News | April 8, 2013

John Reznikoff of University Archives Shares Expertise on Reality TV

April 8, 2013, Westport, CT — With the runaway popularity of Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars and other shows amazing audiences by identifying the hidden value in their bric-a-brac and family heirlooms, families across the nation are sifting though their attics and basements in search of that special something that could make them rich.


According to John Reznikoff, a leading document and signature authenticator, “both sellers and collectors need an impartial expert to verify significant documents, manuscripts, letters, relics, and autographs in many categories, from sports and cinema, to space exploration and Presidential history.”

Reznikoff, founder and president of University Archives ( based in Westport, CT, is a prominent member of the collectible traders community as well. For over thirty years he has bought, consigned and sold important documents and artifacts to both institutions and individuals.


The ever-growing popularity of collecting and selling memorabilia is evidenced by the plethora of TV shows that have emerged since Antiques Roadshow first debuted in 1979. Since then, the genre has burgeoned with productions such as Pawn Stars, American Pickers, History Detectives and VH1’s new For What It’s Worth. These shows have helped energize the market by renewing interest in antiques and collectibles, as well as the history behind them.


For example, in January of this year the PBS series History Detectives aired an episode featuring University Archives’ president John Reznikoff.  An Oregon woman was helping her father pack up his house when she found a yellowed document tucked away inside his desk. It had been there for nearly sixty years. She soon discovered it was a handwritten manuscript for The Star Spangled Banner. 


Her father got the manuscript in 1935 as a gift from his mentor, Arnold J. Gantvoort.  Gantvoort was a member of the committee which created the official, standardized version of the National Anthem. Appraisers valued the sheet music at $10,000-$15,000.  With Reznikoff’s help, the History Detectives set out to determine what role this document played in the creation of our National Anthem. 

According to Rebecca Romney, Manager at Bauman Rare Books and Pawn Stars expert, “John Reznikoff is our most valued resource when we have questions about signatures and documents. He has worked closely with Bauman Rare Books to ensure the authenticity of the items we sell and has been a major part of the high standard we have set for the industry in vetting signed and autograph works. John is also incredibly generous with his time and expertise. His knowledge and assistance have been invaluable to me whenever I appraise a signed item on Pawn Stars through my recurring role as the Rare Books and Documents Expert.”


“John Reznikoff is the proverbial heir to the throne of the late, great Charles Hamilton, formally known as ‘Dean of Autographs.’  Reznikoff's knowledge, in historical autographs, is unparalleled in this area.  For nearly a decade he has been an essential member of the PSA/DNA authentication team.  Generously sharing his knowledge and information, he lends his expertise to the hobby.  In the area of historical autographs, Reznikoff has assisted me in my recurrent role as Pawn Stars authenticator,” says Steve Grad, Principal Authenticator, PSA/DNA.



Who may own important historical autographs & documents?

Many people believe that original letters and documents signed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Albert Einstein, to name just a few, can only be found in museums and university libraries. In fact many families have, over the generations and to this day, been fortunate to have far-sighted individuals who have appreciated these embodiments of history.


Why do people collect these items?

The fascination and allure of holding in one’s own hands a letter that played a pivotal role in the development of a country, illuminated the course of a people’s freedom, or signified the accomplishment of a dramatic scientific endeavor is deeply compelling. Since historical autographs exist in almost every conceivable field of human endeavor, there are items to capture the imagination of most any collector.


 What autographs are most popular?

The most popular autographs are those of American presidents with Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and John F. Kennedy heading the list in terms of monetary value. Leading scientists, composers, sports figures, Hollywood legends, writers and military figures are all avidly collected. These are all part of the panoply of historical autographs available to collectors.


 Can I afford to become a collector?

Yes! Important autographs are available in a variety of price ranges from a few hundred dollars and upward. For the serious collector, a commitment to finding meaningful as well as historically important items requires the ability to purchase quality items that are in the four and five-figure price ranges.


What makes an autograph valuable or collectible?

Many factors go into the valuation of an historical autograph, leading to a wide range of prices. A personality who has left an indelible mark on history or society will continue to attract the interest of people everywhere. A document or letter penned in the hand of this personality carries an intrinsic mystique forever tied to that individual, the possession of which is desired by collectors.  What makes this form of collecting so exciting and dynamic is its extremely broad appeal. There are in existence autographs and artifacts forever linked to highly-regarded individuals in countless fields of interest and therefore virtually limitless avenues for a collector to pursue.


How do I know an autograph is authentic?

The world of collecting is full of pitfalls — forgeries, unscrupulous dealers and misinformation. The best way to make sure your item is authentic is to have it appraised by a recognized expert in the field.   


University Archives’ John Reznikoff is acknowledged as one of the world leaders in identifying and verifying handwriting.  He trained with the universally-renowned authority in autograph authentication, the late Charles Hamilton.


In his 30 years in the trade, he has bought and sold over $200 million in collectibles, and has helped to build some of the greatest collections in the history of autograph collecting, several of them for individuals who are household names.


He has been a dogged crusader in identifying and helping to eliminate theft and forgery within the industry. Mr. Reznikoff has worked with numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to help stop industry fraud. 


John Reznikoff is the first and only expert to combine his primary work as an autograph authenticator with the exacting discipline of forensic document examination, even having worked on several murder cases. His laboratory is one of the most advanced of its kind apart from that of the FBI. Reznikoff has served as a subject matter expert to many TV shows, and has appeared in the media countless times through the years.


Contact: Vicki Garfinkel, 973-519-8926;