It would be easy to assume that almost all of Abraham Lincoln’s personal effects are in museums. It is hard to know how many of these items and personal effects there are, just as how many are available to the public or are in private hands. Heritage Auctions has an intimate collection of President Abraham Lincoln’s personal effects up for bidding. Some of these items are literally once in a lifetime opportunities.
Can you imagine owning Lincoln’s pocket knife? Or historically significant handwritten speeches from after the Gettysburg Address or the Emancipation Proclamation? Other items include handwritten letters from the American Civil War to personal items used in daily routine. Heritage’s Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature Auction closes February 12-13, 2022.
Historical items are bought and sold every day, but sometimes it seems almost impossible to fathom that you can own such detailed pieces of history.
Collectors Dashboard evaluates high-end collectibles as an alternative asset class. This means collectibles are attracting the same capital that could have been invested into stocks or bonds. Many collectibles now cost thousands of dollars (or much more). Collectors with a passion to own a collectible are often in direct competition with investors who are looking to resell the exact same asset for a profit in the future.
Here are some of the key pieces of interest Collectors Dashboard is tracking.
Abraham Lincoln: The President writes to the Army of the Potomac after the Union Defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. The letter has an opening bid of $250,000.00 which after buyer’s premium is included comes out to $312,500.00.
The weight of the words in the context of the moment add provenance to the opening bid. Heritage Auctions notes that, “In the Union’s darkest hour following the crushing defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Abraham Lincoln writes the Army of the Potomac to honor the brave men who fought and died in battle and remind the Northern public of the great cause for which they fought, foreshadowing the themes of his Gettysburg Address he would deliver eleven months later.”
The letter reads:
To the Army of the Potomac:
I have just read your Commanding General’s preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident. The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-crossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparatively so small.
I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.
There are many other items that Heritage Auctions has up for auction.
A historic engrossed copy of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution: Abolishing the Institution of Slavery. Signed by Speaker of the House of Representatives Schuyler Colfax, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, and over 107 members of the 38th Congress, including future President James A. Garfield. The opening bid is $200,000.00 which after buyer’s premium is included comes out to $250,000.00.
Abraham Lincoln: Exquisite Pocket Knife Presented to the President at the 1864 Philadelphia Sanitary Fair. Also included is his letter of thanks for the knife and signed: “Your Ob’t serv’t A. Lincoln”. The opening bid is $120,000.00 which after buyer’s premium is included comes out to $150,000.00. Sotheby’s sold the knife in a 1989 auction that realized $99,825.00.
Abraham Lincoln: His Personal Example of His Iconic Portrait Bust by Leonard Volk, Presented to Him by the Sculptor Himself with an opening bid of $100,000.00 which after buyer’s premium is included comes out to $125,000.00.
The Key to Lincoln’s Box at Ford’s Theater with a current bid of $52,500.00 after 19 bids.
George Armstrong Custer: His Personal 7th Cavalry Shoulder Knots with an opening bid of $100,000.00 which after buyer’s premium is included comes out to $125,000.00.
Signed Carte de Visite [CDV]. A vignette version of O-84 in Lincoln in Photographs, this CDV of a relaxed President Lincoln was taken by Mathew B. Brady in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 8, 1864. 2.5″ x 4″ (sight). Gold-rule border with “Brady Washington” imprint on recto and “Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries” back mark. Boldly signed, “A. Lincoln” above photographer’s imprint on recto. It has been certified and encapsulated by PSA to the overall size of 4.25″ x 7.25″. Small crease at bottom left corner which does not touch signature, with a few scattered areas of minute soiling. A beautiful example in fine condition with a strong dark signature. The current bid is $55,000.00 after 2 bids.
John Wilkes Booth: $100,000 Reward Poster issued by the U.S. War Department, April 20, 1865 with a current bid of $41,000.00 after 2 bids. Collectors Dashboard has previously covered War Department issued reward posters.
John Wilkes Booth: Personally-Owned Swagger Stick or Riding Crop with an opening bid of $50,000.00.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s Black Lace Veil Worn on the Night of the Assassination. Sold together with an authenticating note signed by Elizabeth Keckley, her noted African-American dressmaker, friend and confidante. Upon leaving Washington in May 1865, Mary Lincoln distributed personal mementoes of herself and her husband to a number of friends and favored staff; she gave the earrings, bonnet, and cloak that she had worn to Ford’s Theater to Mrs. Keckley, a former slave whose book Behind the Scenes (1868) furnishes an invaluable glimpse into the Lincoln White House. The current bid is $20,000.00 after 1 bid.
The items paint a unique time in American history. What a trophy the physical keys to Lincoln’s box in Ford’s theater. The theater is now a museum and preserved to look like the night of the assassination. Many of the items in this auction will transport collectors of history — or investors — back to the time of Abraham Lincoln, what will collectors be willing to pay for that experience?