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Authenticity is by far the most important thing. If a guitar is presented as being personally owned by John Lennon, then that ought to be accurate; otherwise it’s somewhat worthless. A $500 guitar is worth $200,000 if it’s Lennon’s. The question is: how can one make the judgement and determine if it’s authentic, or not? Well, the provenance is fundamental in terms of various items that’s been owned by certain historical people. The provenance of an item shows the history and lets us know how the guitar has been transferred from John Lennon into today’s current owner. To strengthen the provenance, it’s necessary to have it documented with a so-called letter of provenance. The more detailed, the better! An even more solid provenance would include a photograph of Lennon using that very guitar. A good quality photograph would also show the wood fiber of the guitar as well as its condition, which would support the authenticity even more as every vintage guitar is unique.

In terms of handwritten and signed material, the provenance isn’t necessary to determine the authenticity. It helps, of course, but it’s not needed. With handwriting, it’s more of a science. At Alexander Bitar History, we work with world-leading experts of specific fields to establish a signed and dated letter of authenticity from the expert in question. For example, a handwritten and signed John F. Kennedy letter would benefit with a letter of authenticity from Mr. John Reznikoff – the world-leading authority of presidential handwriting; and handwritten lyrics by Paul McCartney to a Beatles song would benefit with a letter of authenticity from Mr. Frank Caiazzo. The list goes on.

And then there’s a third category. Items of which the authenticity can’t be determined by a letter of provenance. The only way of really telling if it’s authentic or not is to study the item in-person. The best example would be a Nobel Prize medal. To determine the authenticity of a Nobel Prize medal, one must study the medal in-person to ensure that the size, weight, material, patina, etc., is correct. Of course, if the item is accompanied with the original Nobel Prize diploma and the original medal box, then that helps out. But the item must be studied in-person by someone with great knowledge. If one can get a statement from The Nobel Foundation, then that’s very positive. In short, the more documentation and third-party statements – the better.

Needless to say, the authenticity is THE most important thing. At Alexander Bitar History, it’s our highest priority to ONLY sell authentic, original items. We put a lot of time, effort, and resources into that, hence our conviction that everything we sell is authentic. We’re therefore very proud to offer a lifetime guarantee including a full money-back warranty on all items we sell.

/Alexander Bitar

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The term “Holy Grail” is often used in the world of collectibles to describe that something really is the best of the best – crème de la crème. For example, in regard of manuscripts and documents, the Holy Grail could, by all means, be the original United States Declaration of Independence document from July 4, 1776, which undeniably is priceless.

When it comes to watches, the Holy Grail could be the incredible pocket watch by Breguet entitled Breguet No. 160 that was commissioned in 1783 by the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen with the purpose of giving it to the French Queen Marie Antoinette; a woman that he highly admired. Although the watch was valued at $30,000,000 USD in 2013, it’s definitely priceless. 

The Holy Grail of sports memorabilia could be the boxing gloves that Muhammad Ali used when he became heavyweight champion in 1964 after beating Sonny Liston, or perhaps one of Babe Ruth’s World Series rings. Nonetheless, all kinds of categories have some item that outdoes the others. For instance, Albert Einstein’s 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics medal is arguably the greatest Nobel Prize collectible, and therefore could be considered as the Holy Grail.

Notice that I use the term could when I refer to the Holy Grail’s. That’s merely due to the fact that there’s really no answer on what the best is, and what the second best is, and so on. It’s simply a subjective opinion. Many ask me about my dream items. “If you can choose one item, what would it be?”. Although the question is easy to ask; the answer is difficult to give. However – there is one item. One item, all categories included, that I personally consider as my dream item. It’s an item that never will be a property of mine, nor will I ever have the honor of selling it on other’s behalf. They say that dreams don’t have any limits. So let me dream. My dream item is a work done by the great Leonardo da Vinci. It’s not the Mona Lisa. It’s not the Last Supper. It’s the Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, perhaps better known as The Vitruvian Man. The Vitruvian Man is a pen and ink drawing on paper by da Vinci around the year 1490. The drawing, that shows a man in two superimposed positions, is a combination between art and science with inscriptions that describes the human proportions, e.g. “The length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man” and “From above the chest to the top of the head is one-sixth of the height of a man”. Did I mention that all the text is written in mirror writing? Well, it is. And I love it. I love, adore and worship every fragment of that masterpiece.

