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Marketplace 2024

January 31, 2024

Starting off the New York with a bang! On January 1st, an eBay vendor sold an Anthony/Brady CDV (O-104), taken in February 1865. Lincoln was apparently having a “bad hair” day, as his hair is standing on end and he seems rather unsettled. The example being offered was not in tip-top shape, having several globs of glue towards the bottom and light soiling. In addition to the Anthony/Brady back mark, it had a tax stamp and a label of another photographic gallery pasted over. That said, rarity came to the fore and it realized a surprising $3703. 

Christies had a manuscripts sale on January 17th that included several lots of interest. We feature two of them, along with the complete catalog description:

LINCOLN, Abraham (1809-1865). Autograph letter signed as President (“A. Lincoln”) to Andrew Johnson, Washington, 3 July 1862.

One page, bifolium, 252 x 198mm, on lined stationery bearing a blind stamp of the Capitol at top left (a few spots of soiling, else very clean and bright).

Lincoln beseeches Andrew Johnson for additional troops from Tennessee and floats the idea of a plebiscite for the state, writing that if the vote was in favor of the Union, “it would be worth more to us than a battle gained.” A remarkable letter from Lincoln during the summer of 1862 as he was attempting to raise an additional 300,000 new troops for the Union: “You are aware we have called for a big levy of new troops. If we can get a fair share of them in Tennessee I shall value it more highly than a like number most anywhere else, because of the face of the thing, and because they will be at the very place that needs protection. Please do what you can, and do it quickly. Time is everything.” Although Tennessee formerly voted to secede from the Union, much of the eastern portion of the state was Unionist. Johnson, who also hailed from the east of the state, campaigned in the Senate to keep Tennessee in the Union in the spring of 1861. Once the state voted to leave the Union in June, Johnson, fearing for his life, left the state and returned to Washington and became the only member of a seceded state to sit in the Senate—a position that brought him close to Lincoln. In March 1862 Lincoln appointed him military governor of the state—and for much of 1862 and 1863, Tennessee was a continual battle ground. On 10 July, Johnson replied by telegraph to Lincoln that the “number of troops suggested can and will be raised in Tennessee…” (Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 1. General Correspondence).

Lincoln then moved to the subject of an election: “A word on another subject. If we could, somehow, get a vote of the people of Tennessee and have it result properly it would be worth more to us than a battle gained. How long before we can get such a vote?” To this, Johnson replied in the same telegram: “As to an expression of public opinion as soon as the rebel army can be expelled from East Tennessee there can & will be an expression of public opinion that will surprise you but I am constrained to say one thing as I said to you repeatedly in the fall Genl. Buell is not the man to redeem East Tennessee.” (Ibid.) Johnson was referring to Don Carlos Buell who would be relieved of his command of the Army of the Ohio in October after he allowed a far smaller force of Confederates to escape after the Battle of Perryville (8 October). Published in Basler, Collected Works, Vol. 5, pp. 302-303 (quoted from Emmanuel Hertz, Abraham Lincoln, a New Portrait. 871-72). Provenance: A. T. White (penciled initials on verso). $60,480

BUCHANAN, James. (1791-1868). Autograph manuscript signed (“James Buchanan”) as President to “The House of Representatives,” Washington, 1 March 1861.

Four pages on two bifolia, 347 x 209mm, numerous corrections and emendations, several in an unidentified hand (light toning at extremities). [With:] a second and presumed earlier autograph draft of the same message, unsigned, two pages, bifolium, 347 x 209mm, with corrections and emendations in Buchanan’s hand.

James Buchanan defends his decision to call troops to protect the nation’s capital during the counting of electoral votes from the election of 1860 and the inauguration of his successor, Abraham Lincoln: “Had I refused to adopt this precautionary measure, & evil consequences … had followed, I should never have forgiven myself.” As the secession movement gained momentum in January 1861 in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election in November, many began to worry that the nation’s capital, sandwiched between two slave states, could be vulnerable to hostile forces bent on preventing the Illinois lawyer from taking office. Despite Buchanan’s misgivings that the move would upset Southerners who remained in the city, General Winfield Scott ordered additional troops to protect Washington. Meanwhile, some Republicans, suspicious of the President’s real loyalties, read the move as an attempt to stage a pro-Southern coup d’état. [1] Fortunately, Scott’s preparations appeared to have prevented any significant violence on 13 February 1861, the day the electoral votes were counted. Guards were posted at every entrance, barring admission to the galleries for anyone not possessing a written ticket of admission. But, according to the recollection of one observer, “the amount of profanity launched forth against the guards,” by those who were unable to gain admission, “would have completely annihilated them if words could kill.” [2]

