The Onset of Fall
Just one month after closing out our spectacular double August auctions, the intrepid University Archives auction team reconvened on September 29, 2021 for our latest sale, Fabulous Autographs & Art, from Van Gogh to Hendrix.
The 410-lot sale lasted six hours—matching a previous company record for the longest sale—in part because online bidding was so energetic. We had more than our usual amount of international phone bidders, from as far afield as China, Hong Kong, and Italy. The company’s online presence continues to increase with each sale; to date, we have approximately 9,800 approved online bidders. Actual bidders participating in this sale, ranked highest to lowest by country, came from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Canada, China, and Israel. Our art, poster, and photograph-heavy sale seemed to attract more interest from Europe.
The sale saw tremendous returns from Art, Posters, Photographs, Early American, and Miscellaneous collecting categories.
ART, POSTERS & PHOTOGRAPHS
Nearly one quarter of the sale--89 of 410 lots--was related to art and artists. The bulk of this came from the collection of Noel Goldblatt (ca. 1926-2003), the Chicago-based autograph collector. Goldblatt’s collection of art-related autographs was both comprehensive and discriminating; it included important artists from the 18th to the 20th centuries of a dozen nationalities who communicated in five different languages. Goldblatt’s collection also contained superb autographs from Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and others. Some of the choicest items from Goldblatt’s collection had not been on the market for nearly 50 years.
Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh copied out several of his favorite verses from Protestant hymns on both sides of a paper fragment, writing out 115 complete and partial words in English and Dutch. The paper scrap sold for $46,875 including the buyer’s premium. The piece of paper underscores how, throughout his tragically brief life, Van Gogh constantly sought spiritual enlightenment.
Lot 69 was an autograph letter signed by Marcel Duchamp, the French Dadaist artist, addressed to the brother of a promising American female painter who had recently died. The presence of two of Duchamp’s signatures, one at the conclusion of the letter, and one on the return address panel of the original transmittal envelope, enhanced its value. But the other interesting aspect driving up the purchase price was that it quite probably was the last piece of correspondence that Duchamp ever wrote, since he died at 1 am the following morning after a dinner party. This item sold for about 14 times its high estimate, or $13,750 including the buyer’s premium.
Two additional autograph letters from French artists Claude Monet and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec each surpassed their high estimates. Lot 100 was an elegant autograph letter signed by Monet, containing his pledge to contribute to a monument devoted to his friend and fellow artist Joseph Delattre. It sold for $7,500 including the buyer’s premium, or more than double its high estimate. A note scribbled in heavy pencil by Toulouse-Lautrec, relating to a series of lithographs depicting cabaret star Yvette Guilbert, fetched 60% higher than its high estimate, or $6,250 including the buyer’s premium.
An additional 75 lots of the sale were devoted to vintage posters and photographs from the collection of a Wilton, Connecticut collector with a penchant for rock ’n roll and pop culture. The collection represented the last seven decades of popular music, from Elvis Presley to the Goo Goo Dolls, and also embodied the age of classic movies and television. A lead item in this category, a 1968 Jimi Hendrix Fillmore East concert poster in exceptional condition, sold for $10,000 including the buyer’s premium, or more than 10% higher than its high estimate
A 2pp circular communication from 1789 signed by newly appointed Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton as “Alexr Hamilton / Secy of the Treasury” exchanged hands for almost four times its high estimate, or $37,500 including the buyer’s premium. The document contained outstanding financial content, regarding the value of paper currency as “equivalent to Gold and Silver,” and cautioning against the prevalence of counterfeiting in northern New England.
Lot 266 was a Mathew Brady carte de visite of George A. Custer, boldly signed by the ill-fated military commander with rank as "Yours Truly / GA Custer / Bt Maj Genl / U.S.A." Perhaps the finest example we have ever seen, the Custer signed carte de visite garnered $34,375 including the buyer’s premium.
Space collectibles performed exceptionally well, with Lot 154, a dramatic photograph of a fiery rocket signed and inscribed by astronaut Walt Cunningham, selling for almost 10 times its high estimate, or $3,750 including the buyer’s premium. Aviation too attained extraordinarily high prices; a fabric swatch of the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer, encapsulated and certified by CAG, exceeded its high estimate by 50%, selling for $7,500 including the buyer’s premium.
A 2pp autograph letter signed by martial artist Bruce Lee discussing his ascendant movie career also contained a request for cocaine from the United States. He wrote to his Fists of Fury co-star Robert Baker, “…but one thing you have to do is to air-mail me some fine 'C' if you can swing it…really get me some fine stuff air mail - don't count on my immediate payment though, as I am still in the middle way.” The letter sold for 20% higher than its high estimate, of $18,750 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.
Keep posted for our line-up of fall and winter sales. We’re your go-to destination for Hannukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa gifts!