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  264198574564: Apollo 13 flown comb

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Author Topic:   264198574564: Apollo 13 flown comb
spacehiker
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Posts: 362
From: London, UK
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posted 02-15-2019 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacehiker   Click Here to Email spacehiker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This Apollo 13 flown comb doesn't look quite right to me. What does everyone else think? eBay item 264198574564.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-15-2019 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The seller contacted me before listing on eBay asking for advice on how to sell. I had recommended consigning to an auction, but it appears his needs to sell were more immediate.

The presentation is similar in style to other Apollo 13 flown items gifted on behalf of the crew, e.g. this utility light cord given to Paul Weitz and this eyepiece given to John Young.

SkyMan1958
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posted 02-15-2019 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As mentioned by Robert, the presentation looks right.

One thing that I would point out is that both Charlie Duke's and Dick Gordon's Apollo flown combs have come to auction at Heritage, and both those combs are curved. They are however made by two different manufacturers, so it wouldn't be surprising if there was at least one other manufacturer of combs for missions, and that manufacturer could have gone with a straight backed comb.

You can find images of Charlie's and Dick's combs in Heritage's auction archives.

capoetc
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Posts: 2117
From: McKinney TX (USA)
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 02-15-2019 07:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The story certainly could be legit, but I would not be comfortable with the provenance as it stands.

As a minimum, if you are interested in buying this item, contact the seller for more information (like, why would Mattingly give the comb to his mother, was she a friend, co-worker, doctor, something else?).

If you are satisfied with the story, ask if the seller will be willing to include a signed and notarized statement including a picture of the item and everything he knows about the chain of custody.

Unless he has a letter of some kind from Mattingly, or unless you can get in touch with Mattingly and get him to certify its authenticity, the provenance of this item will likely always be somewhat weak.

Chuckster01
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From: Orlando, FL
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posted 02-16-2019 06:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chuckster01   Click Here to Email Chuckster01     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The provenance of this item would seem to be great compared to many items that have sold recently especially the Apollo 17 flown flags with a photocopy of the Cernan and Evans Letter.

So many items being sold at auction with no, fake or questionable provenance and none if it seems to effect the selling price. Not sure it matters anymore.

rgarner
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From: Shepperton, United Kingdom
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posted 02-16-2019 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for rgarner   Click Here to Email rgarner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is an old saying where I come from, "out of a fools arse pours gold".

I've seen some shocking buys in my time and one very big one recently where people just did not think to question the authenticity or conduct any due diligence, whether that is inexperience or ignorance I'm not sure, but foolish nonetheless.

But with that said we all know that authenticity for a lot of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo pieces can sometimes be loose. In such instances we're obliged to piece together the story ourselves and fill in the blanks. A little bit of detective work can pay off.

When I look at pieces like this, I think to myself how easy it would be to fake and whether it would be worth someone's time to do so. Forgers generally have little knowledge of the hobby they're faking and so often stick to things like flags, etc. which even most laymans can understand without any significant thought. This seems like a very unlikely thing to fake and it does fit with other pieces from the era (as shown by Robert above). I'd err on the side of it being real, but that is just my opinion.

It all comes down to finding the backstory, proving what can be proven and then being willing to assign a dollar amount to it based on those findings. Tt present, $3000 is significantly higher than anyone in the know would pay for this, but then out of a fools arse pours gold so who knows.

capoetc
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From: McKinney TX (USA)
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posted 02-16-2019 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I find it interesting that this comb is being presented to Ken Mattingly presumably by the Apollo 13 crew. But Mattingly wasn't just any astronaut... he was, of course, a member of the crew until 3 days before the launch. It seems that maybe the crew would take the time to actually sign the plaque on the presentation rather than just using their machine-generated signatures. It is hard to tell if the name plaque is made of metal or paper, though — if it is metal then the machine signatures would make more sense.

That certainly does not mean that the item is not authentic and as described, but it is interesting to note.

