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Doc Holliday Dental Diploma Donated to North Cross School

Doc Holiday Diploma Small
(L-R) Cheryl Glose, Karla Wendell, Jenn Mitchell and Kathy Callis with the rare document.

“Is this a joke or is this thing real?” someone asked.

In a frame, behind glass, the gold with blue ribbon sealed Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery diploma, dated March 1, 1872, conferred a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) upon the named recipient: John H. Holliday.

The name John Holliday did not immediately register, but after a few seconds, another onlooker responded, Holliday? Is that Doc Holliday?

Within moments, the Carter Athletic Center, site of North Cross Schools annual Big Flea – a giant white elephant sale – was buzzing.  The assembled volunteers examined the diploma and offered opinions on its authenticity.

Jenn Mitchell, who has chaired the schools Big Flea fundraiser for years, knew that they needed to check it out. “This happens from time to time, and we have to know – is it a treasure or not, and, once we know its value, do we sell it at Big Flea or somewhere else?  Recently, someone bought something here for a bargain and brought it home.  Friends came over, saw the piece this person had purchased at Big Flea, and told them they should have it appraised.  It turned out to be an expensive collectible.  That doesn’t happen all the time, but it can.  Because we’re raising money for North Cross, we want to make sure the school gets the full value of everything that’s donated.”

The diploma was part of a gift made by someone who had purchased a building and wanted to donate its contents to North Cross for the Big Flea sale.  There were a number of different items in the truckload including dental equipment, pictures, furniture, and some framed pictures.  Mitchell said, “At the time, we get so many things coming in, we don’t always have the time to examine each and every item.  We wait for the two weeks prior to Big Flea to do that – when we start to price items and place them out for folks to buy.”

While volunteers began a search of the internet to see if Holliday actually graduated from the dental school (and he did) they also reached out to other resources. John Mitchell, who owns Salem Printing, was called in to offer an opinion.

Armed with a trusty loop, he examined the framing, matting, and the certificate’s ink work.  He remarked that, “The framing and matting are consistent with someone concerned with protecting a valuable document.  You can see that the document is a bit askew in the frame, and that means that it was not adhered to the backing.  The ink looks hand-applied, not printed, but I think you’d have to take it out to be sure. It’s worth calling some folks in to look at it.”

Dr. Wanda Finney, North Cross School’s World Languages Department Chair, is also an archivist.  She was called to render her opinion because of her experience with historical documents.  Finney smiled and offered to help by calling the archivist at the University of Pennsylvania, because they had taken over the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1909.  “They did not receive the diplomas from Pennsylvania, but they did share information that is helpful to my search.  I’m now contacting the Holliday House Association/Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House in Fayetteville, Georgia, for assistance.  On to the next clue,” she said.  Finney and others are continuing to research the diploma’s authenticity and value.

David Lake works in the Development Office at North Cross and is the staff person responsible for special events like Big Flea. To some, it may seem like a lot of extra work, but Lake said it is truly a fun part of the job. “We’re a school and this is a puzzle, a real-life problem-solving exercise.  Where it will end up? I don’t know right now, but the process is interesting, and it’s great to see the level of interest, care, and cooperation a little thing like this creates.  As the Development guy, I’d love for this document to be valuable and for North Cross to receive the money a collector pays.  If it’s not a unique collectible, the curiosity element and great framing will fetch the school needed funds anyway.  It makes Big Flea more interesting, too.  Don’t forget, there are a lot more great items people have donated!”ol

As they are unpacking items and readying them for pricing, anything that seems valuable is always set aside for another set of eyes to value.  During the setup period, unusual or unique items are set aside to be valued by external resources.  Next week, Kelly Goldsmith, who owns Goldsmith Appraisal Service, will come to North Cross, as she has done in the past, to help determine the value of collectibles and antiques.

The Big Flea Sale and Family Fun Fair is open to the public free of charge, and will be held on the North Cross campus at 4254 Colonial Ave. (at the intersection of 419 and Colonial) on May 11, 2013.  Doors open at 7 AM at the Carter Athletic Center.  It promises to be a fun day, and who knows, you may find a treasure, too!

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