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  370447394848: Neil Armstrong framed letter

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Author Topic:   370447394848: Neil Armstrong framed letter
stsmithva
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Posts: 1488
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-26-2010 05:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think this letter is genuine, but it's one of the stranger "Armstrong" items to appear on eBay.

It is purportedly the best-content Armstrong letter I've ever seen, a two-page summary of the facts and his emotions related to Apollo 11 (with a bonus Gemini 8 paragraph). Purportedly it was written in 1986 to encourage a sick little boy.

It is either written on his letterhead, or someone has faked that. Have we seen faked letterhead in a forgery before? It's being sold as a donated item by a charity- a legitimate one? And the signature is a huge, not-good-looking thing ten times bigger than how Armstrong signs letters.

What does anyone think of the language of the letter? I saw a couple of things I didn't think Armstrong would say.

I have a hard time believing that someone would go through the trouble of forging this, then donate it to a legit charity. I wonder if we're looking at something a father made for his son?

It ends in just a few hours and it's still at its low starting bid. Looks like most collectors are also wary- I hope there isn't a frenzy in the last few minutes.

mmmoo
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From: London, England
Registered: May 2001

posted 10-26-2010 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mmmoo   Click Here to Email mmmoo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, I agree with you on this one, I saw this letter last week and it looked very odd. Doesn't sound like Neil's words, and doesn't look Neil's usual letterhead style. Plus the signature is atypical.

If it is a forgery I am guessing that forgers have seen how much Armstrong letters have been sold for,(in many cases for more than a WSS photo) and are now faking those, including writing the entire content of the letter.

Tykeanaut
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From: Worcestershire, England, UK.
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 10-26-2010 07:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would have thought that he would have used the boy's first name if genuine, not Mr. Or perhaps at the very least the term Master?

It doesn't look right to me somehow, although I may have been duped with the signature.

manilajim
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Posts: 256
From: Bergenfield, NJ USA
Registered: May 2000

posted 10-26-2010 07:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for manilajim   Click Here to Email manilajim     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you look at the letter closely you'll notice that he repeats his famous first words as - "That's one small step for man..." - rather than "...A man...". This in no way shape or form could possibly be real.

MarylandSpace
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posted 10-26-2010 07:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Signing a letter with a giant signature appears odd, too, don't you think?

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-26-2010 08:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Neil refers to religion twice in the letter - is this normal for him? It's a beautiful piece IF it's real, which seems unlikely.

stsmithva
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Posts: 1488
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-26-2010 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The "small step" and the religious aspect were indeed the two things in the body of the letter that jumped out at me.

capoetc
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Posts: 1771
From: Newnan GA (USA)
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 10-26-2010 09:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I too had some issues with this letter:
  1. The signature looks atypical. I can't say if it is a forgery or not, but it doesn't pass the test for me.

  2. The content of the letter seems atypical. I'm sure many Armstrong letters were penned in whole or in part by secretaries, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the content of letters vary somewhat over time. Still, this one seems a bit off.

  3. The price. Anyone donating this piece would have to know that it is quite valuable if authentic, but the starting price is $100 with no reserve? One would think the person who donated it would have informed them that Armstrong letters sell in the $800-1500 or so range, and the content of this letter is quite good.
Just too many question marks on this one. I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

By the same taken, I also wouldn't send an e-mail to the seller telling them I think it is not authentic. If it's an autopen, then I can be confident in my assessment, but I can't base a suggestion to someone to re-word an auction item because I think it is atypical.

I certainly have no problem adding my warning to the ones above, though — I'd recommend staying away from it.

NJSPACEFAN
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Posts: 104
From: Princeton, NJ, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 10-26-2010 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The small steps really stand out - I remember my neighbor getting a letter from Armstrong August 1969 and he stated "my first words are in the newspapers" rather than write it; also I would think a letter of this length would have been typed by his secretary - who normally would put his initials than hers on bottom left of last page, and also type his name below where the signature would be afixed. Not keen on the signature either.

stsmithva
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Posts: 1488
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-26-2010 11:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It sold for $200- a tiny fraction of what it would have sold for if genuine, but still $200 more than someone should have paid.

mjanovec
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Posts: 3635
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 10-26-2010 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This same letter came up for auction on eBay in February 2009 and was discussed in a previous thread (though the link in that thread is no longer active). I distinctly remember this letter because of the apparently forged letterhead and the too-good-to-be-true content contained in the letter.

I don't recall, however, if this is the same seller from before.

stsmithva
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From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-26-2010 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
This same letter came up for auction on eBay in February 2009 and was discussed in a previous thread

Huh- I thought I was seeing it for the first time this morning, and now I see I commented on it back then too. That's a weird feeling.

fredtrav
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From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 10-26-2010 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As the saying goes, "It's deja vu all over again."

stsmithva
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Posts: 1488
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 09-28-2012 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by fredtrav:
As the saying goes, "It's deja vu all over again."

Indeed - the letter is back again on eBay, this time with a Buy It Now price of $1200.

Spaceguy5
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Posts: 421
From: Pampa, TX, US
Registered: May 2011

posted 09-28-2012 09:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That same seller has sold authentic space items (for example, not long ago he had some space shuttle payload bay insulation for sale). He seemed pretty friendly and reasonable when I talked to him. I wonder if he even knows that this item is a more-than-likely forgery.

davidcwagner
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Posts: 554
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 09-29-2012 12:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for davidcwagner   Click Here to Email davidcwagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am the seller. I am selling off large chunks of my space collection. Any advice on wording this auction?

