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Suspect Lincoln

Vintage President Lincoln Inkwell

February 5, 2023

An item on eBay sold in February 2021 for $2,025 listed as “Vintage President Lincoln Inkwell Used to Sign Emancipation Proclamation” and detailed very definitively as:  “You are bidding on a(n) Vintage President Lincoln Inkwell Used to Sign Emancipation Proclamation.  Comes with photo of Dr. John K. Lattimer Curator for the Metropolitan Arts & Antiques.  Measures 3 7/8″ across and 2 3/8” tall.  Made from wood with ink holder insert (doesn’t come out).”  The artifact is accompanied by a clipping of a like-inkwell as displayed by the late Dr. John Lattimer at the Rail Splitter’s “Lincoln in New York” celebration in 1996.  Problem?  These inkwells were mass-produced by the S. Sillman company of Chester, CT from the 1820s well into the 1870s.  The late Lincoln dealer Chuck Hand would buy them at flea markets whenever he saw an example, typically paying $40 to resell it for $75 as a period display piece.  The example Dr. John owned?  Heritage sold it with his collection in 2008 for $80,000+.  When contacted about the provenance the seller was somewhat circumspect responding “Item was purchased from estate. Newspaper clipping is all we have.”  So… someone either paid $2,000 for an $80,000 artifact-relic or $2,000 for a $75 keepsake.  By the way, the seller specified “No Returns Accepted!”