University Archives held its Rare Manuscripts, Books & Sports Memorabilia sale on May 31, 2023. Bidders joined us virtually from around the world: Americans, Swiss, British, and Canadian collectors dominated online bidding, but actual bids were also placed from faraway Lithuania, South Korea, and Sweden. Around 2,000 bids were executed in-house, and via three auction platforms and our website. Several noteworthy collecting trends emerged from yesterday’s sale. Space, Science, and Technology autographs and collectibles continue to command significant prices. May sale buyers also showed considerable interest in mid-20th century America, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Kennedys, from modern architecture to the Beatniks. A summary of some of our sale highlights can be found below.
Civil Rights and Black History
Lot 163 was a 1p typed letter signed by Martin Luther King, Jr. on “Southern Christian Leadership Conference” letterhead, dated January 18, 1966 and addressed to a man from New Jersey who had asked how to refer to Black people in America. King answered this question in the spirit in which it was asked: “The words 'dark skinned American' constitute a vivid depiction of both citizenship and race just as you point out… The word 'nigger' carries with it a meaning deeply rooted in the debilitating racist caste ordering of our society's slavery epoch and segregation era. The term, 'dark skinned American,' often finds its way into my speeches and writings… The use of that and similar appellations reflect both our great heritage and our devotion to a brand of Americanism of the highest order." The incredibly frank racial content of this letter, still as relevant today as it was in the mid-1960s, pushed the King signed letter well beyond its high estimate; it sold for $40,625 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 79 was a British passport from the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya issued to and signed by Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., father of 44th U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. The passport was valid from the years 1959-1969, and includes Obama, Sr.’s Non-Immigrant Visa to the United States, issued in July 1959, permitting him to attend the University of Hawaii. The passport period also includes Obama, Sr.’s 1961 marriage to Stanley Ann Dunham and the 1964 birth of Obama, Jr. The Obama, Sr. passport sold for 20% more than its high estimate, or $11,250 including the tip.
Lot 79, Barack Obama, Sr.'s signed passport
Lot 7 was an incredible 2pp autograph letter signed by John Adams dated March 31, 1801 and addressed to Isaiah Thomas, Jr., the Worcester printer of the old Boston Patriot weekly, Massachusetts Spy. In it, Adams inquires whether Massachusetts is being overrun by the “moral and political opinions of Virginia” in a veiled reference to recently ascendant Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia Democrats. The letter sold for more than its high estimate, or $12,500 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 53 was an Inaugural Edition (1961) presentation copy of Profiles in Courage boldly signed by John F. Kennedy and presented to Frankie Childers, a young, female Capitol Hill staffer who later served as Kennedy’s public affairs advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The signed book exceeded its high estimate, changing hands for $5,937.50 including the tip.
Lot 304 was a copy of Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki’s The Ten Oxherding Pictures signed by Allen Ginsberg and presented to Neal Cassady for the latter’s 27th birthday. Ginsberg described in correspondence elsewhere the collection of short poems with drawings portraying the spiritual progression of Zen Buddhist practitioners towards Enlightenment as “a book of mystical pictures which are self explanatory [sic] & very amuzing [sic].” The signed book with incredible Beatnik associations sold for above its high estimate, or $17,500 including the buyer’s premium.
Lot 304, Allen Ginsberg signed book presented to Neal Cassady
Lot 388 was a group of four World Series programs from 1921, 1923, 1926, and 1927, when the Yankees faced off against the Dodgers. The programs sold for more than 10 times the high estimate, or $11,250 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 is tentatively scheduled for July 12, 2023.