When the electoral count was completed without an armed force attempting to seize Washington, Congress formed a select committee to inquire whether there was evidence of any hostile plot against the capital, questioning whether troops had been a necessary precaution. Buchanan issued this public message in response to that inquiry, asking pointedly, “what was the duty of the President at the time the troops were ordered to this city? Ought he to have waited, before this precautionary measure was adopted, until he could obtain proof that a secret conspiracy existed to seize the capital? In the language of the select committee, this was ‘in a time of high excitement consequent upon revolutionary events transpiring all around us, the very air filled with rumors, and individuals indulging in the most extravagant expressions of fears and threat’ … [T]he peace and order of the city itself, and the security of the inauguration of the President elect, were objects of such vast importance to the whole country that I could not hesitate to adopt precautionary defensive measures.” Based on the two drafts, his most poignant passage, its final place in the text marked with an asterix, was added at the very last minute: “Had I refused to adopt this precautionary measure, and evil consequences, which may good men at the time apprehended, had followed, I should never have forgiven myself.” Three days later, Lincoln’s inauguration would also proceed as planned. As they rode together in a carriage from Willard’s Hotel to the Capitol, Buchanan famously said to Lincoln: “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to [my home] Wheatland, you are a happy man.” [3] Published in John Basset More, ed., The Works of James Buchanan. Philadelphia & London: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1910. Vol. 11, pp. 152-154.


[1] Jean Baker, “The South Has Been Wronged,” in John W. Quist and Michael J. Birkner eds., James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War. (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2013), p. 180.

[2] Lucius E. Chittenden, Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration. (New York: Harper & Bros., 1891), p. 41.

[3] Philip Klein, President James Buchanan: a Biography. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, [1962]), p. 402. $151,200

On January 18th, an eBay vendor offered a most unusual outdoor stereo view showing President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles standing on the porch of former New York Governor Enos Throop’s home in Auburn, New York. It was likely taken during Johnson’s famous “Swing Around the Circle” in 1866. It realized $359. 

An eBay vendor is currently offering a rare Lincoln lithographed cartoon from 1864. It measures 23.75″ x 19″ and is titled “Abe Linking with His Significantly Named Cabinet”. The publisher was M. E. Goodwin and the Buy-It-Now price is $1795. An example from the Dewitt Collection recently sold at auction for $4000.

A standard Victor David Brenner bronze plaque of Lincoln was offered on eBay on February 3rd. There were at least three examples posted concurrently, at various price points and options. This example on a green marble base went the auction route, bringing in $835.

A rare stereo view of Lincoln’s funeral in Buffalo, New York came up for sale on eBay on February 26th. Published by C. L. Pond of Warsaw, New York, it saw heated bidding activity, selling for $394.

Freeman’s/Hindman Auctions of Cincinnati held a sale on February 27th, focusing on African-Americana. A 12″ x 18.75″ broadside caught our eye. It was used in an off-year election in New Jersey in 1867, promoting the Congressional candidacy of Charles T. Molony. Despite the abolishment of slavery through the 13th Amendment, Negro suffrage was not made the law of the land until 1870, with the passage of the 15th Amendment. Some candidates, like Democrat Molony, campaigned against this fundamental right, playing the race card until their hand was played out. It sold for $8255, against a reserve or opening bid of $3500.

An eBay vendor is currently offering a rare, original 3AM edition of the New York Herald newspaper issued in the wee morning hours of April 15, 1865, while the mortally wounded president was still clinging to life. It conforms to all the diagnostics of the original and can be yours for a Buy-It-Now price of $1160.

Remarkable find here – a poem by George H. Boker. It’s a tribute to the 1st & 3rd Regiments of Louisiana Native Guards who bravely attacked Port Hudson on May 27, 1863, but some newspaper correspondents mistakenly reported that it was the “Second Regiment” that made the assault—hence the title of the poem. Boker later changed the name of the poem to “The Black Regiment” upon discovering the error.

Boker was a Philadelphia lawyer who turned to writing without much success in the 1840s. When the war broke out he tried to write patriotic verse to promote Unionist sentiment. The poem was embraced by the Abolitionist community but it borrows heavily from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s famous “Charge of the Light Brigade” published in 1854. Measuring 5.25” x 8.25”, it sold on eBay for $335 on March 10th. 