As a semi-famous reality show star once said, "giclee" is French for "not an original painting." In this case, "possibly flown" is French for "not flown." Unless, of course, you can build a strong case through the seller. Getting that case built during the sale process right now is the only way this item will ever be considered authentic (if it is even possible to get to that point). If the item is sold without getting that sorted out first, then it will always have to settle for the moniker "possibly flown" unless you can get Mattingly himself to vouch for it, and given past experience with other astronauts that outcome is unlikely since the item was not under his control.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-16-2019 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that getting a letter of provenance from the seller is a good idea in order to document the chain of ownership.

Given what we can discern from the plaque's appearance though, I feel fine accepting the comb as flown — if and until evidence is presented to the contrary.

The plate attached to the plaque is engraved with the astronauts' dedication and signatures. The font and style of the signatures are a match for the other known examples of Apollo 13 crew-gifted plaques, as is the treatment of the wood and mounting. Those details are not simple, nor inexpensive to fake such that they would pass a careful inspection.

It is a very good idea for collectors to be diligent in their pursuit of provenance, but degrading an item's status because of a desire for more provenance is not always the best or most appropriate approach.

capoetc
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From: McKinney TX (USA)
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posted 02-16-2019 08:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Accepting an item as flown based upon weak evidence may not be the wisest approach, either.

I suppose the market will decide if this item warrants a premium based upon the current state of provenance.

rgarner
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From: Shepperton, United Kingdom
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posted 02-17-2019 03:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for rgarner   Click Here to Email rgarner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well apparently it has bids. I checked in with the story and apparently he doesn’t want to approach Mattinglt for a COA. The responses as a whole just seemed very suspicious to me.

spacehiker
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From: London, UK
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posted 02-17-2019 04:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacehiker   Click Here to Email spacehiker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One of the concerns I initially had was it was an eBay seller with absolutely no feedback. He has also provided no background on why Ken Mattingly gave this to his mother. There are a number of red flags to me although I appreciate it is similar in design to other genuine Apollo 13 presentations.

I think the question also needs to be posed why has he offered such an item on eBay when he is likely to achieve a better sale price via auction or even via this forum.

Chuckster01
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From: Orlando, FL
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posted 02-17-2019 06:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Chuckster01   Click Here to Email Chuckster01     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To those who do not look at detail (explaining my sarcastic remarks), the listing is so wrong in so many ways.

There is of course the connection between his mother and Mattingly! And why would he give this away? But most of all the plaque was not damaged in a hurricane!

Wood may be damaged by hurricanes, not metal and it is obvious that wood and cloth patch have no damage front or back. That metal label has been peeled off of this or another display. It did not fall off it was pried off and damaged as a result of that.

The comb and the patch are very cheap items and it is the attached metal ID that gives the provenance and that is the only piece that has been obviously altered. (I have no idea why.)

I can think of no reason to peal off the dedication and then glue it right back in the same place and once it has been tampered with the question of why should always come up.

I would never allow this item to be listed in the American Space Museum auction nor would I ever speculate it is authentic in any way. Always look at the details and ask the hard questions. You're spending a lot of money. Buyer beware.

Jonnyed
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From: Dumfries, VA, USA
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posted 02-17-2019 07:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not to mention that (beware, snark ahead) the seller can't even get the quote right in his item description, and apparently doesn't know Jack's last name.

Buyer beware, indeed.

rgarner
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From: Shepperton, United Kingdom
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posted 02-17-2019 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for rgarner   Click Here to Email rgarner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I asked if the seller could get a LOA from Mattingly he replied saying "I don't want to ask him" and then advised me to do it myself. If there is ever a red flag, it is that.

But I suppose the easy way to find out is to ask Mattingly. Apparently this was given as a gift only a few years ago, that isn't something you forget.

MrSpace86
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From: Gardner, KS, USA
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posted 02-17-2019 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Three of the four astronauts involved in this are still alive; wouldn't be hard to ask one of them at a show/appearance.

spacehiker
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From: London, UK
Registered: Aug 2009

posted 02-18-2019 01:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacehiker   Click Here to Email spacehiker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Chuckster01:
I can think of no reason to peal off the dedication and then glue it right back in the same place and once it has been tampered with the question of why should always come up.
Chuck's comments made me want to look into the plaque further.

