In The Markeplace: 2011


A sheet music dealer on eBay listed a Civil War era volume of music that included three patriotic selections of note. All were published in 1861. “Our County’s Flag” was dedicated to “His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.” The “Union Army March” had portraits of McClellan and four other Union commanders on the cover. The gem of the trio was the “Secesh Battle Flag March” published by the composer in Nashville, Tennessee. Its publication may have coincided with the June election in which voters opted to secede from the Union. Tennessee never was able to follow through on this plebiscite. The state capitol at Frankfort was taken over by Union forces and the disloyal government officials forced to continue their operations in absentia. Battles flared back and forth for some time. Andrew Johnson was appointed Military Governor. This rare piece of sheet music has a graphic representation of the “stars and bars” with fifteen stars, corresponding to the total number of states (slave states and border states) that the CSA hoped to bring over to their side, but never did. A political collector and a sheet music collector battled it out on this choice grouping, with the sheet music collector out-sniping the other to the tune of $766.



Content letters related to Lincoln haven’t slipped in value in this depressed market… at least that is the case if you review Bob Raynor’s last H.C.A. Auction in December 2011. A soldier’s letter written and signed by “Will C. Holden,” 6pp., Corinth, Miss., March 5th 1863, includes: “A force of our cavalry has just returned from Alabama. They captured the camp of the noted Col. Roddy and burned it, took about 80 prisoners and 300 bales of cotton, and a large lot of cattle, horses and mules… Roddy was across the Tennessee River with the principle part of his cutthroats, and his camp was not strongly guarded. Our gunboats destroyed the ferry he crossed the river on and he could not get back to attack our forces. The guerrillas are very active in this vicinity at present… All the surgeons here except one to each regt. has been ordered to report to Vicksburg immediately… Well father, speaking of traitors at home, you have no idea how we soldiers hate them… we would furnish gratuitously, rope enough to suspend them to the highest limb of the first tree… They are trying to make the public believe that the soldiers are opposed to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.” ($550) An excellent letter written by Luther M. Sigmund of the 207th PA Infantry, October 20, 1864, from Head Quarters Army of the James, reads: “After breakfast we lay around till 9 O’clock and then we have to all fall in and go out about a half a mile from camp and drill on shooting…. after dinner we lay around till 2 O’Clock and then we get ready and go out on picket…. Some places it is nice picketing, the Rebs are very friendly night before last. I was out in a nice place. The 2 picket lines was only about 2 rods apart. We could talk to them (The Rebels), they talk very reasonable. I was talking to a Lieutenant about the election. I asked him his opinion of the election. Well he said if Old Abe is elected he thinks they will throw down their arms for he says they would sooner do that than fight 4 years longer. They would like very much if McClellan would be elected, he thinks he would favor him a little. But he says they have give up all hopes of him getting elected…. Before we had the cheer for Mack (McClellan) a good bit. We can hear them giving 3 cheers for Mc’ (McClellan) every day. So I think any man that votes for McClellan aint any better than a Reb.” Sigmund continues speaking of breastworks, how long the lines are, and Richmond. He then continues “The Rebel prisoners are coming in every day. They say they average a hundred to a hundred & fifty every day…. That pretty near one half of them fighting men are absent without leave. I saw one man come in yesterday, had not a stitch of cloths to his body, it looked pretty hard. I thought we had some pretty hard time… We live and fare like kings when compared to them.” ($650)




Swann’s held a sale on December 1, 2011. They offered a fine specimen of the 1861 Inaugural Ball dance card. The cataloger stated “no copies of this dance card have been noted at auction.” Contrary to that, an example was sold in 1985 by none other than Swann’s. Perhaps no one there is old enough to remember that far back or they don’t keep copies of their old catalogs (In all fairness, they eventually spotted the omission and sent email notifications to absentee bidders). The 1985 example has gone through three hands since then and recently sold for a reported $10,000. We pictured another example in a previous Rail Splitter journal that was given by Robert Todd Lincoln to one of the invited female guests. We also are aware of a lady in Colorado who owns two examples. So, those with the Library of Congress example make for six. In contrast, we are aware of only one example known of the 1865 dance card. This one was estimated at $4,000-$6,000 and waltzed out the door for $3,840. Another lot contained two American Telegraph Company telegrams sent on April 2, 1865 from City Point, Virginia. In the first, President Lincoln writes to Edwin Stanton: “This morning Lt Genl Grant reports Petersburg evacuated, & he is confident that Richmond also is. He is pushing forward to cut off if possible the retreating Rebel army.” Stanton forwarded a copy of the telegram to Major General Dix in New York City, accompanied by some introductory comments. In fact, Richmond was soon evacuated and taken without resistance by Union troops on April 9th. These important communications sold for $7,800. For you budget conscious bidders, a bid of $270 won a manuscript constitution of the “Constitutional Club of Walton” [NY or CT]. Circa 1860, the members promised to protect the flag from “the foul stains of secessionism and the croaking ravens of abolition fanaticism.” Nice try, guys!



