Edit ModuleShow Tags

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 3 of 4)

Word of Honor

Every piece of merchandise Panagopulos sells comes with a guarantee: If an item sold by Alexander Autographs proves to be inauthentic in
the buyer’s lifetime, Panagopulos will refund the money. It’s a guarantee not made by many, including auction houses Christie’s or Sotheby’s. “I’m confident in what I do,” Panagopulos says.

This approach can backfire: “I purchased a letter by Clyde Barrow [of Bonnie and Clyde fame]. It was in all respects perfect. It was a forgery that had been made by his nephew, a good forgery. I even had the lead graphite tested. It wasn’t consistent, but it could have deteriorated. Long story short,
I had to eat about $5,000. Next time I will be more careful.”
 

Panagopulos hasn’t been burned often, though. He has gotten quite familiar with many of the famous people whose signatures he collects. Abraham Lincoln, for example, had a distinct style of writing his name, including a slight elevation in the last two letters of the last name which Panagopulos refers to as “the Lincoln lift.”

With John F. Kennedy, Panagopulos can not only identify which signatures are real but also if they were signed by one of his personal secretaries, which one. “Now here are some secretarials,” he says, pulling out a trade guide. “This one, Secretary No. 1, fools a lot of people. I’m very good at Kennedy,” he adds, “and I’m very good at Hitler.”

Hitler?

He pulls out a portrait of the man, framed and signed, eyes glaring like braziers. “Concentrated evil,” Panagopulos says. “That’s a $30,000 piece.”
 

How does one explain selling memorabilia associated with such a man? Panagopulos shrugs. “You can’t ignore what he did,” he says after a pause. “But he is as much a part of history as are Mao and Stalin. Some dealers when they get his material or any Third Reich material, routinely burn it. I tell them they are out of their minds. When they burn it, there goes another vital record of the war and the Holocaust.”

He rejects the notion he trafficks in evil this way. “Whether it’s good or bad, it’s still history,” he says. “And history isn’t all Cinderella and glass slippers. There’s a lot of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, too, or just grim.”
 

Panagopulos pauses for a moment, then lets out a deep chuckle. “That’s good, put that in your article,” he says.

A scheduled hour in Panagopulos’s company can run much longer, in the same way one might click on Wikipedia.com and subsequently wile away an afternoon. Thoroughly engaged in what he’s doing, he speaks with an arsenal of unself-conscious inflections and gestures. Also, he loves to talk.
“He’s a very jovial person,” says Paul Gibson, a Tennessee-based collector of high-end Civil War items. “But if you want to see him get serious, lay a Robert E. Lee or an Albert Sidney Johnston on his desk. It’ll flip like a light switch.”

Gibson is one of many in the memorabilia business who readily speaks on Panagopulos’s behalf. James Lowe is the man whose Manhattan store supplied him with that Sherman. While Lowe can’t place the year, he still remembers the look in Panagopulos’s eyes.
“I saw that passion in him right away,” Lowe says. “His catalogs are full of good material in every category he covers, whether it’s presidents, authors or sports and rock ’n’ roll. And the professionalism. Many other auction houses don’t spend the time describing a letter from the Civil War to the extent he does. He really gives you a sense of history.”

Take James Buchanan. Our fifteenth president, best known as the guy who left Lincoln to pick up the pieces of a house divided, was not America’s finest. Biographers call him the “bachelor president,” the one about whom many speculate as to why he stayed a bachelor.

A possible answer can be found in the Alexander Autographs spring 2008 catalog. In it is a letter in which a contemporary recalls how Buchanan was devastated after a woman to whom he was betrothed committed suicide after breaking their engagement. It’s “third-party material” in the Panagopulos vernacular, priced at a modest $700 to $900, but of the kind that makes footnote reading so captivating.

“People claim he was gay, but he wasn’t,” Panagopulos states. “His girlfriend died, and he never got over it.”

The catalog also lists artifacts that reference landmark characters immortalized in popular cinema. A photograph signed by Oskar Schindler to two Jews he saved from the death camps will trigger memories with anyone who saw Schindler’s List, while Steve McQueen fans may be interested in letters written at Stalag Luft III by one of the inmates who engineered the “Great Escape.”

A letter by a Southern soldier to his lady back home notes his shocked indignation at having to fight a recent engagement against “Negroes armed with guns.” His line took no prisoners, the solder relates with satisfaction.

“I spent fifteen minutes of research, discovered it was the 54th Massachusetts, the regiment in the movie Glory, in their very first engagement of the war,” Panagopulos says. “July 16, 1863, James Island. I gave a guy $1,500 and can sell it for $3,000. All because I spent fifteen minutes researching it. It went through three hands before it got to me, and no one took the time to read it.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Greenwich Agenda

  • Cycle for Survival

    2015.03.01
     @ Equinox Greenwich

    Fight cancer this February and March by riding with Cycle for Survival, the national movement to beat rare cancers. 100 percent of every dollar...

