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Pawn Shop Buys Lincoln Signature For $50, Worth $50,000

The signature is one of a couple Lincoln autographs that have popped up recently.
Posted at 1:39 PM, Aug 25, 2014

A man needing cash fast walked into Kameron Kephart's pawn shop in California and sold a document for $50 –– not too wild, right? Wait until you hear who signed it. 

KBAK: "​Abraham Lincoln's signature is right here, right here above the Secretary of the Treasury's signature."  

Now THAT is pretty crazy. But, Kephart was a bit skeptical so he had it authenticated. 

KBAK: "They said, at auction, basically it's [worth] anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000." 

If you run those numbers, that's an incredible 1,000 percent return on investment. Not bad. 

While Kephart is likely celebrating his buy, Lincoln signatures seem to be popping up lately.  

A few weeks ago the 16th president's handwriting was found in a book justifying racism of all things, as shown by this photo distributed by his presidential library. Historians believe Lincoln used that book to see his opponents point of view.

But in contrast to Lincoln's words in that book, Kephart was lucky to get this signature after Lincoln became president. As NPR points out, ​penmenship is worth less if it was scratched before a president actually became the president. 

Reagan and Kennedy's signatures command some of the highest values, but the rankings can change dramatically depending on which president is on people's minds.  

Autograph dealer Stuart Lutz toldNPR: "Fifteen or 20 years ago you couldn't give away Harry Truman. Then after David McCullough wrote that wonderful biography of him, everybody on the planet wanted a good Harry Truman letter, so his value escalated." 

And besides demand, there's always that other economic factor: supply.

When Obama was still in his first term his signature was worth more than Bush's because he had spent less time as president. George W.'s, in turn, was worth more than his father's because George W. signed less things in general. 

So for Kephart, having a full document signed by a short-lived president, after he actually became president, could explain the possible $50,000 price tag. We hope the man who sold it isn't kicking himself.