/Alexander Bitar

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The End. An end before they even began… On the first day of January in 1962, the then unknown band The Beatles performed 15 songs in Decca Records’ studio in North London. Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ newly appointed manager, was very pleased with the arrangement of Decca Records to let Beatles have an audition with the hopes of leaving with a recording contract. It could have been the beginning of something huge. However, the outcome wasn’t as encouraging. The Beatles were rejected with the motivation that “there is no future for guitar groups in the music industry”. Instead of signing with The Beatles, Decca signed with “Brian Poole and the Tremeloes” – a band that’s still unknown today, hence the quotation marks. How about the rejected and disappointed boys from Liverpool? Well, they became the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music…

Mike Smith, the executive at Decca Records who had the final saying in rejecting The Beatles, met with Brian Epstein in the beginning of December in 1961. Epstein encouraged Smith to visit The Cavern in Liverpool to see The Beatles play live on stage. Smith did in fact visit Liverpool and was impressed by what he saw and heard; thus the invitation for the audition a month later. Today, the rejection of The Beatles is considered to be the biggest blunder in music history. Something that followed Mike Smith for the rest of his life.

This famous – or rather infamous – event did make it much easier for other bands in the upcoming decades. The record companies were terrified of making a similar mistake. Obviously, it’s easy to look at the outcome and say that the decision of rejection was poor, but to be fair, even Paul McCartney said that ”Listening to the tapes, I can understand why we failed the Decca audition. We weren’t that good, though there were some quite interesting and original things”.Even though we all aim for success and try our best to avoid failure, the rejection of The Beatles by Decca was by all means for the best. After hearing the Decca recordings, the EMI/ Parlophone producer George Martin was sufficiently interested in offering The Beatles an audition at Abbey Road Studios. That did indeed result in a signed contract; and as history taught us, George Martin later became “The Fifth Beatle” – the man who would take Lennon/McCartney to the next level and was a massive part of the great success that followed. If the Decca audition would have ended up in a recording contract, The Beatles may never have involved Ringo Starr, who joined the group in August 1962 after George Martin expressed concerns about Pete Best’s drumming. The band was formed, and pop culture was forever changed.

With that being written, sometimes a failure lead to something much greater, something you can’t even imagine…

/Alexander Bitar

In 2019, Alexander Bitar History proudly sold the original Decca audition recording tape – the only authentic original copy ever offered for sale. For more information, PRESS HERE.

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On October 1 in 2018, Alexander Bitar History had the great honor of announcing a truly remarkable and vital charity sale regarding one of the most significant Albert Einstein papers in private hands. The lot would be offered by Stockholms Auktionsverk, the world’s oldest yet active auction house. The unique charity auction included a requirement that the highest bidder would obligate to donate the manuscript to The Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm; hence it would be available for public view.

The item in question is the very first published work by Einstein after receiving his Nobel Prize in physics in 1922. In the manuscript, Einstein incorporates a variant of his General Theory of Relativity from 1915. Another remarkable feature is that the manuscript was owned by Nobel laureate Max von Laue for more than 25 years. It’s simply the ultimate Nobel item!

PRESS HERE to read a complete presentation about the Albert Einstein manuscript.

The manuscript was successfully sold on December 5, 2018. On June 18, 2019, the ceremony was held at The Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, where the manuscript was officially handed over by the donor Per Taube. Mr. Taube stated that “this is a very unique document that we want many to enjoy; thus we felt that The Nobel Prize Museum is the best home for the item”.

Erika Lanner, the museum’s curator, said that “the interest of Albert Einstein is always huge among our visitors; this manuscript helps us to tell the story about his work and the situation regarding his Nobel Prize, which in fact wasn’t given for his Theory of Relativity”.

Alexander Bitar History would like to take this opportunity to publically thank Mr. Per Taube for his great generosity. It’s people like him that enrich history and help cultural heritage grow stronger for the next generations.

/Alexander Bitar

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Have you heard about the Vatican’s Secret Archive? That would be somewhat ironic due to the fact that it’s secret. However, it’s relatively well-known that the Vatican is the owner of the world’s largest and most important archive of historical documents in terms of letters and manuscripts. 

