Trash or Treasure: Front page marks World War II event

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News
Paul Thal, 78,  with his 1945 New York Times front page displaying the Atomic Bomb attack.

“Atomic Bomb Wiped Out 60% of Hiroshima; Shock Awed Fliers; Tokyo Cabinet Meets; Carrier Planes Strike Near China Coast,” read the headline on the front page of the New York Times in August 1945. Below the headlines were supporting stories about the bomb and photos of three crew members connected with the event, including the pilot, Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., and bombardier Maj. Thomas Ferebee.

Paul Thal has long been interested in World War II and recently brought in a copy of the same front page to an appraisal session held at DuMouchelles auction house and gallery downtown. There, Jerry Anderson took a closer look in hopes of giving him an estimate of its value.

Thal explained to Anderson how he came to own the piece. “I created it,” he said. “I’m a World War II buff and I’ve been to a lot of the battlefields. I’ve been to Hiroshima many times and have had a private meeting with three who were involved.”  He also has drawings, letters and many other World War II collectibles.

Thal had three members of the crew, including Tibbets, Ferebee and navigator Capt. Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, sign his reproduction of the front page when they came through Detroit on a tour about 20 years ago, he said. Van Kirk, who died in 2014, was the last surviving member of the Enola Gay crew.  “Tibbets was quite a talker,” he remembered and shared with others at the appraisal event.

Anderson said that the page has value even though it is a reproduction and that the value lies in the signatures. “It’s nice you had this signed in their presence, which gives it more provenance,” he explained. “Because of that you probably wouldn’t need to get the signatures officially authenticated.” He went on to explain that if it were to be authenticated, they would use forensic testing.

Thal and Anderson filled others present at the appraisals in on the World War II event and some surrounding facts, including the type of plane (B-29) and who it was named for (Enola Gay after the pilot Paul Tibbets’ mother).  “The pilot’s job was to drop the bomb and make a steep turn to get out before it hit the ground,” Anderson explained.

The appraiser went on to say that the pilot’s signature alone starts at about $100 and goes up based on context and condition. “This one is a lot more interesting,” he said of Thal’s piece. The value, he added, lies in the signatures, not the newspaper itself, which is a reproduction. Even if it wasn’t, old newspapers don’t generally bring high values due to large quantities made.

“More interesting” translates into more value. “At auction, I think this could bring $300- $400,” the appraiser said. “There are a lot of World War II collectors who would love to have something like this.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item: Autographed front page

Owned by: Paul Thal

Appraised by: Jerry Anderson, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $300-$400 at auction