University Archives rang in 2021 in a big way!
Our supersized January 6th sale, comprised of 437 lots, attracted over 7,600 bidders pledging bids online, by absentee bid, or by phone. By the end of the 7-hour-long sale—the longest in company history--our buyers had collectively purchased over $800,000 of phenomenal autographs, rare books, and historical collectibles. We also reached another milestone by selling 94% of the lots offered.
January’s top collecting categories included Science, Early American, Kennedyiana, and hair.
Lot 82, a 1p World War II-dated typed letter in English signed by physicist Albert Einstein, sold to an overseas collector at its high estimate of $80,000 (sold for $100,000 including buyer’s premium). In the letter, Einstein revealed that his Theory of Relativity did not provoke much controversy among officials of the Third Reich. Indeed, no one thought very much of Einstein’s treatise, including Einstein himself; he later admitted in the same letter that he threw the first version of his manuscript into the waste-paper basket!
Other science-related lots garnered high prices. A 1p autograph letter signed by James Clerk Maxwell, considered among the most significant physicists of the modern era, fetched a shocking $7,000, or over ten times its high estimate (sold for $8,750 including buyer’s premium). Ernest Rutherford discussed one of his lectures on atomic theory and referred to Niels Bohr in a 2pp autograph letter signed that crossed the block at over three times its high estimate, or $3,000 (sold for $3,750 including buyer’s premium).
January also saw tremendous interest in the Founding Fathers. Lot 417, a 2pp Revolutionary War-dated letter signed by George Washington, and commenting on the courage of Patriot troops during the ongoing Battle of Yorktown, sold for a hammer price of $25,000 (sold for $31,250 including buyer’s premium).
Two other documents signed by George Washington either met or exceeded its estimates: Lot 418 was an extremely early pay request dating from Washington’s service as a Colonel in the Virginia Militia, while Lot 419 was a commission signed by then President George Washington appointing an officer to the frontier-fighting Legion of the United States. Lot 150, a superb autograph letter signed by Thomas Jefferson discussing plantation business, achieved $14,000, or more than twice its high estimate (sold for $17,500 including buyer’s premium).
Nearly one quarter of our January sale was devoted to Kennedy autographs, documents, photographs, relics, ephemera, and collectibles. Many of the pieces came from the collection of Father Ronald Hoskins (1949-2020), the noted assassinologist and collector of John F. Kennedy memorabilia.
A few highlights of this category included: Lot 192, a hood ornament attributed to have been on the hood of the Lincoln Continental presidential limousine in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, which sold for $8,000, or twenty times its high estimate (sold for $10,000 including buyer’s premium); Lot 201, a newspaper printing plate from the Saturday, November 23, 1963 issue of The Dallas Morning News reporting on Kennedy’s assassination, which sold for over nine times its high estimate, or $9,500 (sold for $11,875 including buyer’s premium); and Lot 250, 21-year-old John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Massachusetts driver’s license, which crossed the auction block at $5,500, or more than ten times its high estimate (sold for $6,875 including buyer’s premium). The pen with which John F. Kennedy authorized the bestowal of honorary American citizenship upon former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as well as lovely signed and inscribed photographs of a teenaged Jacqueline Bouvier at a Connecticut boarding school, also commanded the highest prices.
Hair! … Hair?
Yes, our January sale featured eight lots of hair plucked out of the scalps of some of the most memorable individuals in history, including Napoleon Bonaparte, John Brown, Neil Armstrong, Franz Liszt, and William Henry Harrison. Company president John Reznikoff, whose historical and celebrity hair collection was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2014, noted the recent surge in interest with delighted surprise.
Lot 26, an enormous lock of dark brown hair belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte, was collected on the island of St. Helena around 1819 by the ex-emperor’s Irish surgeon, and then gifted to the Protestant chaplain on the island. Accompanied by extensive provenance information, the lot sold for its high estimate of $6,000 (sold for $7,500 including buyer’s premium). Five strands of hair belonging to pianist Franz Liszt sold for $3,250, or more than four times its high estimate (sold for $4,062 including buyer’s premium); while several wisps removed from the head of militant abolitionist John Brown a few years before his execution achieved $2,200, or around $400 a hair! (sold for $2,750 including buyer’s premium).
Thanks as always 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.
We hope that you stay tuned for our upcoming winter sales.