A Born Sleuth

Bill Panagopulos knows a fake when he sees one, whether it’s a very good forged signature or a reputedly authentic artifact.



(page 2 of 4)

Zeal Rooted in Childhood

Panagopulos’s father Gene, a Greek immigrant, inculcated a deep love of history in his son. Typical dinner-table conversation included such topics as a discussion of the Moorish invasion of France in 732. Gene also had a particularly strong interest in the history of his adopted homeland and took his son to visit famous battlefields: “While other kids went to Disney World, I went to Little Bighorn,” says Panagopulos.

Gene provided the seed, Ken Burns the fertilizer. After taking in the epic documentary The Civil War, codirected and produced by Burns, Panagopulos found himself one day in the early 1990s away from his job at a family-run shipping firm, poring over a collection of autographs at a store on 60th Street in Manhattan. His eyes lit upon a slender band of paper bearing the signature of William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Union leader who burned Atlanta and uttered the famous words: “War is hell.”

Price: $125.

Panagopulos made his purchase but found he couldn’t stop there. “Who was the guy who chased Sherman across Georgia? Albert Sidney Johnston, right? I had to get one of his, too.”

Johnston actually cost more, but by then it was too late: Panagopulos was hooked. He now had to have every Civil War general, North and South, even those unfortunate1 enough to die on the battlefield and make their John Hancock rarer than John Hancock’s. For example, a Stonewall Jackson signature, including his rank, cost $5,000. “That was a lot of money, and it was just one of 500 signatures I needed, if not more,” Panagopulos remembers.

To fund his burgeoning hobby, Panagopulos partnered with an autograph auctioneer in Maine who helped him find a few autographs to sell at
a profit. Then Panagopulos used the proceeds to nab his generals. Whenever Panagopulos found something promising, he’d check with his friend. A thumbs-up, and Panagopulos made the purchase.

“I’d buy it, consign it to his auction,” he says. “I always made money. I took that profit and purchased more autographs for my collection. It was self-sustaining.”

With all this buying and selling came greater expertise and interest in the deals. When a falling-out between partners had Panagopulos leave his job at the shipping firm, the autograph business was waiting.

In the decade and a half since, Alexander Autographs has emerged as one of the premier auction houses in the country for the sale of autographs and memorabilia. Some of the more famous items sold include:

  • An arrest card for Al Capone from 1930. The charge: Vagrancy. The price: $36,000.
  • A musical manuscript by Franz Schubert: $53,000.
  • A letter cosigned by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin authorizing attacks on British vessels: $85,000.
  • A signed photograph of Abraham Lincoln: $110,000.
  • A wristwatch purportedly given to Jack Kennedy by Marilyn Monroe, engraved “To Jack — With Love Always — Marilyn”: $115,000.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • The Food Network Open Casting Call for Home Cooks

    2014.10.25
     @ My Cooking Party

    FOOD NETWORK’S TOP CELEBRITY CHEFS ARE SCOURING THE NATION IN SEARCH OF AMAZING HOME COOKS! You’ve watched them on TV, bought their...

  • YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week

    2014.10.18
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week now - October 26, 2014 The YMCA of Greenwich second annual Y Harvest Art Fair kicked off Wednesday night...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Hospital Gala

    2014.10.25
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    It will be a Gala worthy of a doge when retiring Greenwich Hospital president and CEO, Frank A. Corvino, will be presented with the...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • The Wilton Fall Antiques Market

    2014.10.26
     @ Wilton High School Field House

    Barnstar Productions and the Wilton Historical Society will present the Wilton Antiques Market. More than 80 exhibitors are expected to...

  • Trunk-or-Treat For UNICEF

    2014.10.26
     @ Island Beach Parking Lot

    U.S Fund for UNICEF Greenwich Committee invites you to the 1st annual Trunk-or-Treat for UNICEF Join friends and neighbors for an afternoon of...

  • La Soirée d’ Automne at Bistro Versailles

    2014.10.27
     @ Bistro Versailles and Patisserie

    Wine dinners at Bistro Versailles are entertaining social events held on a regular basis. Socialize with friends and mingle with other attendees...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Explore the Bruce Museum

    2014.10.28
     @ Stamford JCC

    Join us at the Bruce Museum for a private tour of the inaugural showing in the U.S. of “Northern Baroque Splendor: The Hohenbuchau Collection...

  • Educational Seminar - Effective Resume Writing & Interviewing Skills

    2014.10.29
     @ Greenwich Library

    Are you sure you are putting your best foot forward in your job hunt?  What will make employers pick your resume and ask you for an interview?...

  • Meet Bestselling Author Ayelet Waldman

    2014.10.30
     @ Organic Planet

    On October 30 at 10am, JCC Greenwich will present New York Times bestselling author Ayelet Waldman, who will discuss her latest novel Love and...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Henry & Me
    Greenwich
  2. B2B Blast Off Event
    Greenwich
  3. Go For Pink
    Greenwich Avenue
  4. Joie Shopping Event
    Joie Greenwich
  5. GRTA Hunt Ball Patron Party
    Conyers Farms