Hake’s Americana of York, Pennsylvania held a mail auction on March 19th. It included two “better” Lincoln items. The first was an 11.5″ x 16.5″ Lincoln & Hamlin flag. A group of these came out of a Richard Withington Auction in Hillsborough, New Hampshire decades ago. They were found in a quilt and cut up. Other flags for John Bell and Stephen Douglas were part of that storied estate. Ted’s example realized a very strong $42,185, possibly a record price for the design. The other item was a “muffin top” hat with “Wide Awake” painted on the hatband. This style of hat was popular at the time, appearing on a brass token commemorating the founding of the organization, as well as photographic portraits of the period. It was originally offered by Gettysburg dealer Dale Anderson back in 1999 for $12,500 and eventually was purchased for $7500 by the late Howard Hazelcorn of Sarasota. The winning bid was $6393. It might be another 25 years before it comes on the market again.

An eBay vendor offered a very interesting carte-de-visite in mid-March. It depicts what appears to be an escaped African American slave (a.k.a., contraband). He is wearing a military shell jacket and great coat, while leaning on a cane in an unknown studio setting, somewhere in the South. He likely entered Union lines and was recruited to perform non-combat duties. This image, which speaks strongly from the past, sold for $1526.

Simpson Galleries of Houston held a sale on March 23rd. An 8.5″ x 12″ election handbill from 1864, issued in Michigan, caught our eye. It listed all the main “talking points” of the election, urging voters to cast their ballots for Lincoln & Johnson. It did better than expected, realizing $1397.

Stacks/Bowers held a numismatic auction on March 25th. It included a Civil War dog tag with obverse portrait of Lincoln and reverse inscription celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation. The are three types of these emancipation dog tags. Two celebrate the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia while the third focuses on nationwide emancipation. The catalog entry states:

“The badge offered here is the rarest of the three known Civil War-era emancipation badge types, with just two specimens known. As far as we are aware this is the first public offering of the type. It is also of broader significance because it relates to the Emancipation Act that went into effect January 1, 1863, this being the legal action that brought the institution of slavery to a legal end in the United States under most circumstances.

Similar to the earlier discussed types, both of these were made from Civil War soldier’s identification badges, but these were on a different host type, bearing the bust of Abraham Lincoln on the other side. This might have been a matter of availability, but it could also have been a purposeful selection in acknowledgement of Lincoln’s efforts that resulted in this broad emancipation. As such, these badges serve a triple purpose. They celebrate the action of emancipation, the freedom of the named individual, and also the identity of the liberator.

The two known 1863 Liberation from Slavery badges are named to Edward Wood and Dennis Addison. We may never know who these people were, but we certainly know something about them. They were men with a degree of shared history. They awoke on January 1, 1863, freedmen, possibly for the first time in their lives. As Civil War identification badges go, the Lincoln type is fairly rare, and it is clear that both of these badges were made by the same person, likely a sutler attached to a Union encampment or company. As such, Wood and Addison were probably at some point in close proximity to each other and may well have been acquainted. It is possible that one or both were literally liberated by a Union company just before or after January 1st, providing direct access to a camp sutler who made these badges. Both badges are worn, but this is particularly so. Based on its condition, it is clear that Edward Wood wore his badge for many years, likely for the remainder of his life.” It realized $22,800.

Early American History Auctions of Winchester, Virginia conducted a sale on March 30th that included a very significant item relating to the assassination. The catalog description related, in part:

“This original Telegram, notifying General Ulysses S. Grant of the Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865, is a momentous significant historical document reflecting a pivotal moment in American history.  The American Telegraph Company official printed form is the authentic, fully completed and handwritten in rich brown ink by the telegraph clerk as transmitted by General John Aaron Rawlins, General Ulysses S. Grant’s chief of staff that very evening.  After the war, Rawlins served as Secretary of War in Grant’s presidential administration.  The Telegram form measures 7.75″ x 5” (by sight) beautifully matted at center within the display frame.  This original Telegram reads, in full:

‘Dated Wash(ington) 14 1865.  —   Red’d, Philadelphia (no time recorded)

To Lt Genl Grant  —  An attempt has been made tonight to assassinate the Presdt & secy Seward & has probably succeeded as both have been wounded suffered mortally – The Presidt was shot in Fords Theatre, this is for your information to put on your guard  —  (Signed) Jno (John) A(aron) Rawlins chf of staff’. 

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant had been in Washington on April 14, 1865, and spoke with President Lincoln, who invited Grant and Grant’s wife Julia to accompany him and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln that evening to see Laura Keene in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. Grant received a message from his wife saying that she wanted Grant, herself, and their son Jesse to leave the capital for the Grants’ cottage in Burlington, New Jersey. Grant conveyed his regrets to Lincoln.

