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Rail Splinters

The Government Sees Red

November 17, 2019

We just reported on the first installment of the William H. Gross Collection auctioned by Robert Siegel Galleries in New York City. The collection is expected to bring in upwards of $10 million. We left out one item which realized $53,000; however, there’s more to the story. Here is the catalog description:

The first and only known Lincoln campaign cover actually signed by Abraham Lincoln–it is difficult to imagine a more historic presidential campaign cover. Abraham Lincoln, autograph five-line signed referral: Surgeon General..Appt. Submitted to Sec. of War. A. Lincoln, July 25, 1864. Boldly and clearly written by Lincoln on white envelope addressed to “His Excellency, President Lincoln, Washington,” purple seven-line Lincoln-Johnson 1864 campaign corner card in frame at upper left, “Key Note –‘UNION & LIBERTY’”, “UNION PARTY PLATFORM” text on all four back flaps, Lyon & Whittemore imprint on bottom flap, hand-delivered to the White House without entering the mails, neat red docketing. PROVENANCE: Siegel Auction Galleries, 5/5/1995, Sale 766A, lot 1639, to William H. Gross. Est. $10,000-$15,00.

Unfortunately it is the last three words in the description that upset this apple cart: “neat red docketing.” That docketing identifies it as property of the National Archives (likely via the War Dept.). And, as the Archives never deaccessions anything, and “title” (ownership) never passes, the item is now under a replevin order — demanded for return. As the proceeds from the sale were to benefit the non-profit Doctors Without Borders, this one is still being discussed.