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Marketplace 2011

January 4, 2011

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 would 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 be have been 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 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 “Illinous 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.

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.

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 political 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 competition. 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.”

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.

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.

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 the portrait 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.”