Jeff R. Bridgman, a dealer and appraiser in the field of American flags, believes the flag dates to the War of 1812. “Without doubt it is an exceptional object, difficult to date, its history obscure. There is some evidence it was at sea and some suggestion that smoke permeated its cloth. As to its value it’s worth a lot. Its lack of date and history is probably why it didn’t sell.” This said, Mr. Bridgman mentioned that such flags are so rare, “their value is set by the very occasional seller rather than by the market. Such flags simply don’t come up.” He believes lot 13 was the best item in the sale.
As of this writing, no one has come forward with a post-sale offer to buy it.
Over the past 20 years the collecting of books, maps, manuscripts and ephemera has become ‘visual’ and these flags must rank with the most visually compelling Americana to come on the market in years. Put one of these flags up in the living room or study and no one will ask what you collect. They’ll ask only what else you have.
In the recent sale the first 12 of the 13 lots, all well documented and connected to the USS Constitution, sold for $785,750 against their aggregate high estimate of $1,076,500. The thirteenth lot was bought in for $130,000 and continues, post sale, to be available.
The family disposing of the collection provided extensive information on the first dozen flags. They were purchased in 1964 for $850 against a dealer’s asking price of $1,000. They have not however provided details about the purchase of lot 13. The first twelve lots set records according to Andrew Huber of Freeman’s who managed the sale. Four lots were sold above their high estimates and 8 within their estimates. The sale was aggressively but as it turned out, correctly estimated. Lynda Cain, a Freeman’s Vice President, catalogued the sale. As it is the consignors are doing okay. Their compound annual rate of return on their $850 investment for the first dozen flags is 14.96% on what turned out to be a 49-year annuity.
For the buyer this flag will present some unique challenges. Conservation, framing and possible additional analysis will require further investments. But when all is done this threadbare rarity may so evoke American history that it will dominate every discussion in its presence. Many books are about history. This flag is history and compelling.
Links to the full catalogue at Freeman’s
Links to Andrew Huber at Freeman’s
Links to Jeff R. Bridgman Antiques
Tel: 717 502-1281
Links to Col. J. Craig Nannos
Tel: 610 520-1283