As reported in this journal, the interesting saga of Gideon Welles’ property and the search for a purported trove of never-before-seen letters to Old Neptune from Abraham Lincoln continues. Separate from that intrigue, the occasional emergence of ephemera that originated with Lincoln’s Sec. of the Navy commands our attention. (You might recall that the Rail Splitter Lincoln Bicentennial auction in 2009 included Welles’ letter from his son witnessing Lee’s surrender… including a fragment of the Confederate flag-of-truce!) Another Welles’ relic just came to the market. Wes Cowan is auctioning property from the collection of famed Lincoln scholar – and fellow Rail Splitter – Ed Steers. Ed has decided to downsize a bit and is having Wes sell some of his fabulous holdings over three sales. One of the highlights in the first outing this past November was “GIDEON WELLES’ NOV. 18, 1863 PASS TO THE DEDICATION OF THE GETTYSBURG CEMETERY.” A small, manuscript completed, train pass cataloged as: Pass issued to Gideon Welles to accompany Lincoln by special military train to Gettysburg for the dedication. Card 3 x 4.25 in., preprinted with War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, D.C. Then Pass Hon. Gideon Welles, Secy Navy, and family, to and from Gettysburg by Special Train, 11:30am. Accompanied by transmittal envelope, signed by E.D. Townsend, AAG.

In his diary for December, 1863, Welles wrote: “It has been some weeks since I have opened this book. [his last entry had been Oct. 31] Such time as I could spare from exacting and oppressing current duties at the Department has been devoted to gathering and arranging materials for, and in writing, my Annual Report. Most of this latter labor has been done in the evening, when I was fatigued and exhausted, yet extending often to midnight. Likely the document itself will in style and manner show something of the condition of the author’s mind…. I was invited and strongly urged by the President to attend the ceremonials at Gettysburg, but was compelled to decline, for I could not spare the time. The President returned ill and in a few days it was ascertained he had the varioloid…. (of which, Lincoln said that he now had something he could give everyone).” Welles’ inability to get away from his duties is probably the reason this pass has survived.

With buyer’s premium, it sold for an astounding $43,200. Ed purchased this piece (together in a package trade-deal with William Seward’s family CDV album) in 1981 from the famed “Gettysburg Sutler” – one of the early dealers in Civil War memorabilia, George Lower. George opened a Gettysburg barber shop in 1960 and began selling militaria and ephemera on the side – at an opportune time as the country was caught up in the Centennial of that war. In 1972, George gave up barbering and became a full-time dealer. He is still part-time dealing… a partner in Lord Nelson’s Gallery in the James Getty Hotel. George had purchased the Gideon Welles’ train pass directly from the family in Connecticut in 1981 – at the time putting a value on it of $2,000… a sizable amount 30 years ago. Ed traded some militaria he had collected (dog tags, medals, some World War Two items) to obtain the piece from George. It is safe to say NEITHER could have foreseen the incredible price for the piece today!! Another strong performer at the Cowan sale was a mounted salt print of the Roderick Cole portrait of Lincoln. This one had the drapery in the upper background, excellent detail and tonality. The price was $15,865, perhaps a record for the image.

A striking Bell & Everett jugate ribbon, printed in red and blue, matching the design used on the cover of a songster, went below estimate for $9,400. It is only the second example known to exist in the hobby. A sixth plate ambrotype of two Wide Awake marchers, wearing their glazed hats and rain slickers, managed $3,525. Finally, a fine copy of the “Wigwam Edition” of the “Life of Abram Lincoln” was “checked out” for $2,115. It is a scarce title, to be sure, but usually appears in fairly ratty condition. This one was “perused” but little.



Heritage Auctions held their Fall Sale on November 30, 2011. A seldom-seen copy of the 1861 invitation to the “Union [Inauguration] Ball” sold for $3,880, despite some moderate toning.

A very unusual 2 1/4″ x 6″ silk campaign ribbon with an applied salt print photo of Lincoln by Marsh exceeded $10,000. It had some light staining and the bottom third had become detached and was reattached using thread and glue. Some speculated that it may have included a portrait of Hamlin at one time, as a similar jugate version exists. That version, however, has oval photographs. This example, in our opinion, seemed complete, as made.


A Breckinridge & Lane back-to-back ferrotype with rose-colored velvet rim went way over estimate, realizing $2,330. It is, by far, the rarest of the four candidates and the key to completing the set.