Founded in 1612, the Archive contains hundreds of thousands of documents on nearly 100 km of shelving. Only the curators have access to enter the gigantic vault. Not even the Archive’s owner – the Pope himself – may be allowed. One could wonder what kind of secrets that the Archive holds?

The process of getting to know the secrets is somewhat difficult. Until 1881, no one outside the Vatican was allowed into the Archive. Nowadays, you need to have permission from the Vatican, obtained by a written letter of recommendation from a reputable academic. Nonetheless, to actually read a document, you need to appeal for it specifically. You can’t just ask for “something about Saint Peter”. You need to be very specific and provide all the information about the item in question. Note that no one is allowed to browse the Archive, meaning that if you don’t know what’s inside, then you just don’t know! So how is it possible to get to know the secrets? Well, it’s not possible. The best you can accomplish is to access something that you already know everything about. 

Some information about the Archive is, however, public knowledge. We know that it contains a lot of correspondence of different Pope’s, including two letters sent by Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, both dated from the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, in which they were asking for the support of Pope Pius IX (pp. 1846-1878). Regarding correspondence letters – all the documents related to a Pope are classified as top-secret until 75 years have passed since the Pope’s death. The next documents in line to be declassified are the documents of Pope Pius XII (pp. 1939-1958), which will take place in the year 2033. That’s something many await eagerly because Pope Pius XII is said to be involved with secret attempts to execute the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1943. But until 2033, it’s classified as top-secret without any exceptions, not even for Pope Francis (pp. 2013-) or the Archive’s current curator, José Tolentino de Mendonça. 

In “King Lear”, William Shakespeare wrote that “nothing come of nothing”. Well, that certainly isn’t true for conspiracy theorists who claim that the Vatican is hiding knowledge about extraterrestrial life. Others say that the Archive holds extraordinary information about Jesus Christ. That would surely mean that knowledge of groundbreaking significance is hidden from the public… However, the Vatican does claim that the documents are harmless. Who to believe?

By the way – “Archivum Secretum Vaticanum” doesn’t actually mean secret archive; it’s Latin for Vatican’s personal archive. Yet, we all know it as being a secret archive. If that would be the case, then I wouldn’t even be able to write the words that you’ve just read.

/Alexander Bitar

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Did you that there are differences between letters and letters?

It’s easy to think that all types of letters are somewhat the same thing. That’s really not the case. If someone told me that they have a letter from a famous person for sale, I would begin by asking three questions: a) who is this person? b) is the letter handwritten? c) is the letter signed?

Normally, I would prefer the answer to be “yes” on the two latter questions. Either way, you just got to accept the outcome. The outcome defines what type of letter it is. If a letter is handwritten and signed, then it’s known as an “Autograph Letter Signed” (ALS). If the letter would be handwritten by a secretary and hand signed by, for example, H.M. Queen Victoria of England, then it would be known as a “Letter Signed” (LS). The third alternative is called “Typed Letter Signed” (TLS), which simply indicates that the letter is typewritten and hand signed. 

As written above, I would indeed fancy a so-called ALS. In my opinion, an ALS is more of a personalized item. But then again – you take what you get! Once more, let me refer to the title “Letters and Letters”; because even though we have two ALS or perhaps two TLS, it’s still a difference between them. Not only may the signature spell a different name, but the content is undoubtedly also different. One shall not underestimate the power of the content in a letter. A good content can make a letter be worth multiple times more than other letters by the same specific person. For example – a handwritten and signed letter by John Lennon to a fan, in which he writes something like “Thank you dear for your kind letter, love John Lennon” is worth $3,500 USD. But if the content is very interesting, like my highly imaginary example: “I wrote all Beatles songs… McCartney is falsely credited!! He didn’t even write Yesterday! Dylan did it for him. McCartney is a fraud…” then the letter would easily be worth ten times more. 

There’s one exception, though. Sometimes the item is so incredibly scarce that the content isn’t really of interest. Talking about a name like the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei. There are only five known examples of handwritten and signed letters by Galilei in existents. Whatever the content may be, the value would exceed $1,000,000 USD. 

Not including names such as Galileo Galilei, the content is indeed the most important thing. So if you feel like writing a letter to George W. Bush – don’t ask him about his life after the presidency. Ask him about 9/11.

