by Brooke Kennedy
September’s Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction was a treat for literature lovers of every genre. Alongside first-edition copies and handwritten letters, there was a wealth of autographs and documents from major figures of human history.
Just as with our past two monthly auctions, RR Auction was chosen to sell another major collection of A-list autographs.
For several decades, one collector traveled the world seeking out celebrities in every profession. Beginning in the 1940s through the 2000s, Jack Kuster compiled an impressive archive of autographs from multiple generations of pop culture icons; classic stars Marilyn Monroe and James Dean to famous contemporaries Heath Ledger and Keira Knightley; best-selling entertainers Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to modern hit makers Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera; political giants Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy to regal royal Grace de Monaco; and even animal celebrities like Rin Tin Tin and Lassie.
His first autograph came at the ripe age of fourteen, when Broadway and film star Carmen Miranda was performing in a USO show in his hometown of Rochester, New York. Kuster and his mom soon moved to New York City, which gave him access to the stars of Broadway. With this newfound passion, in the 1950s, he picked up his pen and paper and headed for the bright lights of Hollywood, capturing the signatures of actors and entertainers early in their careers. His collecting ventures continued all the way into the 2000s, acquiring signatures, photographs, and plenty of stories. Even when an autograph seemed out of reach, his persistence paid off.
“I remember the story of Katharine Hepburn. She would never sign,” said Juan Carlos, an old friend of Jack’s. “She will always go no never never never…[Jack] had to earn it.”
Carlos first met Kuster in 1993 when he – quite fittingly – asked for Carlos’s autograph. At the time, Juan Carlos was a struggling Mexican soap actor, and they just clicked. Over the years they kept in touch, and after Kuster’s death in 2012, Carlos inherited the massive collection of 25,000+ autographs.
Now, the collection that has astounded appraisers with its size and value, has sold at RR Auction for nearly seven times its estimate, ending the evening with a high bid of $165,406.
Countless classic stories have held the fascination of readers for decades, each one reflecting the time and circumstances during which they were written. With continued interest in classic books, prices for true first editions and author memorabilia have risen, as is evidenced with our literary highlights.
Henry David Thoreau
Published in 1854, Thoreau’s Walden was a groundbreaking philosophical piece, exploring themes of nature and self-reliance. This book became one of his most notable works, as it catalogues ideas that became popular during the transcendentalist movement.
Walden was published after his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, became a commercial failure. Inspired by two years spent in a cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau pens a story that takes the reader on a year-long journey. Going through each of the seasons, he focused on the theme of the cultivation of the self, creating his most enduring novel.1
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”2
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in the opulent Jazz Age was inspired by his own experiences and the people in his life. Like Walden and other classics, The Great Gatsby became embedded in the American literary canon, but its reception upon release was quite lukewarm.
Though he wrote several novels and short stories during his lifetime, Fitzgerald’s life was far from changed by his path as a writer. In one of his final letters, he wrote to his former agent, capturing his sharp state of mind.
“This is emphatically not true. Your preposterous suggestion outside the theatre the other night that I advertise some commercial product is as near as you have come to representing me for almost a year,” wrote the author to agent N. H. Swanson, rejecting a continuing partnership with him. The writer, still struggling in his career, would soon pass away at the age of 44.
In spite of its lackluster debut and success, The Great Gatsby is now regarded as a masterpiece, with a first edition copy of his classic Jazz Age tale realizing $5,858 at RR Auction.
Even with only three months left in 2023, there is still time to consign your pieces with RR Auction. You still have three more chances to partake in one of our upcoming events: JFK and presidential, Fine Autographs and Artifacts, and our final Marvels of Modern Music auction of the year. Give our team a call at 800-937-3880 or click the consign button below to submit your rare lots.
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