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Sunday, January 13, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Extremely Rare Shoeless Joe Jackson Autograph Sells For $23,100

Newsday

NEW YORK - If he wrote it, they will pay.

A signature of Shoeless Joe Jackson sold for $23,100 at a recent New York auction, but that's only half the story. The proud purchaser turned around and sold it at a profit the next day.

Ironically, the ultimate recipient was the auction's underbidder.

Lelands, a Manhattan sports memorabilia house, bought the unattached signature at a Dec. 6 auction conducted by Rockville Centre's Herman Darvick. One day later, Lelands proprietor Joshua Evans worked out a cash-merchandise deal with a prominent East Coast collector who had submitted a sealed bid.

``To be honest, when we bought it we didn't know for sure that we could sell it,'' Lelands manager Howard Kresner said. ``The next day, we contacted several of our premium customers.''

Kresner said the underbidder didn't seem to mind paying a premium price when the offer came. ``All he said was, `If it's the real thing, I want it.'''

Kresner said terms of the deal with the underbidder prevent him from disclosing the purchaser's name or specifics of the transaction. ``I can say that we made a substantial profit,'' he said.

The signature is believed to be one of a handful written by Jackson, an illiterate who was unable to write his name until late in life.

According to Darvick, $23,100 for an unattached signature - one that is not part of a letter or document - trails only that of Button Gwinnett, who died one year after affixing his name to the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett's signature sold at an auction for $56,000.

In comparison, autographs of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig sold for $1,100 each at a Dec. 6 auction.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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