/Alexander Bitar

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In the early 20th century, more precisely in the year of 1903, a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family commissioned a portrait by a painter named Gustav Klimt. Klimt was at the time one of the most prominent artists in Austria, although somewhat controversial. The subject of the painting was to be a woman named Adele Bloch-Bauer, who would receive the painting as a birthday gift later that year by her husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. At least, that was the idea. Klimt took much pride in his work and didn’t present the final product until 1907. A time span of four years is indeed remarkable, but by examining the work, it’s more than reasonable that it would take more than just a few months. Although it’s classified as an oil painting, the finish surface is covered with leaves of silver and gold, mainly the latter. It’s simply an expression of golden beauty. A masterpiece that could be adored and worshipped for endless hours if seen in-person. The beauty of the painting is, however, shadowed by the both tragic and compelling destiny that later would be reality…

Klimt exhibited the painting just after it was completed. The response wasn’t the finest as many critics had negative reactions with remarks such as the painting being bizarre and vulgar. That didn’t change the opinions of Ferdinand and Adele, who hang it with pride in their home in Vienna. They loved the painting and considered it as their finest property.

In early 1925, Adele sadly passed away with meningitis disease. She did, however, write a will two years prior to her death. The will stated that the portrait would, after her husband’s death, be given to the Vienna-based Galerie Belvedere. During the upcoming years, the painting was exhibited time-to-time at galleries in Austria, receiving much gratitude from viewers as Klimt’s reputation gradually improved. 

As years passed – the Nazi party in Germany successively got more established and gained power in 1933. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, spent many years in Austria before moving to Germany. A year prior to the Second World War, Hitler’s idea of a “Greater Germany” became a reality after the annexation of Austria into Germany. The first step was the campaign against the Jewish people in Vienna, who were forced out of their homes. The Germans plundered all the valuable property of the Jews. A wealthy family like the Bloch-Bauer’s was the perfect target. What happened to the golden painting, you may wonder? Perhaps not surprisingly, it got stolen and became property of Nazi Germany.

Hitler, who had a great interest in art, wasn’t really pleased with the golden portrait, mainly due to the portrait being of a Jewish woman. In 1941, the Nazis sold the Klimt painting to Galerie Belvedere, whom Adele mentioned in her will. The only criterion was to rename the painting to “Dame in Gold”, which is German for “Lady in Gold”. The reason was to hide the Jewish subject matter. Although the war was still on-going, one could at least be delighted that the portrait of Adele ended up at the art gallery of her choice.

A year after the war, the Austrian state declared that all stolen goods by the Nazis would be returned to their original owners if it in some way could be proven. The Bloch-Bauer family regained many of their possessions, but the golden portrait was out of the question. 

The family got informed that the painting now was a property of the gallery in accordance with Adele’s will. Ferdinand, Adele’s widower, essentially wrote his own will in mid-1945, just months before his death; in which he stated that all of his belongings would be given to his nephew and two nieces. Ferdinand didn’t mention the Klimt painting as he had no idea of its existence. He thought it was destroyed by the Nazis. Obviously, the painting wasn’t destroyed, as it was presented in Galerie Belvedere for many, many years to come. By time it became the finest and most esteemed piece in the gallery.

In 1998, the Austrian government formed a committee for art restitution concerning gods that once were stolen by the Nazis. This was of interest to a woman named Maria Altmann. Maria was in fact the niece of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, and the only still-living person that Ferdinand mentioned in his will. She felt that the painting did indeed belong to her because of the fact that it got stolen by the Nazis and then sold to the gallery, not just given to the gallery as stated in Adele’s will. That didn’t end in a successful proceeding, but she later did found a way that would persuade the jury. The painting was in fact commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer in 1903, who paid for it. It then became the property of him and his wife Adele. Legally, after Adele’s death, the painting belonged only to Ferdinand. Therefore, Adele’s will wasn’t binding as the painting wasn’t hers to give away. In 2006, after years of legal issues and negotiations, Maria finally won the battle and received the painting as the rightful owner.

This became worldwide news, and Maria got many offers from collectors and museums who wanted to purchase the golden portrait. She felt responsible not to sell it to a private collector but instead to an institution of some kind that would publically exhibit the painting for all eternity. In late 2006, the painting changed owner to Ronald Lauder, founder of the Neue Galerie in New York for an astonishing worldwide record amount of 135 million U.S. dollars, meaning that the artwork that once was rejected by Hitler now became the most expensive painting in the world.

/Alexander Bitar

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