February's Rare Autographs, Manuscripts, Photographs & Books Sale Results

    University Archives’ Rare Autographs, Manuscripts, Photographs & Books sale launched live on four auction platforms including our website on February 16, 2022. The 6-hour-long auction proceeded swiftly, with an average of 75 lots sold per hour, propelled along by vigorous and sustained bidder interest. Top online bidding activity came from the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Nine phone bidders joined the action directly and took home some of the top-selling lots. Our sell-through rate, which has been in the 90th percentile for 21 months and is one of the best in the autograph and rare books industry, topped 95%. Items from the Presidential, Science, Space, Civil War, and Sports collecting categories returned especially strong results, testifying not only to the robust health of the current market, but also to the items’ staying power as financial investments.


    Presidential material is always popular, but bidders were perhaps inspired to new heights by the prospect of upcoming Presidents’ Day.

    Lot 116 was athree-language ship’s passport from July 7, 1794 signed by President George Washington, requesting safe passage for a St. Bartholomew-bound schooner commanded by Captain Abijah Potter. Just one year later, Captain Potter was fatally axed in a shipboard slave uprising. The appealing combination of presidential history and Civil Rights history spurred on bidding. The lot sold for $25,000 including the buyer’s premium, exceeding its high estimate by 25%. An 1886 solid bronze casting of Abraham Lincoln’s right hand, made from a Leonard Volk plaster life casting in May 1860, achieved nearly three times its high estimate, selling for $15,000 including the tip. Lot 74 was an Abraham Lincoln signed document appointing a Consul of the Republic of Mexico to the port of San Francisco on October 3, 1864, which sold for $13,750 including the buyer’s premium. As Lincoln signed documents go, this was certainly an excellent example, yet the document grossed 30% more than its high estimate because of its historical significance. Bidders understood that the document symbolized the Lincoln administration’s recognition of the republican leader Benito Juarez over the French puppet Emperor Maximilian in Mexico, and how this policy not only supported democracy, but also enforced the Monroe Doctrine.


    Lot 433was a typed letter in German signed by Albert Einstein and addressed to close friend Michele Besso, recalling how the two collaborated to formulate the theory of special relativity over 35 years earlier. In the letter, Einstein compared the process of scientific theorizing to God’s creation of the world, both a “pointless luxury” but nevertheless essential to pushing the boundaries of understanding and existence. It sold to an American phone bidder for $68,750 including the tip. Sir Isaac Newton, in his role as Warden of the Royal Mint in early 1699, signed a recognizance bond relating to the criminal case against William Chaloner, a recalcitrant counterfeiter who was convicted of high treason and hanged at Tyburn two months later. The document, matted in a handsome display, sold to an American online bidder for $37,500 including the buyer’s premium. Lot 434 was a typed letter signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer, lead physicist of the Manhattan Project, discussing the atomic bomb and the origins of the code name “Trinity” to Leslie Groves, director of the secret research project. It sold for 40% over its high estimate, or $17,500 including the buyer’s premium.


    Lot 354 was an original patent model of a sword hanging apparatus designed in 1859 by future Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B Stuart, complete with a drawing of the device signed by Stuart, the U.S. Patent Office tag, and a contemporary printed circular describing the belt. It sold to a New York museum for $28,125 including the buyer’s premium. Apollo 16 moonwalker and born-again Christian Charlie Duke handwrote a moving testimonial about his faith surpassing his astronautical legacy, writing in part, “I thought that Apollo 16 would be my crowning glory but the crown that Jesus gives will not tarnish nor fade away.” The manuscript on Duke’s personal Apollo 16 stationery sold for $4,062.50 including the tip, surpassing its high estimate by more than five times. Lot 272 was a first edition copy of “The Babe Ruth Story,” complete with its original dust jacket and a 1948 letter of provenance, signed by the Sultan of Swat just six months before his cancer death. It sold for $10,000 including the buyer’s premium.

    Thank you so much for your interest. We’re always interested in hearing from you. Contact us today if you have items like these that you’d like to consign or sell.

    Our next sale will be held in March 2022. Until then, let’s continue making history.