I am uncomfortable selling a possible forgery but the signature looks relatively good to me. I already scared away a potential buyer (a cS member) by passing along doubts about authenticity.

On edit: If the consensus is that it is a fake letter then I will remove the auction. Any advice on an authenticator?

What's odd to me is that the "N" is a little sloppy. Would a forger have gone with the sloppy "N"? It would have been easy to make many practice copies of the second page.

A very similar autograph with the odd "N" is the 1985 Mail example here.

Update: I ended the listing. Saturday I will take more closeup pictures of the autograph and letterhead.

spaced out
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Posts: 2735
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 09-29-2012 02:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The signature just looks plain wrong overall. Lots of details that just don't match those of real signatures.

The letter content is very strange too, it doesn't sound like Armstrong at all. A few examples:

Referring to Gemini 8 - "The good lord had something to do with improving our odds." While I don't want to go into a discussion of his personal religious views I've certainly never heard Armstrong make statements like this before.

"...earthlings didn't quite get the breathtaking spectacular of it..." is not even English.

The use of emotive terms throughout seems atypical at best - "beautiful footprints", "awestruck", "excitement"... etc.

Would Armstrong, ever the realistic, pragmatic scientist, really say "I'm sure you'll get to visit the moon someday"?

The "One Small Step" quote seems to have been inserted into the text in a completely unnatural way.

Even accepting that this was supposedly addressed to a child I don't think Armstrong would have changed his whole character whilst writing a letter.

Finally, two very important points regarding Armstrong's letters: I don't think I've ever seen a letter from Armstrong that didn't have his name typed at the bottom below the signature. Also I don't remember ever seeing an Armstrong letter signed in thick black sharpie and I've never seen such a large signature. All the letters I've seen were signed in ballpoint pen.

In my opinion everything looks wrong about this piece overall and when you look in detail at each individual element it just looks worse.

spaced out
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Posts: 2735
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 09-29-2012 04:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just another point... to me this letter looks suspiciously like it's been computer printed, whereas a letter from 1986 would be typed.

This is something that could be more easily determined in person or from a high res photo.

mjanovec
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Posts: 3635
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 09-29-2012 01:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
I don't think I've ever seen a letter from Armstrong that didn't have his name typed at the bottom below the signature.

Yes, this is one of the traits about the letter that is completely wrong. A quick glance through the signature exemplars here on collectSPACE shows at least twenty typed signed letters and all of them include his typed name below the signature.

Secondly, another clue is that the letter is addressed to a PO Box. The forger didn't want to use a real street address, since that could have been researched by a potential buyer.

Finally, if this letter were genuine, it would likely sell for MUCH more...based solely on its content. In my opinion, $1200 is one of those "too good to be true" prices.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 30069
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-29-2012 02:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Were the signature authentic, and I don't think it is, I would be far more inclined to believe that Armstrong signed a blank piece of paper and someone then printed the fabricated letter afterwards.

As others have said, the content of the letter is so far removed from Armstrong's known character, that it screams counterfeit.

george9785
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Posts: 196
From: Burnaby, BC, Canada
Registered: Nov 2010

posted 11-22-2012 07:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for george9785   Click Here to Email george9785     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Profiles in History Dec. 18, 2012 Auction - Lot 9

NJSPACEFAN
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Posts: 104
From: Princeton, NJ, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 11-22-2012 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by george9785:
Profiles in History Dec. 18, 2012 Auction - Lot 9

Sent an email to Joe Maddalena at Profiles in History copying this thread.

Keith Barber
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Posts: 317
From: Warwickshire
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 11-22-2012 09:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Keith Barber   Click Here to Email Keith Barber     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Am not offering a opinion on the letter but when you watch Brian Buffini's interview with Neil Armstrong's (can see it on YouTube) it does show his descriptive manner, humour and excitement about the Apollo 11 mission. I don't think we should always think of him as a serious style introvert.

george9785
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Posts: 196
From: Burnaby, BC, Canada
Registered: Nov 2010

posted 11-22-2012 09:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for george9785   Click Here to Email george9785     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NJSPACEFAN:
Sent an email to Joe Maddalena at Profiles in History copying this thread.

I also contacted them about the item before I posted. If it's not clear to anyone though, this is not the exact letter that Wagner tried to sell on eBay recently. The signatures are identical but one is colored blue while the other is colored black.

spaced out
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Posts: 2735
From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 11-22-2012 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did say the letter looked computer printed.

Now it looks like the signature is actually part of the document and the original source of these has got himself a color printer, presumably with the money he made selling the first letter.

davidcwagner
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Posts: 554
From: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Registered: Jan 2003

posted 11-22-2012 11:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for davidcwagner   Click Here to Email davidcwagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I still have the "original" framed letter with the signature in black. The "black" and "blue" (Profiles in History version) signatures are both identical.

Robert. Do you want me to mail the letter to you? The other choice is to destroy it and reuse the frame. Please advise.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30069
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-22-2012 12:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
David, if you send it here (e-mail me for address), I'll hold onto it as part of the collectSPACE reference files, otherwise, I would think it should be destroyed.

NJSPACEFAN
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Posts: 104
From: Princeton, NJ, USA
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 11-24-2012 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NJSPACEFAN   Click Here to Email NJSPACEFAN     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apparently the letter has been pulled, not listed in the Artfact link, nor shown in his catalog. No longer a lot #9.

moorouge
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From: U.K.
Registered: Jul 2009

posted 11-25-2012 02:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just an odd thought - do you think that there will ever be a market for a 'rogue's gallery' of dubious space related autographs? Someone, somewhere might think that items that nearly/or did fool collectors might have a value as an historical record.

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