Offseason employment

Some of you know that my family runs a book store in New York City, and that I work there during the colder months. But I’ve never really talked about–or showed–the work that I do there.

Two quick things you should know…

1) The store is called Argosy.
2) My grandfather, Louis Cohen, started it in the 1920s.

I spend most of my time working with the autographs on the 6th floor. Usually I’ll gather 50 at a time, photograph them, catalog them, and put them on the store’s web site. The whole process can take up to a week, and as far as jobs go, it’s a LOT of fun.

Anyway, I want to share some of the best autographs that I worked with this week. First, let’s start with a few baseball items. There was a Hall of Fame postcard signed by Joe DiMaggio:


There was a limited edition print signed by five Hall of Famers (Whitey Ford, Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson, Larry Doby, and Robin Roberts), four Brooklyn Dodgers (Carl Erskine, Joe Black, Ralph Branca, and Don Zimmer), and seven other former major leaguers (Rusty Staub, Earl Wilson, Joe Garagiola, Jim Lonborg, Lou Johnson, Frank Torre, and Chris Chambliss):


My favorite baseball item was a baseball itself, signed by 11 members of the 500 Home Run Club. There are seven signatures visible in the photo below. Can you identify all of them? The four you can’t see are Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Willie McCovey, and Harmon Killebrew.


Baseball aside, there was still lots of good stuff…like this book by Andy Warhol, who not only signed it but drew his famous Campbell’s Soup can:


More books? Check out this bold signature by Woody Allen:


Here’s one signed by Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel:


Speaking of presidents, there was a typed letter signed by Dwight Eisenhower…


…and a small card signed by Benjamin Harrison…


…and a hand-written letter signed by James Monroe in 1796 (which is framed with an engraved portrait and could be yours for the low-low price of $4,000):


The second-most expensive item ($2,500) I handled this week was a four-page hand-written letter by Andrew Carnegie. You can see his signature on the lower left, tilted sideways from this view:


The Illegible Autograph Award goes to Charles Dickens:


Any foodies out there? Check out this “Taste of the Town” brochure signed by Julia Child and a few other chefs:


Any fans of the Marx Brothers? Here’s a letter signed by Groucho:


I could keep going all day, but I have to end this somewhere…so if you want to see more of the Argosy’s autographs, all you have to do is click here.


That is a great post I love this photos.How have you been zack? I havent been in a long time just catching up on your posts.Hopefully now though,I can get here more often since I am finally starting to get healthier.
4,000 Dollars for that letter? Ummmm I will pass hahaha!


How do you guys get all of this stuff?

Awesome post Zack! I love seeing autograph collections. I’ll definitely visit next time I’m in NY.

Zack, I was in Boston this weekend and i took a picture in the alley where you got a couple of balls, and a picture of a bar with like 1,000 baseballs lined up in the window display. But then i accidentally deleted this pictures. Whoops! I also bought an official WS ball for 30 bucks. In the morning i will post a 3 game (miserable and ANNOYING)puck snagging/missing performance. I’m doing my version of the Hample Jinx on about 3 people now.

puckcollector i saw you tonight! ugh i didnt realize until you were gone…my brother was next to you when you got the puck from the boston bench…you got one too…he was wearin the jersey you gave him…i shoulda said somethin i was mad…u have a #19 jersey with cimons on the back right? anyway good win for the isles…

You should burn the Woody Allen book. He’s an idiot. If I had the money I would buy it myself then burn it. His movies are **** too. Wow, what anger today! Nice collection overall though. I can’t wait for Spring Training. Around 80 days or so to go!


OK here i go. On the 22 I went to the Islanders game and got one measly puck. I would have been ok with that but at the end of the game, one of the NHL worker people was coming off the ice, and I ask him for a puck. He says that he doesn’t have any, so I turn to leave. But as i look back, he pulls TWO out of his pocket and gives them to a kid he know. He could have just ignored me!!!

Then on Friday in Boston we got lost trying to get to Fenway, so I missed warmups.

No pucks!

Then yesterday, an NHLer couldn’t flip one puck into the crowd and he ,issed like 6 times. While i was down on the boards going for the puck that wasn’t, a kid took my spot. Then that same kid practically sat on a guy trying to get a puck from security, which he did. I didn’t, but I got one from the Bruins trainer. When I went to get into position to try to get a puck at the end of the period, I got kicked out of the section beacause i was alone!!! I’m not 8!!! I don’t need to constantly be with my mom!!! So I moved to the section with a ton of kids, which I was trying to avoid. Next, the same kid who was at the game on the 22nd had his little brother there. His brother was like 7 and elbowed me in the gut, so his older brother(who is about my age) could get the puck from the Bruins goalie, which he did. Finally, at the end of the game the older brother purposely shoved me as I was walking by for no reason what-so-ever. I didn’t say anything cuz the kid and his dad know like every security guard there. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

The book store is just GORGEOUS!!! Your family has to be so proud of it. Lame as it sounds, I bet it smells all historical in there. I love the smell of old things…I know, I’m a dork. The autographs are so cool, what fun it must be to dig all through that stuff!

wow Zack that is really kool. that must be a wicked fun job.

The autographs look great! I’ll have to visit the store sometime soon–maybe when I visit the new NHL Superstore.

I don’t want to sound like a downer, but my one question is how do you know all the signatures are authentic? For example, I’ve worked on Capitol Hill onec upon a time and very few Congressmen sign their own letters–which number in the thousands. In fact, we’d have an informal in-office competition on who could fake the signature best. So, it seems odd that Eisenhower would be signing a simple letter on farm issues.