A rare anti-Lincoln Currier & Ives cartoon from 1864, “Abraham’s Dream”, was a good buy for $960. Lincoln was known to have premonitions and dreams, most of which were realized in his assassination. In this case (McClellan’s election), the dream was more akin to a hallucination.

Finally, a true treasure was offered; namely, one of Mathew Brady’s wet plate cameras. It was a documented piece that included Meserve and Kunhardt in its pedigree. It was listed in the inventory of Brady’s equipment at the time of his bankruptcy in 1873. Still functional, it was used in the 1950′s to take photos of American soldiers and President Eisenhower and featured in a Life Magazine article. Undoubtedly, it was used on more than one occasion to photograph President Lincoln. It traded hands for a record $65,725.



Freeman’s had a sale on November 20th. A 12″ porcelain obelisk was offered with a portrait of Lincoln and various inscriptions related to his life and death. It previously appeared in a Wes Cowan sale where it made $12,500. This may have been the identical example as it was part of an estate. This time around, it sold for a more reasonable $3,750. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.


Skinner’s held a books & manuscripts sale on November 13, 2011. They offered a copy of the Congressional Directory for 1848 in the original blue paper titled wraps. Lincoln was a member of Congress at this time and is listed in the directory. This particular copy was inscribed in ink at the top of the title page: “A. Lincoln MC [Member of Congress]“. It was estimated at $14,000-$18,000 and sold for $13,035. We spoke to some people who expressed serious concerns about it. In reporting on its sale, we are not expressing an opinion one way or the other in that regard. The sale also had a nice lot relating to Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts. He had written a letter to President Lincoln on April 1, 1863 asking the Federal government to contribute $1M to Massachusetts for coastal defenses, including the port of Boston. Lincoln wrote back on April 4th, referring the request to the appropriate departments. Ever the inventor and military strategist, he couldn’t resist telling Andrew of his idea for a specially designed boat that could ram blockade runners that approached the harbor, splitting them in two. “… her business would be to guard a particular harbor, as a Bull-dog guards his master’s door.” Lincoln’s idea apparently never got “off the ground”. The two letters did well, though, realizing








Some eBay sales from August 2011 and onwards: A very nice example of the Currier & Ives National Democratic Banner for 1860 featuring Douglas & Johnson realized $2,865, a reasonable amount considering recent sales. If I am any “judge”, the successful bidder will consider it a “capital” purchase. Another example was offered on the fixed-price list of Massachusetts dealer Rex Stark for $2,500, generating multiple calls.











A 2 1/2” x 6” silk ribbon for a banquet of the Lincoln Club promised to “…keep Green the Memory of the Anti-Slavery Heroes.” Although undated, it appeared to be of 1870-1880 vintage. It was supposedly owned by Charles Henry Pine, of Litchfield, CT, a Civil War veteran. It made a less than “memorable” $71.



A CDV of the crowd awaiting Lincoln’s inaugural in 1861, published by Coonley & Wolfersberger of Philadelphia, sold for $1,005. There is a known, similar view taken from a different angle, that shows more of the Capitol and its dome, then under construction. This example seems to be the only one known in CDV format. For unknown reasons, there are no known photographs of Lincoln appearing on the inaugural platform. We’d have to wait for 1865 for that happenstance.



An 1860 campaign cover showing Wide Awake marchers performing their zigzag military drill was a most unusual offering indeed. Unlisted in Milgram’s standard reference work, it marched out the door for a measly $65. Good deal!


A Civil War era CDV of the White House depicts a number of soldiers positioned through out the property, doing guard duty. It drew a lot of “attention”, selling for $585.






A “Senator Douglass” cigar box was offered with a “Buy It Now” price of $275. We picture a view of the end label. A rare box, yes, but not for that price. No one was willing to take a puff of that pricey cheroot! But, the buyer finally lowered his sights and relisted it with a starting bid of $45. The last time we looked, someone had placed a bid. Another seller offered a Hannibal Hamlin cigar box with a starting bid of $99 which we are assuming will fail to ignite.








A CDV by Mathew Brady taken in April 1862 shows a serious President seated and facing 3/4 left. It is a much scarcer view than the “inkwell” portraits taken a year earlier, reflected in the final price of $2125. There were 24 bids placed on this rare portrait.










A souvenir copy of the “Our American Cousin” playbill from the night of Lincoln’s assassination, but printed shortly thereafter by L. Brown was accurately represented as such by the vendor. The telltale sign was the inclusion the statement that President Lincoln would be in attendance. Original playbills make no mention of this. Still, there were 42 bids placed on it and it realized $5,300. Who knows what an original would bring?







