live on 247th, but the address on the invoice said 24th. This was just after 6pm on a Friday. PSA was closed for the weekend, so I couldn’t call and get the tracking number, and the post office was closed for the night, so I couldn’t go down there and try to locate it. There was nothing I could do but try and control my nervous energy and laugh at the thought that it was actually cursed.

First thing Saturday morning I headed for my local post office armed with a print out of the invoice I was sent with the incorrect address, a piece of my mail with my correct address and my driver’s license. I was the 3rd person in line when they opened. When I got up to the clerk, I explained my situation and said I didn’t have the tracking number, but that I believed this must have gone out for delivery, or tried to be delivered, with the last 2-3 days. Also, since the address as it was listed didn’t exist, I’d hoped it would have set off a red flag or something and it would be kicked into an undeliverable bin. Having worked at an airport and having knowledge of how the belt system works, I think the post office must be really similar. She had me write down my name, actual address, incorrect address and anything I knew of the senders address and then she disappeared into the back.

The longer she was back there the less I thought she would emerge with it. That held true when she reappeared with nothing in her hands. She did explain though, that she talked to the route supervisor and that if my package popped up today they would get it on the right truck and hopefully out to me. I left disappointed but felt a bit better knowing they had my correct address now. I rode home and continued riding around home waiting to see the mail truck hoping my package would be on it. It wasn’t.

Monday morning at 7am, I called PSA and got my tracking number. I was at work, in a room full of crazy, barking dogs so I didn’t fully explain my situation at that time. The first chance I got I checked the tracking and found out that it had originally gone out for delivery on the previous Wednesday and was returned to sender on Saturday at 8:44am, 16 minutes before I walked in the door when they opened. Chances are it was still there, sitting a truck, waiting to go, but I just missed it that day. The tracking hadn’t updated since that return to sender entry so on my lunch break I rode down to the post office and had them check once again now that I had the tracking number. They confirmed that it had gone back.

I called PSA back and explained to them what was going on. This whole time I was under the impression that I must have dropped the “7” off the end of my street number when filling out my submission paperwork, but they said otherwise. Apparently it was their shipping department that committed the error. I was told that once they received the package they would email me and get it right back out to me the same day. I added the tracking number to my USPS app and settled back into the waiting game.

Thursday afternoon the tracking finally updated when it reached Anaheim,
California. The following morning it went out for delivery and was received bright and early. On my lunch break I figured I would be pro-active and call them and see if I could bump up my return shipping to hopefully get them sent overnight. I figured I would rather pay more to get them back quicker and end my headache and worry versus waiting another weekend and into the first of the week. I talked to the same customer service representative that I had reached on Monday. She confirmed they had received my package, but the shipping coordinator wasn’t in the office at that time so she transferred me to her voicemail. I left a message with all of the basic info and hoped to get a return call sooner rather than later because I knew we were going to be up against time restraints to get it out overnight. By 1pm I still hadn’t heard back so I called back. This time she was out to lunch. I was starting to get a little annoyed.

She finally returned my call at 3:50pm while I was 20 minutes into my bike ride home. Upon arriving home I listened to her voicemail confirming they had it and would send it out first thing Monday morning as 2 day priority, meaning I wouldn’t get it until Wednesday. I immediately called her back and got to actually speak with her this time. I asked if it were possible to do overnight delivery and said I’d obviously pay the difference. I heard her type away and then she asked if I could receive FedEx at my house. I said “yes”. She confirmed she could send it overnight, with Saturday morning delivery. I said “Yes, please. Let’s do it. How much?” She tells me since it was their mistake, this would be on them and they’d refund my original $18.00 shipping. Wow! I thanked her and after confirming my address, hung up. A few minutes later she emailed me not only the tracking number, but the entire package label. At 11:00am, on the nose, the next morning the FedEx van pulled into my driveway. Finally, the adventure was over.

Below is the path it traveled with the estimated miles traveled.

Home to Newport Beach, California ~1200 miles
Newport Beach to home ~1200 miles
Home to Newport Beach ~1200 miles
Newport Beach to home ~1200 miles

~4800 total miles and 22 days

That’s a grand total of ~18727 miles traveled over a 56 day span.

I was curious to see how much the shipping would have been had I actually paid for it. I entered the dimensions and weight of the box plus the fact that I wanted overnight shipping with Saturday morning delivery and it ended up being in the $80 to $90 range! Crazy.

Cursed or not, I’m proud to own it and happy to tell it’s story, but never will it
leave my possession again!

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