Late last year, I did one of my periodic eBay browsings, which have provided many images for this blog. The items below are no longer for sale, but the images are available for us to linger over.
In HERE AT THE NEW YORKER, Brendan Gill told a story of showing his friend, the writer William Maxwell, a Roman coin he had bought, and Maxwell thoughtfully saying, “The odds are on objects.” A cryptic utterance, but my time spent on eBay suggests that Maxwell was right. For one thing, objects are longer-lived than their owners, and they are put up for sale.
These thoughts are motivated by yet another visit to that site — in this case, to a “store” which has folded its tents as far as jazz and big band collectors are concerned. But they offered these four artifacts for sale. The seller knew their value: the prices ranged from $279.20 to $2,399.20. But looking is free.
Here is a postwar V-Disc, its talk and music taken from the April 26, 1947 WNEW Saturday Night Swing Session, hosted by Art Ford, featuring Louis, Jack Teagarden, Sidney Catlett, Roy Ross, accordion; Nicky Tagg, piano; an unidentified string bassist. Louis and Jack used the same pen:
That’s an authentic signature (to me) even if Louis didn’t have his pen, filled with green ink, on hand.
I coveted that disc intensely for a few minutes, then calmed myself down by thinking of the impossibility of displaying it properly — honoring Louis yet turning Jack’s “face” to the wall. And the price, of course. Here’s another piece of holy paper, even though this slip has been reproduced in a book on Bird (however, the seller has offered a note from the Parker collector Norman Saks, verifying the authenticity):
What I would like to know, of course, is the name of the person who advanced Bird the money — not a small sum in 1950. Whether Bird actually went to the doctor, and for what reasons, I leave to you.
From Bird to Miles — in 1957:
and a close-up of that somewhat faded ink signature:
Finally, a contract for Billie to perform at the Tiffany Club in 1952:
and a close-up of her signature and pianist / bandleader Buster Harding:
Since none of these objects is as durable as a coin, it’s marvelous that they have survived. Did their owners keep them safe for love of Louis, Jack, Miles, and Billie, or because of an awareness of their monetary value? Or both? I can’t surmise, but I am glad that these things exist for us to look at, and perhaps own.
May your happiness increase!