May's Rare Books, Autographs, Manuscripts, and Photos Sale Results

    University Archives held its online sale, Rare Books, Autographs, Manuscripts, and Photos, on May 4, 2022. Brisk bidding ensured that 399 lots crossed the auction block in just five hours. Our May auction proved to be one of our two highest-grossing sales ever. Since the start of 2022, our industry-topping sell-through rate has not dropped below 96%. Our growing bidder base on just one of three bidding platforms, Invaluable, generated nearly $2 million in online demand; actual online bidding came primarily from the United States, Switzerland, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, and India. We also had a solitary bidder from Cyprus! Interest was strongest in the Science, Space, Literary, World Leaders, U.S. Supreme Court, and the Civil Rights Movement collecting categories.


    Interest in Science-related autographs continues to dominate the market. Of the five Albert Einstein-related lots in our May sale, all five sold over their low estimates, and two lots greatly exceeded their high estimates. Lot 397 was a runaway train. An Albert Einstein signed card inscribed with the German equivalent of the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute” sold for 15 times its high estimate, or $75,000 including the buyer’s premium. A few lots later, the same American buyer purchased Lot 399, a typed letter signed by Albert Einstein discussing whether intergalactic space travel was limited by the speed of light. It sold for 20% more than its high estimate, or $150,000 including the tip.


    Over 40 lots in our May sale featured items signed by celebrated authors, such as Harper Lee, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Henrik Ibsen, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, Leo Tolstoy, and Kurt Vonnegut. Lot 359 was an archive of letters exchanged between Southern novelist Harper Lee and her longtime friend, Poet Laureate Ralph Hammond. The archive, rich in “To Kill a Mockingbird” content, sold for one-fifth higher than its high estimate, or $12,500 including the buyer’s premium.


    Historical documents signed by some of the most famous political figures in history performed remarkably well in our May sale. Lot 316 was a Revolutionary War-dated document boldly signed by George III, authorizing a large payment for “delivering Provisions…for Our Forces in North America.” The lot sold for 50% higher than its high estimate, or $7,500 including the tip. Lot 327 was a document signed by Maximilien Robespierre roughly one month before he was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. It sold for $3,500 including the buyer’s premium. Lot 311 was an attractive document signed by Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch; it sold for 400% higher than its high estimate, or $2,000 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 June 2022. Until then, let’s continue making history.