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Authenticity of Disney’s signature in children’s book confirmed; Eugene bookstore readies it for market

Signed book with Snow White artwork.
Brian Bull
A handwritten message in this old book has been verified as Walt Disney's handwriting.

It’s no fairy tale: Tsunami Books in Eugene has a book signed by Walt Disney more than 80 years ago.

It all began this past winter. That’s when 87-year-old Janet Moursund was downsizing and getting rid of old things as she prepared to settle into a retirement center.

Woman sitting on bench.
Brian Bull
87-year-old Janet Moursund, a retired UO professor of counseling psychology, shortly after learning the news that the signature and message in her childhood book was indeed scrawled by Disney in 1942.

“The rule is if you haven't used it for five years, throw it out,” she told KLCC.

Then Moursund came across a 1937 first edition of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The book was released just after Disney’s first full-length, animated movie came out. Her aunt and uncle had gotten Walt Disney to sign it while they were visiting Los Angeles in 1942. The couple gave it to her while visiting her family in the small town of Edelstein, Illinois.

Back then, Moursund was a 4-year-old girl enamored with the fantastic and magical world that Disney created. She confesses at the time, she was more taken with the stories and artwork than Disney’s autograph.

“You know, when you're a little kid and you get a book, you love it, you sleep with it, and you throw up on it,” laughed Moursund. Reflecting on its value this winter, she wasn't sure what to think as she prepared to sell it.

“It was not in really good condition so I thought it was probably a worthless book," she said. "But it did have that autograph. And so I thought ‘Well, I’ll check it out.’”

In late February, Moursund walked into Tsunami Books in Eugene’s South Hills. General manager Scott Landfield told KLCC that books like these tend to go for around $20 dollars. But he realized after Moursund pointed out the handwritten passage in the front, that this one could be very special.

Disney's signature was confirmed after PSA– a Newport Beach, California firm that specializes in authenticating memorabilia – declared in its official letter of authenticity that the handwriting was genuine “considering slant, flow, pen pressure, letter size, and other characteristics that are typical of the other exemplars that we have examined, in our hobby and professional career.”

PSA also stated that the book has been permanently marked with “proprietary invisible ink” bearing synthetic DNA which will glow under a calibrated laser, as well as a tamper-evident label containing a unique certification number.

Snow white - Whistle while you work

All of this has enhanced the book’s value, said Landfield. He said staff at Tsunami Books have it under secured safely away until it sells.

“Color illustrations are beautiful and there are no other 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' signed by Walt Disney for sale in the world right now,” said Landfield. “I'm thinking $10,000.”

Tsunami Books will try selling the book locally for a week, then try the global market next if there are no buyers in Lane County.

Landfield said there are a couple of local women in the Eugene area who’ve expressed interest in buying the book.

"As long as there's a film industry in America, this is a very important item," he said. "It's a treasure."

Any profits made from the sale will be split 50-50 between Moursund and the book store.

“Because I would have had nothing if it hadn't been for Scott,” said Moursund. “So of course that's fair.”

Man holding antique book.
Brian Bull
Scott Landfield of Tsunami Books examines a 1937 first edition of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" after Newport Beach, CA -based PSA confirmed the authenticity of Disney's handwritten message and autograph inside.

Moursund said she’s still trying to make up her mind what to do with her share of the windfall. But since her daughter has never seen England, she’s contemplating a trip together. She added that she’s fine parting with her book, but had a little advice for its next owner.

“Just enjoy. Just enjoy. Mr. Disney was a wonderful man and he made some wonderful pictures and it's a nice memento of him.”

Note: An earlier version of this story gave the publication year as 1938. It was actually 1937.

Copyright 2024, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.