Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2018 Issue

Rare Books & Collectibles: Fake News

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Lincoln and his hat were inseparable

Lincoln would have something to say about this and it would be witty if this was a laughing matter.  But it’s not and he wouldn’t.  The story goes, and various images show, that President Lincoln attended a play at the Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865.  There he would be shot by John Wilkes Booth and die the following morning in a nearby boarding house.  At 5:21 am on the 15th he passed away and as he did, gave birth to the Lincoln ephemera market that has grown by leaps and bounds over the ensuing decades.

 

Anything he owned or simply touched immediately became a collectible.  Anything he signed became valuable. Anything said to be connected was enough to set the hounds braying.

 

But.

 

In Illinois the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is thinking about selling some of its collection to get cashflow positive and they are encountering the higher standards of auction authentication that apply today.  We know this because the New York Times recently wrote about a stovepipe hat the institution is thinking about selling that, so far, lacks conclusive authentication as one of Abe’s chapeaus.  It is the right size and the hat band is stretched, as was Lincoln’s habit, to store notes and papers there but otherwise there are no conclusive links.  This has caused the library to commission studies by the FBI and others including DNA analysis  but so far, no DNA or other factors support its Presidential connection.  Without that connection the hat is worth perhaps $100 and the hat was the capstone of a $23 million investment the Lincoln Museum made.  Ouch!

 

Provenance has long been the gold standard for collecting.  An item known to have been owned, annotated, signed or bound in a personally identifiable way can add enormously to value.

 

The temptation to fudge such details is therefore very strong.  The world is awash in unsigned paintings that are magically transformed into highly desirable collectibles when links to the famous or infamous are confirmed and many are the culprits willing to add telltale details to strengthen such connections.  It’s really nothing new.

 

What has changed are two factors.  Legal safeguards protecting buyers are increasing and scholarship, once the province of a few, is now available on line to the interested and attentive at nominal cost.   So we have a better informed field and laws that better protect buyers against fraud or error.   There aren’t really any statutes of limitation. 

 

The open window in the otherwise impenetrable fortresses of valuation is that increasingly the cost efficient transfer is not to new buyers via the auction path, but rather by gift to institutions who are not inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.  And that’s okay if the donor receives the anticipated tax credit and the institution never sells.  When they do, however, if by auction, the changing standards of evaluation will, in effect, cause such material to be reconfirmed and there is no saying that the optimistic approach taken when material is gifted will be reaffirmed by the sellers, particularly auction houses, if these things come their way.

 

In Illinois these days the issue is straightforward.  They have bills to pay and material that can be sold to lighten the burden so long as the true value can be understood and estimated.  This suggests that the research has to be done before the purchase or acceptance as a gift.  It seems impolite to look a gift horse in the mouth but actually, that’s exactly what needs to happen.  Otherwise, you can end up looking like a horse’s ass.

 


Posted On: 2018-10-07 20:04
User Name: chicago15

There are two billionaires currently running for the office of Governor of Illinois. Either one or both of them could resolve this difficulty - and likely win some votes - by donating half or all of the less than 10 million dollars the Lincoln Presidential Library needs to get out of these difficulties. Would that not be a nice thing to do?


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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