Freelance Historian
The World of Historical Manuscripts and Ephemera

Posts Tagged ‘Auction’

Why Good Research Matters

Posted in Shop Talk  by Steven on October 30th, 2009

Here’s an example of why the quality of your research (and researchers) makes a difference.

While browsing a recent auction at a noted auction house, I came across the following:

Timothy Pickering Autograph Letter Signed T. Pickering” as secretary of state. One page, 9.75″ x 8″, January 10, 1799, n.p. The letter, addressed to Dwight Foster, asks, “Have you got the Bridget? – Please let me know by the Beaver.” Both the Beaver and the Bridget were undoubtedly ships. At the time Pickering was involved in procuring ships for the United States Revenue Cutter Service to limit smuggling. Folds and wax seal marks, else fine. Estimate: $400 – $600.

Screen shot of listing at Heritage

Screen shot of listing

Now, aside from the fact that the Secretary of State wouldn’t likely be out buying ships for the Treasury Department (the US Revenue Cutter Service was started by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1790,) it took ninety seconds of research to determine that the recipient of this letter is Congressman Dwight Foster of Massachusetts, Chairman of the House Committee on Claims, thereby illuminating the correct reading of the letter:

“Have you got the Budget? Please let me know by the Bearer (of this letter)”

Scan of letter from heritage website

Scan of letter from auction website (click for full size)

Pickering was known for his strong pro-British sympathies, and was negotiating with Britain regarding the claims of Loyalists who lost property when run out of the Colonies during the Revolutionary War.  He is writing Foster, who as Chairman on the Committee on Claims, has finalized the budget for settling this year’s claims.  Coincidentally, the closest Pickering came to involvement with the US Revenue Cutter Service was having a cutter named for him since he was Secretary of State at the time it was built.

Unsurprisingly, the letter did not sell.

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Alexander Autograph’s Fall Auction

Posted in Shop Talk  by Steven on October 20th, 2008

The Fall 2008 auction at Alexander Autographs is just around the corner!

Alexander Autographs will be holding its Fall auction on November 6-7, 2008. We are very proud to present this auction, one of our largest ever, which will include over 1,800 fine lots of important historical autographs in all fields of collecting.


  • Col. Paul Tibbets’ Flight Suit (Lot 963)
  • Hitlers’ Order Firing Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (Lot 978A)
  • A historic collection of material assembled by journalist William Woodfield concerning the uniquely notorious Jack Ruby. (Lots 731A, B, C, D & E)

We look forward to kicking off the bidding on November 6th.

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Sotheby’s Expects Up to $55 Million in Qing Dynasty Auction

Posted in Old Stuff in the News  by Steven on September 3rd, 2008

Reuters reports on the upcoming Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong of the treasures of a Chinese Emperor:

A singular collection of imperial treasures once owned by China’s powerful Qianlong emperor including jade dragon seals, military scrolls and a sword will be offered by Sotheby’s this autumn in its Hong Kong sale.

Sotheby’s “Legacies of Imperial Power” auction will feature a group of ancient seals from the reign of the Manchu Qianlong emperor (1736-1795) sourced from the family estate of French industrialist Emile Guimet, whose celebrated oriental art collection is now mostly displayed in the Musee Guimet in Paris.

The sale, 35 lots in total, includes a pristine 15meter (49 ft) scroll of over 16,000 military figures, including the Emporer himself on a white stallion, a suit of armor, a sword and a massive white jade Imperial seal. The estimated total for the sale is $55 million.

Increasing wealth of the burgeoning capitalist class in China along with a strong sense of nationalism may be contributing to the continued growth in the Chinese antiquities market, as corporate executives seek to enhance their own prestige while reclaiming the stolen treasures of their ancestors.

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