A small, but colorful trade card for a February 1869 costume ball is both historical and charming. Three of the participants riding between the King & Queen and two trumpet-blowing frogs are Grant, Seymour and Andrew Johnson, recognizable through the oversized tailor’s scissors he yields. Despite some creases, it sold for $180.




A homemade Lincoln campaign cover caught our attention. The front was addressed and postmarked Pittston, Pennsylvania, November 14, 1864. The back had a pasted woodcut illustration of Lincoln as rail splitter, Lincoln as President, and the White House. The manuscript caption read: “Lincoln is in. Hurrah for him. McClellan is played out, In his head he’s got the gout (go out).” Obviously, a unique piece with a certain amount of charm… $635 worth of charm, to be precise.








A 5 3/4″ 3 1/2″ baby-flag for Douglas & Johnson generated 40 bids and a final selling price of $4,550. It is the smallest one we’ve seen and may have been attached to the crown of a horse’s bridle in a political parade or used to decorate the sides of a band wagon. We thought the small size would translate into affordability, but misjudged.










Dr. William Smith Wallace (1802-67), Mary Todd’s brother-in-law, prominent physician and Springfield drugstore proprietor, was the Lincoln family doctor. William Wallace Lincoln, Abe and Mary’s son born in 1850, was named in his honor. (Sadly, little Willie would die of typhoid fever in the White House just twelve years later.) Dr. Wallace accompanied the President-Elect and his family on their trip to Washington for the inauguration and was a frequent guest at the White House. Cincinnati Art Galleries has for sale this 29 x 24″ oil on canvas of Dr. Wallace by the artist Jacob Eichholtz, a Pennsylvania portrait painter. With provenance back to the family, the study is priced at $10,000.





The stuff keeps showing up on eBay, or so it seems. Here are some additional sales recorded in 2011. A 16” x 20” folk art watercolor was offered that showed” Abe’s Final Hours. The Assassination at Fords Theatre. Washington City April 14th 1865.” The Presidential Box seems quite spacious. Major Rathbone and Clara Harris are conspicuous by their absence and a rather spaced-out Union soldier watches the tragedy unfold while seated at a bench. Still, rather a charming rendition, despite the subject matter. It realized a modest $325.







A seller in Canada, acting as agent, listed a unique ticket to the 1864 Democratic Convention in Chicago that nominated George McClellan. The printer had apparently used a Republican cut as an illustration, but defaced it as to make the word Republican unreadable. Marked in pencil “Morning S.”, it generated sixty-four bids by five bidders before selling to a California specialist in convention tickets and inaugural invitations for a record $1,660. We can only wonder what an 1860 or 1864 Lincoln convention ticket will sell for should one ever show up.







An 1867 Ohio “Soldier’s Ballot” headed by gubernatorial candidate Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes, pictured Washington and Lincoln on the back side. Someone had added the captions: “Father of the Country” and “Emancipator & Defender of the Country”. Issued after Lincoln’s death, or “post-Abe”, it failed to generate a great deal of interest and sold for a modest $50.










A cased ninth-plate tintype of Lincoln and Hamlin, featuring hand-tinted, conjoined busts of the two candidates, copied after lithographic portraits, was hotly contested indeed. It opened at $499 before being hammered down in for a “zaftig” $5875.









A seller from Bath, England “cleaned up” when he offered a tinted-half plate dag “of a gentleman” by Mayall of London. The distinguished gentleman, whose identity was unknown to the seller, was none other than James Buchanan. He served as Minister to Great Britain beginning in 1853. Given his post-diplomatic career, he sould have stayed in England. There were 49 bids placed on this historic lot and it went out the door for a “cheap” $18,225, likely headed back across the pond. It later surfaced on eBay, being listed by Nate Sanders Autographs of Los Angeles for a Buy-It-Now of $85,000 or Best Offer. So far, no takers, so it may be a “Buy-It-Later” or “Buy-It-Never”.






A very colorful “Lincoln Emory Brick” had its original paper label and seems to have been made in the 1880s. It was used to polish metals, as the instructions on the label reveal. No one was willing to pay the opening bid of $49 and it went back on the shelf.





 A midwest vendor offered an 8 1/2” x 11” glossy photo printed on Kodak paper of Lincoln in his coffin. It’s quite convincing! We assume it is a picture of a wax figure of Old Abe and may have been part of an exhibit. It could have been purchased for a Buy-It-Now of $10 with $5 postage. Fifteen bucks for an unknown photo of Lincoln seems reasonable enough. Hmmm. To quote Jack Benny… “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!!”

[Editor's note: Rail Splitter Thomas Lapsley wrote, "The Lincoln in coffin photo is actually a CGI (computer generated image) recreation that was shown in the 2009 History Channel documentary "Stealing Lincoln's Body"."]