Anyway, you guys must be doing well because that property on 59th Street is probably among the most expensive in the world!

the autograph towards the bottom of the ball probably is ted williams autograph.

Thanks for the compliment about my writing. Yeah, I’m a freshman in college. I did a paper for my Engineering Ethics class a few weeks ago that was relevant to the new stadium topic, so I was pretty knowledgeable about some of this stuff already.

What an awesome job! The autos on the baseball are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Frank Robinson with Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams on the Sweet Spot.

the argosy is one of the true treasures of new york city. even back when there were many antiquarian shops around the city it was far and away the elite shop of it’s kind. your family should be very proud.

( best map department of anywhere i’ve ever been!)

Very nice Zack. I think someone else asked this already, so I’m sure you’ll reply to their question. Where do you guys get all of your autographs?

So a question for you Zack, and whoever else wants to chime in. Would you ever get a tattoo of your favorite sports team? My best friend has been thinking about this for at least 10 years now, and today he’s finally going to get one. Sad to say though, it’s of the “P” in the Pittsburgh Pirates logo. I’m trying to talk him out of it, but he’s doing it!

Thanks very much. I’ve been good…using all my free time this offseason for various non-baseball pursuits. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.


Usually just from private collectors who decide to sell their stuff, for whatever reason. Either they need money or get bored of it…or inherited it and never really wanted it.


Thanks. Glad you liked it. Definitely visit the Argosy next time you’re in town. Just remember that the autograph department is open by appointment only, so you should call ahead.


That’s one of the most frustrating collecting stories I’ve ever heard. It’s like a nightmare that actually happened.


Wow, anger indeed. And I must say it didn’t win any points with my girlfriend who’s a BIG Woody Allen fan (and reads these comments on occasion). But hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions.


That’s not dorky at all. (And thanks, by the way.) There’s one room in particular with nothing but old/rare books. Whenever I key open the door and go in there, I make a point of holding my breath until I’m in the middle of the room so I can breath in deeply and have that intense old book-smell hit me all at once.


It’s also wicked cool and really fun. :-)


Ahh, yes, but that isn’t just ANY old letter from Eisenhower. Did you see who it was written to? John Ringling North, of Ringling Brothers circus fame. So I would argue that it would, in fact, make sense for Eisenhower to have taken the time to give it a little personal touch. Anyway, we don’t ALWAYS know if something is authentic, but whenever there’s some doubt, we won’t even sell the item (or even buy it in the first place when it’s offered to us). Mostly, though, we buy stuff from people who have some sort of connection (even by several degrees of separation) to the people who signed. Like, we might end up buying a collection of letters written by someone famous whose granddaughter’s husband-in-law came in to sell them, and then we know it’s legit. There are ways to track down this stuff. Certain signatures are notorious for being forged and we avoid those people. In some cases, you can even use a teeny drop of ink eradicator to make sure that a signature isn’t printed. And another important thing to know is that my mother runs the autograph department, and she’s been doing it for decades, and she is truly an EXPERT at recognizing signatures and spotting discrepancies. I mean, she’s probably seen Abe Lincoln’s signature 100 times in her life. Napoleon’s, too. Albert Einstein. Babe Ruth. Houdini. We’ve had items signed by these people many times over the years, and eventually, you just KNOW.


Correct you are.


Aha! That explains it. Isn’t it fun to do a paper on something you like and actually get school credit for it? I once wrote a “product analysis” paper in which I chose to compare wood bats and aluminum bats. Ha! I got an A+ on it, too, not that grades ever meant ANYthing in the grand scheme of things (for me).


You’re right! If you found the item on the site, you deserve credit for your stellar detective work. And if you just flat-out recognized all the signatures, then you deserve a whole nother kind of credit. Well done.


Thanks, dude. We might need to hire you as our official spokesman.


Scroll up and check out my answer to Nick about where we get our stuff. As for tattoos, I like them on other people, provided the artwork isn’t generic and it’s located on an interesting area of the body. But I’d never get one, not of a sports team, not of my dead friends, not of my girlfriend (no offense, Jona), future wife, future kids…nothing. No way. It’s just not my thing. And I hate needles more than any of you can imagine. I don’t know about getting the Pirates’ logo, though, but if that’s what your friend is into, why not? He should be advised, however, that if he gets the logo tattooed on any part of his body other than the bottom of one of his feet, it’s going to decrease the amount of girlie action (to quote the Rolling Stones) he gets by at least 64 percent.

Well, I mean I didn’t use the paper for my statistical analysis about the new D.C. stadium. The paper was much broader and almost completely stat-free, but it did make me interested enough in the topic to write the D.C. analysis. (Why don’t I send you this paper?)

And yeah, I love writing about stuff I was already knowledgeable about and interested in to begin with. It feels like you’re cheating the system, doesn’t it?

I took a look “inside” the store – it’s beautiful. I definitely want to visit the next time I’m in NYC.

When I was in college I wrote a paper for an Economics class and wrote to Milton Friedman. Friedman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976. It was a yes or no question and he answered my question before signing my letter and returning it to me. I keep it in my safe deposit box as one of my prized possessions. I couldn’t imagine parting with it…

since woody can’t defend himself, here’s a quote that might do the trick

“his lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy”

woody allen

I got the paper. Haven’t had a chance yet to look at it, but I will. Thanks for sending.


C’mon back to NYC and visit the Argosy. Great story about Friedman, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to sell it.



Re Woody:
Any man who could write:

“Love between two people is a wondrous thing. Between five it’s fantastic” is okay in my book.

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