Former United States presidents and their wives will take center stage in University Archives’ online-only auction of autographs, books, and relics slated for Wednesday, January 17, 2018, at 10:30 AM ET. Bidders can view all lots now, at the University Archives website, at www.UniversityArchives.com. Online bidding is being facilitated by Invaluable.com.
The sale is packed with 218 lots of important, scarce and collectible signed documents and other items relating to some of the most important names in all of history. The top lot could well end up being from First Lady Martha Washington, whose handwritten and signed letter from 1794, regarding a meeting of “The President” and James Madison, should finish at $25,000-$30,000. This letter was previously auctioned at Christie’s in 1989, in the prestigious Doheny collection.
Speaking of the Madisons, a document signed by James Madison in 1809, as President, issuing a patent to a Mr. Atkinson Farra for his “double-bored pendulum pump,” is expected to hit $2,000-$4,000; and a fabric swatch from a gown worn and owned by First Lady Dolley Madison (1768-1849), with impeccable provenance, and a print of her 1804 portrait, should bring $1,000-$1,200.
JFK items are a huge hit with collectors. A letter typed and signed on U.S. Senate letterhead by Kennedy in 1957, regarding a discrimination issue dating to World War II, has an estimate of $1,000-$2,000; while a piece of car roof Plexiglas, of the type used in the Lincoln Continental bubble-top at the time of his assassination, tested with a bullet hole, should fetch $1,200-$1,400.
Not to be outdone, Jackie Kennedy is also represented in the sale, with two lots having estimates of $3,000-$4,000 each. One is her personally owned and worn white gloves (her favorite fashion accessory), with important provenance; and her personally owned and worn navy blue leather belt, embellished with gold buckles and detailing at the front, consigned by her former secretary.
What’s more valuable, an Abraham Lincoln related pen or a George Washington actually used pencil? Answer: the pencil. The mechanical pencil personally owned by Washington, beautifully framed and with his portrait print, should garner $10,000-$12,000; while an original wooden pen made from the wood of a tree Lincoln himself planted carries a presale estimate of $800-$1,000.
Keeping in the same vein, an early 1800s miniature wood carving of an axe, 7 inches long, made from an elm tree growing in the area where then-Gen. Washington encamped his army on their march, culminating in the crossing of the Delaware River in December 1776, should make $600-$700. Also, a superb land grant on vellum, signed and dated (June 11, 1787) by Benjamin Franklin, an unusually well-preserved example with strong contrasting ink, has an estimate of $8,000-$9,000.
Several documents signed by Lincoln have strong appeal, such as an early legal brief written entirely in his hand circa 1841 or 1842, when he was still an Illinois lawyer (est. $4,500-$5,000); and a boldly signed prisoner discharge note from 1863, in which then-President Lincoln offers a pardon to any man who swears, without coercion, allegiance to the Union (est. $4,000-$5,000).
Thomas Jefferson items will feature a lengthy letter written and signed by the third president, during the War of 1812, relating to his beloved Shadwell, one of four farms owned by him (est. $8,000-$9,000; and a scarce Naval appointment dated November 1805, with gorgeous engravings, in which Jefferson appoints commander Hugh Campbell as a Navy Captain (est. $6,000-$7,000). There is also a letter by Jefferson that has scientific, in fact “lunar,” content (est. $5,000-$6,000).
A rare, partly printed document signed “James A. Garfield” as president, dated April 29, 1881, in which he appoints Francis W. Seeley postmaster for Lake City, Minn., has a reasonable estimate of $9,000-$10,000. Also, a military commission dated May 2, 1907, signed by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt and countersigned by William Taft as Secretary of War, should fetch $1,000-$1,200.
A letter typed and signed by Harry Truman in May 1961, one of only a few known in which he ruminates on his decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan as an expedient means to end World War II, has an estimate of $4,000-$5,000. Also, three individual card place settings on heavy card stock for Pres. Dwight Eisenhower and Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev, for an official dinner, should rise to $1,000-$3,000.
A designer porcelain enameled pillbox with a Japanese garden scene, gifted and inscribed to Mrs. Nancy Reagan by Tina Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s daughter from his first marriage, carries an estimate of $1,500-$2,000; while a collection of eight Dictaphone recordings made by then-Vice Pres. Richard Nixon, more than 18 minutes, with handwritten notes, should reach $1,000-$1,200.
A one-page letter, written in May 1831 and signed by then-Pres. Andrew Jackson, to Acting Sec. of the Navy John Boyle, in which he discusses the scandalous Petticoat Affair of 1829-1831, is expected to coast to $1,200-$1,400; and a military document from 1797, signed by future Pres. William H. Harrison, when he was Lt. Commander at Ft. Washington, should hit $1,800-$2,000.
Not all lots in the sale are president-related. Charles Lindbergh’s grandfather’s watch, ostensibly gifted to the pioneer aviator (and, remarkably, still working), maker unknown, has an estimate of $1,600-$1,800. Also, an aluminum combination spoon-and-fork, recovered from the site of the World War II P.O.W. camp dramatized in the film The Great Escape, should bring $800-$900.
A rare silver Masonic skull and crossbones shield from the 19th century, with a black velvet front and a black linen back, 14 inches by 14 inches, with significant weight in silver, is expected to realize $1,000-$1,200. Also, a seven-relic, first class Multireliquary housed in a hand-fashioned iron theca and sealed with red wax on the reverse, assembled in 1883, should garner $600-$700.
A group of eight Civil War reunion medals and ribbons, from the Grand Army of the Republic and the 7th Connecticut Regiment, has an assigned estimate of $400-$500. Also, a relic from the church where Pocahontas was baptized – a flat wooden disk from The Old Williamsburg Church (the second oldest church in America), recovered in the early 1880s – should sell for $300-$400.
University Archives was founded in 1979, as a division of University Stamp Company, by John Reznikoff, who started collecting stamps and coins in 1968, while in the third grade. Industry-wide, Reznikoff is considered the leading authenticity expert for manuscripts and documents. He consults with law enforcement, dealers, auction houses and both major authentication companies.
For more information about University Archives and the Wednesday, January 17 auction, visit www.universityarchives.com.