A life mask of Lincoln, patterned after the Leonard Volk sculpture of 1860, was offered with a Buy-It-Now price of $350. Volk’s life mask had the eyes “gouged out” and the hair pressed down. This was a more “natural and life-like” version. The seller dated it between 1870 and 1890, but it is pictured in Stuart Schneider’s book with an attribution date of 1928. A fine and handsome rendition, no matter its age.







A 41” x 27” stone lithograph poster from 1918 advertised the film “The Son of Democracy: A Call to Arms”, written, produced, directed and starring Benjamin Chapin. It was part of a series of films dealing with American history made by Paramount Pictures (a.k.a., The Famous Players Corporation). Chapin specialized in portrayals of Lincoln, even though a myriad of actors assayed the role over the years. Most, if not all, of the Lincoln bio-pics of the silent era have been lost to time. This colorful poster had a starting bid of $325, but “the audience stayed away in droves” and it failed to sell.








Smokers from Illinois likely found the “Illinois Giants” brand hard to resist. The 10-cent cigar was named after Lincoln, Douglas, Grant, Logan and Trumbull. Around the same time, there was a cigar called the “Ohio Boys” named after Hayes, Garfield and McKinley. The one pictured here sold for a reasonable $52.





A seller from Lincoln, Rhode Island offered a four-volume “extra -illustrated” set of Ida Tarbell’s “The Life of Abraham Lincoln”. It was one of seventy-five such volumes issued in 1900 that contained tipped-in artifacts from the Tarbell Collection. This set had 367 items (two additional items were apparently missing). The value of the set, we estimated, was four Brady campaign ribbons from 1860 (Lincoln, Douglas, Breckingridge and a Bell-Everett jugate worth, in total, $9,000 retail). There were some nice letters, including a William Seward letter from 1850 expressing strong abolition sentiments as well as this 1861 letter from Secretary of War Simon Cameron suspending pay for “Mr. Walter”, the architect of the Capitol, as work had been temporarily put on hold. The vendor advertised the set extensively, even taking out a full page ad in “The Newtown Bee.” It apparently all paid off, as the final price was $19,220.

We should mention that shortly before this, another set was offered on eBay. The vendor was from Boston. The set was in poor condition and had a Buy-It-Now of $55,000 or Best Offer. We only spotted one item of note, but noteworthy it was! It was a half-page from a printer’s galley proof of Lincoln’s first inaugural address with changes and corrections in Lincoln’s handwriting. We didn’t follow up to see if anyone bought this item, but feel the inaugural address piece alone more than covered the purchase price. We’ll have to see if either of the sets are broken up and the components offered individually.



What are collectors thinking these days? With the current economy, a lot of collectors are sitting on their hands and only “pulling the trigger” when they can get a really great deal. However, this tactic can be “overplayed.” An Ohio vendor recently listed a 47 mm. Douglas & Johnson donut ferrotype on eBay with a starting bid of $3899. He properly listed it under Democratic political items, described it accurately, and posted half-way decent images. When it didn’t sell, he immediately relisted it for a lower amount. This process repeated itself perhaps five times until it was finally listed with a starting price of $999 and the admonition that if it didn’t sell this time around, it would not be offered again (this “final listing” warning seems to be catching on with several frustrated sellers). Anyway, one bidder decided to take a shot and won it for the opening bid of $999. The item has all the original silvering, the original loop and mirror-like ferrotype surfaces. It makes you wonder… what are these people thinking?? Yes, prices are down, but that makes for some very good buying opportunities.



Personally, we aren’t fans of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” The simple premise, and we emphasis the word SIMPLE, is that: “If somebody else does something stupid, now that’s funny!” If true, some of you should be laughing your heads off at this. Tom Cardaropoli, d.b.a. “Walnutts” is arguably the most successful vendor on eBay of Americana. He consistently offers great, fresh to the market material. He posts beautiful photographs, gives detailed descriptions, has a strong folllowing and consistently gets the most “hits”, most bids and highest prices for his material. Even Tom must be shaking his head at his most recent sale of a routine Lincoln and Hamlin back-to-back ferrotype. This is a ferro that shows up on a regular basis. Tom’s example was very nice and near mint. The only flaw was some darkening of the Hamlin portrait, an “as-made” defect in the manufacturing process. There were seventeen bidders on this item who placed an aggregate total of ninety-six bids. There were three different bidders at the $1,100 level and up. There were two bidders at the $3,000 level and up. A realistic price for this item, based on its degree of rarity and condition would have been $700-$800. Apparently, two well-heeled bidders got into a bidding war, the dream of consignors and auctioneers the world over. Reason and reality were tossed out the window. The winning bidder registered a series of last minute bids, even though the underbidder had finally given up. With each bid, he was likely saying to himself: “Bid against me, you low-life! I’ll show ya! Take that! and that!” He got what he wanted. He won the item for $7,365. What a moron! Tom… we have a suggestion. If you ever run out of material, start taking things on consignment. You’re killing em!! That’s a hard act to follow, but Tom immediately listed an almost identical ferro. He described the photos as being dark, but it looked pretty good to us. The Lincoln was perhaps a little dark and the Hamlin had a small chip out of his shoulder. On the whole, though, a very nice specimen. Clearer heads prevailed and it sold for a realistic $785.



