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July 29, 2014

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After snubbing ‘Pawn Stars,’ charity gets bigger offers for ‘Godfather’ screenplay

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Christopher DeVargas

Diane Hutton, director of retail operations for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, shows an authentic leather-bound script of “The Godfather.” This rare screenplay was found among thousands of books donated to the organization.

Godfather Script

A script from the movie Launch slideshow »

When the folks at the cable TV show “Pawn Stars” examined a leather-bound copy of “The Godfather” screenplay, they concluded it was autographed by Al Pacino and offered to buy it from Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada for $500.

Diane Hutton, who works at the charity where the screenplay was found in a carton of discarded books, had taken it to Gold & Silver Pawn where the hit TV show is filmed. She rejected the offer, figuring she could do better.

Indeed.

Because of publicity surrounding the episode, which aired in July and has been rerun, the charity has been swamped with offers to buy the screenplay. Bidding is now up to $4,000 and will conclude at a fundraising event Feb. 9.

Al Pacino fans need not get in line. Turns out the distinctive, cursive signature “Al” wasn’t his, but belongs to Al Ruddy, the producer of the 1972 movie that won three Academy Awards — best picture, best actor (Marlon Brando refused to accept the award) and best adapted screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola).

Ruddy had given the 158-page screenplay to Robert Evans, who headed production at Paramount Studios at the time. Ruddy wrote on a blank page, “Bob — It cost me a lot ... but there’s one thing that I got ... ulcers — Thanks — Al.”

Ruddy says he has no idea how the screenplay ended up in a charity drop-off bin, but that he’s delighted that it will help make money for the organization. He’s even throwing in some memorabilia photos of the movie and has taped a video where he thanks the ultimate buyer of the screenplay for buying it.

“I’m very taken with the effectiveness of Catholic Charities and what they’ve accomplished in Nevada,” Ruddy said Wednesday. “Whatever I can do to facilitate helping people in desperate need, I’m more than happy.”

Ruddy learned of the wayward screenplay like everyone else: He was watching “Pawn Stars” on TV when Hutton tested the waters at the shop and a signature authenticator, brought in for the show, said the signature was Pacino’s.

Back home in front of his TV, Ruddy barked, “That’s my signature!”

The signature authenticator, John Reznikoff of Westport, Conn., who buys and sells historic documents and relics, acknowledges his error. Reznikoff was confident that the signature was not forged — the first thing an authenticator determines — because there was no pooled ink or other signs of hesitation that are found in forgeries. And “Al” was written with a particular flair that appears in Pacino signatures.

Turns out that Ruddy writes in a similar fashion, and when Reznikoff realized he was wrong in his assessment, he not only apologized to Catholic Charities but donated $1,000 to the organization.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said Wednesday. “The issue is what you do after you make the mistake.”

And in the final analysis, he said, “the charity has benefited from the screenplay, so I’m happy.”

Meanwhile, with every rerun, people keep calling Catholic Charities with offers to buy the screenplay.

“People from all over the country are leaving us their bids,” said Patricia Falvey, vice president of development at Catholic Charities. Bidding — by phone, online and in person, will close at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 9 when the organization holds its Heart of Hope fundraiser.

To preserve the book as it increases in value, Falvey called the special collections office at the UNLV library. The unit’s conservator, Michael Frazier, advised Falvey to handle the screenplay with white gloves, and then crafted a strongbox, called a clamshell, to hold the book.

There is one remaining mystery surrounding the screenplay:

“I got a call from a gentleman with a British accent who said he was Robert Evans’ butler, who said he saw the show and that Mr. Evans wanted the screenplay back,” Falvey said. “I asked him if he could prove it was his, or if I could speak to Mr. Evans.

“He said no, that Mr. Evans was in poor health. He said that the screenplay had been stolen and I asked if I could see a copy of the police report because we would return it if it had been stolen, and he said, ‘Well, we didn’t know it was stolen.’

“The whole thing sounded flaky to me, so I told him that if he wanted it back, he could bid on it,” Falvey said. “I haven’t heard back from him since.”

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  1. "$100 bill? I'll give you like $5. There's not a big market for those..."

  2. well good for catholic charities and ontop of it they get a grand from Reznikoff and additional pictures from Ruddy. Seems all is well that ends well. Class acts that Reznikoff & Ruddy.

    and pawn shops like many "dealers" don't pay the going price as they are looking for a mark-up on the sale. Maybe someone can get Pacino to sign it.. as that would really appreciate in value.

  3. Shame on Rick Harrison for, once again, trying to 'stick it' to the charities with their obviously low ball offer. Their pathetic attempt that was filmed truly puts their business in a poor light as far as their position on charitable organizations here in Las Vegas. Shame on them! My guess is, had they offered in the low 1000's like $1500 - she'd have taken it and they'd be sitting on a gold mine! It's not ALWAYS about the money, Rick, and now you and your business look like the jerks that you are in front of millions of people. Time for 'POP' to maybe get off his butt, take a break from counting his money, and see what's really going on while he sleeps and counts on the job!

  4. you are forgetting about the items he buys and pays more than they are worth....part of its high value is due to being seen on the show, if this was a regular transaction not on the show it might have been hard to sell or never sold...sometimes its just hit or miss.
    ive been in their store about 5 times over the years and there are things that have been there the whole time...just because he buys it does not mean he is going to be able to sell it...
    lets not forget, its a pawn shop, just because they are likeable doesnt mean they are not trying to get the best deal they can...
    rick knows a little about alot of things but not alot about many things...all in all lets remember it is a reality tv show!

  5. @lvelegante
    You are incorrect. The estimate on the item was in the range of $1,500. That was assuming it could be authenticated (which costs money). If you watch Pawn Stars I can assume you think these people turn up for free, they don't they charge a fee.
    Even so, selling autographed items is fraught with risk. The FBI have conducted research that 90% of all autographed items for sale online are fakes. So every time someone like Rick Harrison buys one of these there is a big risk.
    Selling these is also difficult. You are appealing to a very small market and if you auction it, you are paying auction fee's of 20-25%. If you list an item at $4000 an it doesn't sell, you usually pay a listing fee. All of this takes time and all the while you have invested cash in an item that could take months or years to sell.
    End of day, Rick has helped the boy scouts on his show, paying over the estimate on some worthless stamps. If Rick Harrison started buying every item that charities brought in, he would quickly become a soft touch with a line of hundred charities selling him stuff.
    The charity benefited from the publicity of the show and a free evaluation. Getting an autograph expert to authenticate can cost over $100 in fee's, without any authentication an autograph is very hard to sell.

  6. The reason to sell at a pawn shop is you always have a willing buyer. That availability of a willing buyer comes with a cost. That cost along with other costs (risk of profit & business expenses) are deducted from their offer. This item had alot of risk associated with it.

    There are plenty of other avenues using today's technology to sell an item at a better price to willing viewers. It is your responsibility to use your resources to turn them into a willing buyer. Only if the antipated cost of the resources exceed the cost of an available willing buyer, should you use a pawn shop.

  7. I have watched the show for years, and shame on Rick is not what I would say at all, in fact one show a lady had a Faberge Spider Brooch she wanted a few thousand for and Rick told her it was worth at least 15k. And I have seen this type thing play out over many episodes. He has had countless opportunistic times to get a great deal but always says lets get an opinion then bargain when approached with unusual items and many times offers far more than what the person was asking for.