Grant, Julia, and son Jesse took a train out of town early that evening.  In route to Burlington, the news reached them that Lincoln had been shot, the wound would be fatal, and that Secretary of State William Seward had also been stabbed repeatedly by an attacker at his home thus, a profoundly dangerous plot was unfolding.  In the subsequent hours, it would come to light that the conspirators, led by actor John Wilkes Booth, had intended to kill Lincoln, Grant, Seward, and Vice President Andrew Johnson.”  Once Secretary of War Edwin Stanton confirmed the news via telegraph, Grant returned to Washington. Ex: Elsie & Philip D. Sang Collection. It sold for $91,000 ($70,000 hammer plus 30% online buyer’s premium).

It’s not often you see an unlisted Lincoln token, but that’s what happened recently on eBay. The item in question had an observe matching Dewitt AL-1860-38, muled with a reverse issued for a December 1864 Soldiers’ Fair in Springfield, Massachusetts. As shown, the obverse had a nasty die break. It ended the day at $660.

Collecting Confederate material is a fun adjunct to collecting Lincolniana. A most unusual CSA patriotic envelope was recently sold on eBay. It features a ten-star First National flag and the slogans “We Know Our Rights. Don’t Tread on Us.” The distinctive aspect to this compelling piece of ephemera is the method of printing… the design and lettering are all stenciled… something rarely, if ever, seen. Likely issued at the beginning of the war, it was addressed to someone in South Carolina. It made a strong $546.

We typically associate the Wide Awake Club with the election of 1860. There is evidence they participated in the election of 1864 to a very minor extent. They also held periodic reunions and endorsed Republican presidential candidates in the 1884-1900 period. We picture a Harrison & Morton jugate ribbon that just sold on eBay for $211. It was worn by a member of the “Wide-awake Republican Club Marshfield, Vt.”

Potter & Potter of Chicago held a sale on April 18th that was hyped as “Treasures from the Eric Caren Collection”. We feature just one selection, a 2.5″ x 5.5″ silk ribbon with applied albumen portrait of Lincoln which sold for $625, reflecting, we believe, some misgivings among the pool of bidders. The format is a known one, except that salt prints were typically employed, using portraits by Roderick Cole or William Marsh. Was this trash or “treasure”? You be the judge.

Schultz Auctioneers of Clarence, New York (near Buffalo) held an auction on April 19th that featured a stand-out Lincoln item; namely, a silk Wide Awake banner recently discovered among the holdings of the Clarence Historical Society. They didn’t even know they had it and came across it by chance, rolled up. Measuring 38″ x 51″ with woven trim around the entire perimeter and fringe at the bottom, it is still attached to the original wooden roller. The back side is blank. Estimated at $25,000-$50,000, bidding started at $5,000. Two phone bidders battled it out. When the dust settled, it wound up selling for $52,800.

“Inscrutable Chinese”. Cartoon CDVs are a fun category of collecting, but this one had us stumped! It shows Jeff Davis as a Chinaman, gesturing to his fleet of ships, while the oriental city of Richmond appears in the background. Maybe someone will read the tea leaves and enlighten us! With faults, this eBay offering realized $152.

Heritage Auctions in Dallas held a sale on April 26th that included 129 Lincoln lots. That’s a lot of Lincoln! An oval composite salt print by Whitehurst featured from-life portraits of all the 1860 presidential and vice presidential candidates. We are aware of only two other examples… one sold decades ago by Janet & Bedford Hayes and another example sold in a Railsplitter auction for $7000. This one traded hands for $3125. A bifolium pamphlet detailing the arrangements for Lincoln’s March 4, 1861 inauguration, possibly the only example extant, made $5500.

A rare pass for Lincoln’s funeral train, used on the journey from Washington, D. C. to Springfield, Illinois, was aggressively pursued, achieving $8750. Finally, a most unusual subscription or order book for “The Last Hours of Lincoln” print published by John Batchelder based on Alonzo Chapell’s painting, saw fierce competition. The volume contained large albumen portraits of people associated with the assassination of Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre or the death watch at the Peterson House, all mournfully posed. The portraits included Andrew Johnson (with a bandage wrapped around his injured hand), Robert Todd Lincoln, Edwin Stanton, Gideon Welles, Charles Sumner, Henry Rathbone, Clara Harris and assorted members of the Cabinet. Robert Todd Lincoln was on the list of people who ordered a print. It realized $10,625.

A vendor on eBay listed a “unique” Lincoln token which sold on April 29th. It is considered a muling, a token with mismatched obverse and reverse. The example in question featured the reverse of the classic Lincoln Rail Splitter token from 1860, paired with the obverse of a Louis Kossuth token from 1852. It was produced using well-worn, distressed dies. You might call this a “Frankenstein” creation, but obviously it appeals to token & medal collectors, as reflected in the final price of $3050.