Historic Collectibles Auction of Graham, NC had one interesting piece in a recent sale. It was an 1860 campaign card with an applied salt print of John C. Breckinridge. It was made by Henry Granger of Boston. We have seen matching jugate cards for Lincoln and Hamlin, and single cards for Lincoln. This is the first example of a Breckinridge card we have seen offered or even heard of. In excellent condition, it sold for $2250.







Gene Dillman of Old Politicals conducted an online auction of political memorabilia in June 2011. There wasn’t too much in the way of Lincolniana this time around, with one big exception. Gene offered a large 1860 campaign ribbon with Fassett portrait and red overprint reading “Freedom! Protection.” Despite some creases, it sold for a noteworthy $8,337. Who needs “Caddy” when you can have Lincoln.











Heritage Auctions of Dallas held a manuscripts sale in New York City in April 2011. Besides the usual Lincoln commissions, endorsements and pardons, it had some interesting political manuscripts. The most noteworthy was a 60-page ledger that contained the preambles, constitutions, minutes and membership rolls of various Woonsocket, Rhode Island poltiical clubs dating from 1856 to 1864. Initially organized as the “Fremont Club of Woonsocket”, it transitioned in 1860 to the “American Republican Association of Woonsocket”, then the “Republican Wide Awakes of Woonsocket” and, finally, the “Lincoln and Johnson Club of Woonsocket”. Given the lack of graphics, we felt the opening bid of $1,000 somewhat optimistic, but collectors saw the historical content as overriding and aggressively bid it to a final price of $4,780. Hey! What do we know?






The non-floor session of the sale, where all lots commence at an affordable $1, had six letters dealing with politics during the Lincoln years. Most sold around $80-$90 apiece, but one written from New Orleans in October 1864 by a member of the 1st Regiment Indiana Artillery saw fierce compeition. Writing home, the soldier indicated that members of his regiment were unable to vote (due to the Indiana legislature’s failure to pass enabling legislation – we’re not even sure they were in session in 1864) and would have to wait on the results of the election. In concluding, he asserted “We can cheer as loud for Lincoln as though we had a vote.” In selling for $390, we assume it went “home to Indiana, on the banks of the Wabash, far away.”




Skinner’s in Boston held a decorative arts sale in March 2011. A 24” x 31” broadside printed in orange by Beals, Greene & Company of Boston, advertised the “Democratic Campaign Post” of 1860. This Democratic “rag” promised to begin publication as soon as the Democratic Convention at Charleston nominated their candidates (NOT!!). It also promised to be the largest format paper of its type with the most information. Since we’ve never seen a copy, we don’t know if they were true to their word. Estimated at $300-500, it seemed like a possible “sleeper”. It had great graphics, but didn’t mention the names of any candidates and qualified as a generic Democratic campaign piece from the pivotal contest of 1860. It did not go unnoticed (what does, nowadays?). Someone “posted” a winning bid of $2,965. You can cancel my subscription!







Swann Galleries  in New York City held an auction of printed and manuscript Americana in March 2011. The top lot among the political items was a Currier & Ives cartoon of “The National Game. Three ‘Outs’ and  One ‘Run’. Abraham Winning the Ball.” In need of some routine restoration, it was highlighted in their postcard mailing and hit “one out of the park”, selling for a record $10,800 to a prominent manuscript dealer. Even the fairly common cartoon, “The Rail Candidate”, sold well over its “normal going price”, realizing $2,160. There was one potential sleeper; namely, a 12” x 19” Lincoln & Johnson broadside from Haverstraw, NY. Instead of listing it under the “Abraham Lincoln” or political category, it was listed under the Civil War-Union category. In addition, it wasn’t even pictured in the catalog… only on the web site lot-by-lot catalog. Estimated at $300-$500, it overcame the severe handicap imposed on it and sold for $4.320. It must be noted, however, that the broadside had some loss and separation at the folds and had been improperly glued to a sheet of  vinyl. Hopefully, the damage can be remediated or reversed. These things will be ferreted out, despite the best efforts to bury therm!






