American History Takes Lead in RR Auction’s February Fine Autographs Event

by Brooke Kennedy

This Valentine’s Day our bidders showed their love for fine autographs and artifacts during our monthly event, pushing the final selling prices of many items past their projected estimates. Our consignors partnered with RR to present more than 450 items across 27 categories, with presidential items taking the lead.

American Presidents

In the number one spot earning $44,240 for its consignor was a fabric swatch from President Abraham Lincoln’s head bandage. The swatch was originally acquired by 25-year-old Henry S. Safford, a War Department employee who had taken up residence at the Petersen House in 1865 during the assassination. According to many different accounts, Safford offered a bed at the Petersen’s for Lincoln, where he would tragically die in the early hours of April 15. Safford can also be seen depicted in a lithograph by Albert Berghaus titled “The Dying Moments of President Lincoln, at Washington, Saturday Morning, April 15.”

Swatch of bloodstained fabric swatch from the head bandage of Abraham Lincoln, obtained by Petersen House lodger Henry S. Safford.

In a letter dated May 3, 1865, Safford recounts how he acquired the fabric piece, “I send you enclosed a piece of cloth stained with the blood of our late President Abraham Lincoln. It is a piece of the bandage that was placed around his head. I procured it from the room in which he died. I reside in the same house.”

The cloth piece was mounted against the fabric of a 42-star american flag along with Safford’s letter and its original mailing envelope.

Collection of 35 presidential signatures, complete from George Washington to John F. Kennedy. Among the signatures pictured are Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, and John Adams.

A culmination of America’s history, a collection of presidential signatures took the number two spot. Featured are the first 35 U.S. presidents beginning with George Washington and ending with John F. Kennedy. Most signatures are displayed on clipped slips or cards, with some on letters or free franks. The collection – sold for $43,161 – meticulously compiles some of the most difficult-to-find signatures out there.

Modern Music

The third place item was a curveball among the other top two. Originally slated for release on December 8, 1987, The Black Album was set to be Prince’s tenth studio album. The album would’ve featured an entirely black sleeve with no album title or credits. A week before its intended release, Prince abruptly pulled the plug on the project after a spiritual experience that convinced him the album was ‘evil.’ Intent on leaving records of the album, Warner Bros. got to work destroying all 500,000 pressings that had been made. So few of these copies have survived that it stands as one of the rarest albums in the world – but sometimes you find a gem when you least expect it.

Rare, still-sealed example of Prince’s The Black Album.

A detailed letter of provenance from Jeff Gold, who worked closely with Prince in the 1990s while serving as the executive vice president/general manager of Warner Bros., recounts this album’s surprising discovery.

“This example is one of five sealed copies discovered in December 2017, in the collection of a former Warner Bros. Records executive who worked on The Black Album. The executive’s daughter had purchased her first turntable and asked her parents to send her some albums. Their record collection had been boxed up in a closet for more than 25 years, and while searching for records that might interest their daughter, they stumbled upon two never-opened Warner Bros. Records mailers…they opened these for the first time and discovered five perfect, sealed copies of The Black Album. These had been sent to the executive in December 1987 when the albums were ordered destroyed, and for 30 years, the two mailers had sat unopened among their other boxed up vinyl.”

Very few pressings of The Black Album have been offered at auction making them highly valuable, with this particular copy selling for $32,103.

Along with more monthly auctions coming up, we have some exciting specialty events we’re seeking consignments for: Marvels of Modern Music in May, Art, Literature, and Classical Music in June, and Olympics in July. If you have an incredible item you’re looking to sell? Contact our team by clicking the button below or give us a call at 800-937-3880.

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