Even while Lincoln was alive and serving as President, businesses have tried to cash in on his aura and popularity, naming products after him and claiming endorsements, real or not. An eBay vendor is currently offering this 1 1/4″ celluloid pinback button showing a Volk bust of Lincoln produced from Portland cement. The asking price is $95. Where is this bust now? Probably buried in some landfill or at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

Freeman’s-Hindman of Philadelphia held an Americana sale on April 30th. It included a 22″ tall Lincoln bronze bust by Leonard Volk, cast by the Roman Bronze Works. This was not the commonplace version by Alva Studios, but an early 20th-century quality casting in a large size. The final price was $12,065. We don’t recall seeing it offered before at any venue.

Doyle Auctions in New York City held a sale on April 30th that included a rare, historically important imprint. We reprint the catalog description in full:

Oration by Frederick Douglass Delivered on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument in memory of Abraham Lincoln, In Lincoln Park, Washington D.C., April 14th, 1876. Washington DC: Gibson Brothers, 1876. First edition. Sewn in original salmon-colored printed paper wrappers. 9 x 5 5/8 inches (22.75 x 14.5 cm); 21 pp. Wrappers with some soiling and wear, a vertical central crease, a few short tears and creases to edges, a split at the foot of the spine, and a loss to the lower corner of the rear wrapper, contents generally bright but with a few spots of soiling and creasing to lower corners, altogether a sound and presentable copy of a scarce, fragile pamphlet. 

Frederick Douglass delivered the inauguration speech at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Monument, now known as the Emancipation Memorial, on April 14th, 1876, the eleventh anniversary of the assassination of President Lincoln. The sculpture, by Thomas Ball, shows Lincoln standing, holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing an enslaved man. The Freedman is depicted on one knee, about to stand up, shirtless, with a clenched fist and broken shackles at his feet. It was paid for solely by donations from freed slaves. Douglass’ speech, printed for the first time in this pamphlet, both praises Lincoln and honestly addresses the complexities of his legacy towards slavery – “truth compels me to admit… [that] Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man… The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration. Knowing this, I concede to you, my white fellow-citizens, a pre-eminence in this worship at once full and supreme… For while Abraham Lincoln saved for you a country, he delivered us from a bondage” (pp.4-6). After giving his speech, Douglass wrote a letter to the National Republican newspaper criticizing the statue’s design – “What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man.” Douglas would not be the last to denounce the monument – in 2020, Elenor Holmes Norton, the U.S. Delegate for D.C., announced plans to introduce legislation to have the memorial removed. $12,800

A ninth plate cased tintype of a Southern sympathizer sold on eBay on May 20th for $886. The gentleman depicted wore a Secession badge in addition to a small nine-star First National Confederate flag… a rare combination.

An eBay vendor offered this stereo view of Lincoln’s funeral in his hometown of Springfield. Two examples recently appeared online with this one being in better condition. It sold for a reasonable $340.

An eBay vendor listed this set of bronze hands and life mask of Lincoln, after Leonard W. Volk, originally sculpted in 1860. These were cast circa 1885 by Jules Berchem and were so-marked. Usually offered separately, finding a complete set is difficult. They sold after one day at the Buy-It-Now price of $4500. Based on past auction results, there should be room for profit.

Hindman Auctions of Chicago and Cincinnati held a sale on May 31st. A sixth plate tintype of three woman posed in a studio setting, two of them holding a large mounted albumen or tintype copy image of O-19, taken by Edward Barnwell of Decatur on May 9, 1860, caught our eye. This was nine days before Lincoln received the Republican nomination for president in Chicago. Perhaps these three ladies were members of a “Wide Awake Girls” chapter. It sold for $8890. A CDV by Scholton of St. Louis depicted a cooperage/farm implement display at the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair held in that city in 1864. Banners suspended overhead were inscribed Schofield, Blair and Lincoln. A first time offering, it made $2032. 

Holabird Americana of Reno, Nevada held a four-session sale over the course of June 6th-9th. They were dispersing a Lincoln collection that was 50 years in the making with approximately 40 items being offered on day three. An invitation to a January 1, 1863 celebration in Boston of the Emancipation Proclamation taking effect realized $1000. A mourning badge with oval cardboard photo of Lincoln set on a black crepe rosette with red, white and blue ribbons seemed a good buy for $625. Finally, an engraved coated stock card with jugate portraits of Lincoln & Hamlin, sold with the original manufacturer’s envelope, went over the top at $3125.