Bob Coup of Smoketown, PA, a long-time dealer of political and advertising memorabilia recently revived his mail-bid auction known as “Historicana” which closed in March 2011.  In keeping with the times, there is no hard copy catalog and clients submit bids on the web site, via fax, or by phone. This saves on paper, postage and aggravation… a win-win situation. Bob had a very rare piece of sheet music published in 1859 titled “The Stephen A. Douglass Grand March.” Printed in two colors with a 3/4 standing view of the Little Giant, it “smoked” out several bidders before the air cleared at $1,760, a “record” for that tune!







Hake’s held an auction in February 2011 that included a wide range of collectibles. A 1” celluloid button issued circa 1940 showed the reconstructed Lincoln-Berry store in New Salem. It had an opening bid of $45 and sold on one bid for $52.







A pristine condition Lincoln-Hamlin back-to-back ferrotype badge was enhanced by the addition of their names on the ferrotype portraits, done in a calligraphy style. It sold for $1,075.






Finally, an extremely colorful Lincoln and Douglas “Statue of Liberty” button commemorating the 50th anniversary of their debate in Quincy, IL, produced in 1908, made a commanding $1,175.





RR Auction in Amherst, NH offered a “star attraction” in its January 2011 sale. The catalog entry reads: “Partly-printed DS, signed ’J. Wilkes Booth’, 6 x 2.5 inches, May 30, 1864. Receipt for one dollar reads, in full: ‘received of…One Dollar — cents, in full of engagement, at Boston Museum, and of all demands.’  Payee’s name clipped from body of receipt, three vertical folds, one through a single letter of signature, as well as old tape reinforcement to folds on reverse, a bit of scattered light toning, and two trimmed edges, otherwise fine condition. From late April until the end of May 1864, Booth participated in a 30-night run at the Boston Museum. His demanding performance schedule was motivated by his lust for money—but a sense of anarchy soon outweighed such pursuits. On this final night—May 30—he delivered a rarely seen and bloody tragedy entitled Ugolino that had been written by his father thirty years earlier. The performance involved the main character killing his lover and enemies before committing suicide while uttering the prophetic line: ‘What mov’d me to it? To murder him who sacrificed my peace? This was the crowning crime!’ The subtle fact that the payee’s name has been excised is typical of documents pertaining to Booth. Following Lincoln’s assassination, nobody wanted anything to do with the murderer—in large part because they did not want to be indicted as part of an assassination conspiracy. Nearly everything with Booth’s name was destroyed, creating the serious scarcity of his signature. This is as close to a true Booth-signed bank check as one will ever find. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RRAuction COA.” We wonder if the measly amount tendered as payment-in-full represented some “residual” money due the thespian, or whether this was an attempt on Booth’s part to evade the newly-enacted income tax statutes. It’s one thing to assassinate the President… quite another to cheat on your income tax!  It sold for $26,000.




We’ve always been fascinated with the connection between the Log Cabin and Hard Cider campaign of William Henry Harrison in 1840 and the Rail Splitter campaign of Abraham Lincoln twenty years later. Lincoln, as we know, actively campaigned for Old Tippecanoe, published a pro-Harrison newspaper, was nominated as a presidential elector, and even debated Democratic presidential elector nominee Stephen Douglas. Heritage Auctions of Dallas recently sold what is likely the finest hand-painted Harrison brooch to ever come on the market. It incorporates some Lincolnesque elements. These include the log cabin, the split rail fence and, for the first time, an ax imbedded in a log which appears in the lower right-hand corner. The only thing that the Republicans of 1860 left out was the Hard Cider! Are all these similarities merely coincidence? We think not. By the way, it sold for a record $10,160.






Douglas political sheet music is very rare and seldom appears on the market. An example of the Douglas Polka, published in Cincinnati, recently was offered on eBay. Two bidders duked it out on this one, going from $200 all the way up to a final bid of $877. The winner? All we can say is that the item is heading home to Cincinnati.













Some eBay sales in 2011. You never know where you’re going to find Lincoln stuff! A vendor in Montevideo, Uruguay offered a pasteboard box of “Abraham Lincoln” steel nib pens manufactured by A. Sommerville & Company of Birmingham, England. That was the center of the steel pen industry for well over a century. This particular company was in business under that name from 1850 to 1876, prior to a buy-out. The box has pictures on the sides of Seward, Grant (marked “Vicksburg Richmond”) and Sherman (marked “Savannah Charleston”). The box originally contained one hundred steel nibs, each embossed with an American eagle and shield and the name “Lincoln Pen”. Twenty of these still remained in the box. Circa 1865-1870, it sold for “mucho dinero”… $330.