I've had a closer look at the plaque, zoomed in and enhanced it with a photo program and it appears the circular mark just under Jim Lovell's signature has been made from the underside of the plaque. Rather than a from the front dent it appears that the metal has been pushed up and dented from the underside. That simply could not have happened if the plaque had not been removed. The other ridges on the plaque also indicate that it has been prised off. Potentially the circular mark could result from a sharp mark (such as a screwdriver) being used to prise the plaque off.

Chuck raises an interesting point, why would the plaque have been prised off? The most likely explanation seems to be that the plaque has been removed from something else and added to this display. It just does not add up.

garyd2831
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From: Syracuse, New York, USA
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posted 02-18-2019 07:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While it could be "real," my philosophy is without a traceable serial number to an official manifest and/or an astronaut signing it with "flown" status inscribed (and preferred photo of them signing it), there is really no absolute proof in my opinion to attest to it's flown status.

That is why I haven't added any "flown" Apollo 8 or 13 checklist pages to my collection. Because 95% of them only have the astronaut's signature without the magical words of "flown" being strapped to it. I don't care how many photos a person has showing what appears to be that page being removed from its original binder that has "flown" inscribed on the cover.

Personally, anything I would purchase from an astronaut either directly or consigned would need to have the provenance hand inscribed by them or no sale. There is no way to guarantee the comb in question has flown unless an astronaut from that mission is willing to state that it was and provide definite proof to the item. In this case of the comb, it doesn't state who's comb it was? As far as we know, it could be a comb that someone purchased at a drug store, mounted to this plaque, added a patch and paper document claiming "flown" status. If you like, I could have 10 flown comb presentations from Apollo 11 by this afternoon for anyone interested in purchasing "flown" items... oh, and they would look just like this one too. This is only my opinion to this topic.

On the other side, I could see it a nice gag gift to be given to Ken who lacks the abundance of hair that a comb would be needed for.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 02-18-2019 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garyd2831:
If you like, I could have 10 flown comb presentations from Apollo 11 by this afternoon for anyone interested in purchasing "flown" items... oh, and they would look just like this one too.
Or 10 "flown" flags....

Glint
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From: New Windsor, Maryland USA
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posted 02-18-2019 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
The presentation is similar in style to other Apollo 13 flown items gifted on behalf of the crew, e.g. this utility light cord given to Paul Weitz and this eyepiece given to John Young.
Were these two plaques presented at the same time? I noticed that their patches are different. (Zoom in and look at the stitching for the Earth, or the gap size between the right horse's nose and the sunray.)

randyc
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From: Chandler, AZ USA
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posted 02-19-2019 07:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randyc   Click Here to Email randyc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The seller ended the auction.

randyc
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From: Chandler, AZ USA
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posted 02-19-2019 07:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randyc   Click Here to Email randyc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Either they withdrew the item because of the questions regarding its authenticity or someone made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Ronpur
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From: Brandon, Fl
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posted 02-19-2019 07:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I kind of wish this had been real. I can imagine the crew giving Ken a comb as a joke tribute. He didn't have much need for a big comb.

spaced out
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From: Paris, France
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posted 02-20-2019 05:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion this piece is consistent with an Apollo 13 flown item presentation and the comb is likely flown.

However, personally I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on a piece like this based only on the idea that it is 'likely' flown. For this particular item I'd definitely want to talk to Ken Mattingly to see if he recognized it and the story behind it.

These post-flight presentations were clearly put together in a spirit of fun and sharing, and no thought was given to preserving their provenance by signing them by hand or by including signed letters with them.

In lucky cases they were gifted to astronauts who subsequently recorded their provenance but there are almost certainly others out there that will simply be in regular private hands. When these eventually turn up on the secondary market they'll face the same doubts as this comb. And yes, it would be relatively easy for someone to put together a fake presentation in this style and pass of an ordinary item as flown.

All times are CT (US)

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