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The James A. Garfield Letter That Scored Big Time On Pawn Stars

James A. Garfield, a Union major general in the Civil War who became the 20th President of the United States, is notable for being the only president elected as a sitting member of the House of Representatives and the second shortest-tenured president, behind only William Henry Harrison. He was shot by an assassin four months into his term and died two months later. Garfield was president for just 199 days, but that's long enough to make his property valuable on the resale market, as a seller from Garfield's home state of Ohio learned on "Pawn Stars."

In the Season 5 episode "Bear-ly There," the seller, Rick, went to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to sell a signed letter and envelope from Garfield written and mailed when he was a congressman. The letter was a charmingly mundane communication about an agricultural report. Rick Harrison, Rick the seller, and Corey Harrison chatted a little bit about Garfield, the most obscure assassinated president who was shot by a guy Rick H. described as "basically crazy." (Garfield probably would have survived his wound if his doctors hadn't given him an infection digging around for the bullet in his abdomen.) 

With a little history lesson out of the way, it was time to get down to business. The seller wanted $3,000 for the document, but Rick Harrison didn't want to pony up until he was sure Garfield himself had signed it and not a secretary.

Rick Harrison loves presidential memorabilia

Rick called in Drew Max, a forensic document examiner and an expert on signature analysis. He inspected it with a magnifying glass, and confirmed that it was congressional letterhead. Max also noted that it was odd that Garfield signed the letter "J.A. Garfield," and not "James A. Garfield," which is what he said he was used to seeing. "That could be the sign of a secretarial," Max said. 

However, Max was just saying it could be, not that it was. Upon looking closely at the handwriting of Garfield's signature, Max said it was authentic: "I've seen a secretarial of his before, and it doesn't look anything like his." Garfield had a beautiful signature, flowing and detailed, and this was it. The letter would be worth more if Garfield had signed it on White House stationery when he was president, but it was still worth about $2,000 to $2,500 retail, Max said.

Rick the seller asked Rick the buyer for $2,000. Harrison said he'd give him $1,000. He countered with $1,500, and Rick H. said he'd go to $1,200 but no more than that. So, the seller said he'd forgo a sale and put it back up on the wall of his office where he was hanging it before. Rick could tell he wanted to sell, though, and offered him $1,250. He countered with $1,300, holding his hand out for a shake.

"Might as well do it," said Corey, who had been mostly silent until now, and shook the man's hand. And that was that: The Harrisons got Garfed.