One lucky eBay vendor offered a large collection of Salt River tickets dating from 1860 to 1880. The two highest priced examples were, not surprisingly, from 1860. They used a popular format, namely the metamorphosis. Adhering to the standard set-up, they show a voter or political partisan before and after the election. Viewed before the election, they are all smiles. “After the election”, turn the card upside down and their expression changes to a frown. The two examples sold for $345 (Douglas/Bell) and $459 (Lincoln).




An 1 1/2” diameter Lincoln mourning medallion under beveled glass within a brass frame contained an albumen portrait of Lincoln and a silk ribbon. It realized $2,940 which may be a record for a Lincoln mourning badge.






A vendor found a most unusual CDV taped in an album face-side down. Once removed, it showed an outdoor view of a photographer’s gallery taken by the photographer himself. eight men were shown standing in front of the establishment, with examples of their work in the window as well as a fantastic Civil War era American flag. Signs indicated it was the “Sipperly Knight Excelsior Photography and Ambrotype Rooms” in Schuylerville [Saratoga County], New York. Not exactly a household name, then or now, but a terrific image! It realized $400.










Walnutts Antiques of Cape Cod always has great, fresh to the market material. Tom C. was particularly fortunate in acquiring a fantastic collection of presidential campaign items from the estate of an antiques dealer who collected the material in the 60s and early 70s. Apparently, this was his private stash and none of it had seen the light of day for forty years or so. The entire collection was dispersed over the course of a few weeks.






A large oval, “belt buckle” ferro of Lincoln realized $4,550.









A George Clark ambrotype of Stephen Douglas with original blue silk loop and yellow cardboard back paper was correctly described as only one of two known. The other one is in the J. Doyle DeWitt Collection and may never be offered for sale. This example appeared in superb condition, although we could detect a network of very fine cracks throughout, but with no flaking, chipping, or bubbling, as often is the case.  Likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it made a “giant” $18,660. The unnamed buyer just needs the Breckinridge to complete his set. Hope he makes it!!












On to other non-Walnut offerings… A CDV of Major Henry Rathbone, who went to the theatre one night in 1865, got slashed by presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth, later killed his wife and was committed to the looney bin, sold for $315. After this “Brief Encounter”, he “Looked Through the Glass Darkly.”














A cased sixth-plate, hand-tinted tintype, listed in the “Tintype” category, showed a uniformed man holding a lantern. Obviously overlooked, a lucky Hoosier acquired this image of an 1860 Wide Awake marcher in uniform for a paltry $175. “Seek and ye shall find!”













Coincidentally, one vendor offered a ninth-plate ambrotype of a youthful Wide Awake marcher obtained from an upstate New York estate sale. The subject, identified as 17-year old Adelbert Ames of Ware, Massachusetts was photographed on October 31, 1860. He wears a glazed cap with eagle insignia, a waterproof slicker and a large homemade shield inscribed “Lincoln and Hamlin Wide Awakes”. The shield depicts an ax and fire-fighting tools. The item was accompanied by a daguerreotype portrait of Gates taken some years before. Unlike the aforementioned tintype, this item did not go unnoticed. There were fifteen different bidders with the winner paying $7,000 to own this treasure. Apparently, membership in the Wide Awakes was open to just about anybody who adhered to Republican tenets, even those below the legal age to vote!






A January 1865 issue of the humor magazine “Phunny Phellow” was offered. It contained numerous cartoons related to the politics of the time. A scarce publication, it is distinguished by the inclusion of unsigned Thomas Nast cartoons, including a centerfold (shown here) and a back cover showing the scourge of the “disloyal”, the beast & fiend, Ben Butler. Despite faults, it made $210.






An Illinois vendor offered an 1860 Lincoln portrait ribbon inscribed “Wide-Awakes Springfield.” It aroused the suspicion of many seasoned collectors who didn’t like the look of it, the typography, the decorative florishes and the seeming murkiness of it. A close-up of theportrait provided by the vendor showed the fabric to be rather coarsely woven and the engraved portrait lacking the sharpness and detail of accepted examples. While it had some age, the general consensus was that it was produced many years after the 1860 election. Still, eight different bidders placed thirty-five bids, before the dust settled at $4,050. If real, they got a good deal. If bogus, did they ever get screwed big time!












A Stephen Douglas postal-used campaign cover, sent from Cincinnati to Ypsilanti saw spirited bidding before arriving at its final destination, realizing $340.







A 3 1/4” x 4 1/4” campaign card with applied salt prints of Lincoln & Hamlin, issued by a Boston publisher, was hotly contested and made a strong $3740. This was the second known example and, in both, the portraits are rather light. Examples with single portraits of Lincoln and Douglas are also known to exist but, for some reason, have bold portraits. You might call this “Lincoln & Hamlin LITE.”

view In the Marketplace: 2010

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