Check, Please.

One form of autograph collecting is the acquisition of cancelled checks, which somehow make their way into the hands of collectables-dealers. For those who, like me, are interested in collectables to do with the Great American Songbook, here are two bank checks written by titans of the art. They were purchased on eBay by my wife as a gift for me.

The first was written by lyricist Sammy Cahn on the joint account he shared with his wife Tita, on July 1, 1972. It is written to Cafe “72” in the amount of $30.00 and contains, on the memo line, the words “Book Pub.” Perhaps this dinner was connected to the enjoyable autobiography he was to publish in 1974, I Should Care: The Sammy Cahn Story . A stamp on the back of the check indicates that Cafe “72”was a New York establishment, but a quick Googling doesn’t produce any businesses by that name still in existence there. I like the size of Cahn’s signature on the check. Cahn (at least in his public persona) was not known for excessive modesty–nor should he have suffered from this, given his resumé. (Four Oscar wins, thirty nominations, Frank Sinatra’s “house lyricist” in the fifties and sixties, etc.) The signature is congruent with the persona.

The second is a check written by singer Mel Torme on the Mel Torme Productions, Inc. account, for $64.15, to the Curious Book Shop in Los Gatos, CA on September 5, 1989. Torme was known to be an avid reader. As recently as 1998, the Curious Book Shop was listed as one of the three best places for used books in the Santa Clara Valley, but it exists no longer.

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