  • ART IS LOVE

    2015.02.03
     @ C. Parker Gallery

    In keeping with the Valentine’s Day spirit, C. Parker Gallery presents a celebratory exhibit entitled ART IS LOVE. The artists featured use...

  • Celebrate! Party Showcase

    2015.03.01
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

  • Medium Circle- Contacting Sprit

    2015.03.01
     @ TBA

    Joan Carra is an acclaimed psychic medium recommended in six books.  She will be giving messages from spirit to help you find comfort and...

  • Coiled and Decorated: Native American Pottery from the Bruce Museum Collection

    2014.12.30
     @ Bruce Museum

    Generously underwritten by The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund and Gabelli Funds Over the years, the Bruce Museum has acquired a...

  • Northern Baroque Splendor. The HOHENBUCHAU COLLECTION from: LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vienna

    2014.12.30
     @ Bruce Museum

    The Hohenbuchau Collection is one of the largest and most varied collections of Northern Baroque art assembled in recent years and is now on...

  • Art Exhibit " Interiors "

    2015.01.29
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    "Interiors" featuring artists Daniel Bohman, Nicole Cohen, Echo Eggebrecht, Beth Livensperger and Roxa Smith - their visions of...

  • In Our Own Backyard - Augustus Smith and Richard Daggy

    2015.02.20
     @ New Canaan Historical Society

    A new exhibition of paintings at the New Canaan Historical Society titled:  In Our Own Backyard –  Augustus Smith and Richard...

  • Icons of the Civil Rights Movement

    2015.02.01
     @ Les Beaux Arts Gallery

    In honor of Black History Month, Les Beaux-Arts Gallery in Greenwich, is proud to present “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement,” an...

  • Family Gallery Tour

    2015.01.04
     @ Bruce Museum

    For children ages 6-10 and their families. A Museum educator will lead an interactive, discussion-based tour of the...

  • First Sunday Science at the Seaside Center

    2015.01.04
     @ Bruce Museum Seaside Center

    Programs in this series focus on an array of topics including the animals and plants of Long Island Sound and current...

  • Margaret Lanzetta - The Chanteuse and a Loaded Gun

    2015.02.28
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    The Chanteuse and a Loaded Gun                        Public invited; the event is free new paintings by Margaret...

  • YWCA Greenwich and Junior League of Greenwich Presents: A Screening of The Mask You Live In

    2015.03.03
     @ Bow Tie Cinemas

    The Mask You Live In is an exploration of young American masculinity. Compared to girls…research shows that boys in America are more likely...

  • Tuesday Todler Tours

    2015.01.06
     @ Bruce Museum

    For ages 3-5 with adult caregiverr. A Museum educator leads you on an exploration of the Museum collections and exhibitions through...

  • Women's Wellness Group

    2015.02.25
     @ Green & Tonic

    Featuring Dr. Michael Finkelstein, Jen Dorf, Head Coach, AADP and Jamie McKeown, Wellness & Education Director at Green & Tonic, please...

  • Fairfield County's Giving Day

    2015.03.05

    Fairfield County's Giving Day - bigger and better than ever! On March 5, 2015, join thousands as we celebrate local giving! Fairfield...

  • Spring Gala to benefit Kids in Crisis

    2015.03.06
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The Kids in Crisis do-not-miss event, The Spring Fling, will be held on Friday, March 6, 2015, at the Greenwich Country Club in Greenwich, CT. It...

  • Greenwich Hospital's Great Chefs to benefit Community Health

    2015.03.06
     @ Westchester Country Club

    For a fantastic Friday night out, come taste the specialties of celebrity Chefs Aaron Sanchez and Debra Ponzek, who will be honored at Greenwich...

  • Exhibit "Recent Works" by Anna BOCEK

    2015.03.07
     @ Canfin Gallery

    The faces of Anna BOCEK are memorable and dynamic. In blocks of paint she skillfully constructs a compilation of humanist musings and moments....

  • BACK TO THE BEACH

    2015.03.07
     @ YMCA of Greenwich Main Facility

    Join us for a real swingin' splash at the YMCA of Greenwich! DINNER ~ DRINKS ~ DANCING March 7th, 2015 6:30pm-11pm ...


Show More...


Moffly Media e-newsletters

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular Articles

  1. Love Bites
    10 romantic spots to toast your sweetheart on Valentine's Day
  2. An Evening Inspired by Downton Abbey
    Topping Estate on Round Hill Road
  3. Avon Red Carpet Gala
    L'escale at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor
  4. Recipe For Success
    How to change with the times while never losing sight of tradition
  5. Pickle Box Sandwich Co.
    Pickle Box Sandwich Co. opens in Greenwich
Edit ModuleEdit Module
Web Statistics