Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP J.D. Salinger: Remembering the writer at Heritage Auctions

Jan. 28, 2010
Written by Joe Fay

In early April 2008 I wrote a letter to the legendary, and legendarily reclusive, J. D. Salinger.

Like almost anyone who has done the same in the last 30 years (and probably long before that), I never got a reply. I wrote him that I thought he was one of the finest writers I had ever encountered. I wanted to relate to him that his fiction had helped shape my worldview, and to a certain degree my personality.

Mainly, I was writing to inform him that my wife and I had just named our newborn twins Franny and Zooey, after the eponymous characters in two Salinger short stories, published together in book form in 1961. So it is especially sad to hear of his passing this morning of natural causes at the age of 91.

My wife and I are Salinger fans, each in our own way, as are a great many children of the middle and late twentieth century. We were both introduced to Holden Caulfield in high school, again as a lot of people our age were, in Salinger's landmark novel The Catcher in the Rye.

We grew up on famous stories about Mark David Chapman's rabid fascination with the book, and how it helped tip him over the edge of sanity after which he murdered John Lennon. And over the years, we've listened to the stories, with varying levels of amusement and consternation, of Salinger's legal battles with his daughter and several other authors who've tried to publish works based in the Salinger universe.

Considering where I work and what I do, thinking of Salinger also reminds me of the wonderful selection of letters and books we've sold here at Heritage Auctions relating to the great writer, including a handful of nice copies of The Catcher in the Rye. This is one of the high points and touchstones of modern fiction. It has been, is, and will continue to be the most aggressively collected of his works, and there's no telling how high in value the VERY short list of signed copies of this it will go. We've also auctioned a number of signed documents and letters, most notably a very interesting three-page 1981 typed letter signed "Jerry."

We even have a small assortment of Salinger books in our upcoming February 11-12 Rare Books Auction in Beverly Hills. Included in the auction are five lots, ranging from a very nice copy of Catcher to a wonderful copy of the rare first issue of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour An Introduction. None of them are signed, but then again, very few of Salinger's books are at all.

I've already had two friends ask me what today's news will do to values for Salinger material. Books, even rare first editions, will probably not appreciate considerably more than usual. For signed items, it's difficult to pin down exactly, but the short answer is that they're going up. Salinger is a notoriously hard autograph to get. Letters, manuscripts, and even clipped signatures demand a high premium in the market, and after today, and in my opinion, prices will spike for awhile and settle in at a higher plateau that they're at now. How much higher? Who's to say?

I think part of all of us who call ourselves Salinger fans hoped that one day he would snap out of his self-imposed isolation and re-enter the world, as if he had been under a magic spell since the early 1970s. Then, maybe, JUST maybe, we could have a letter returned or a book signed.
Alas, it is not to be. It was probably a pipe dream anyway. So, all I'm left with are his books (the important part, really). I have them all at home, including a first edition of Franny and Zooey, which my daughters will hopefully fight over some day. My wife and I will continue to cherish Salinger's fiction as we've always done.

Rest in peace, Jerome. We will miss you. Most of all, a lot of us will miss that we missed you, and that we never got to see or meet or interact with you at all, for Chrissake!

-Joe Fay

(If you've read this far, then you know that Joe named his twins Franny and Zooey after Salinger's book, which should tell you why I prefer he have the opening words on Salinger's passing. The reclusive master obviously had a great impact on my Heritage colleague and I have the utmost respect for his sentiments.

It is an odd feeling I have writing this on the day Salinger dies - it has seemed, in fact, that he has been dead for years, but he was only gone. Occasionally something would surface, or a friend of a friend has a story about friends that tried to find Salinger in New Hampshire and risked the wrath of the locals and the cops. Little towns, we learned, fiercely protect their celebrities. Now he is truly dead and the next few years will surely see the in-depth documentation of his last three decades. I hope there are a few books hidden away in the cold New england state.

I, as so many, was very moved as a young man by Catcher In The Rye, and now, as a grown man, a father, and with years of experience behind me, I find the very deep sadness behind the rebelliousness of Holden Caulfield much more poignant than the rebellion itself. More than that - with a four-year-old girl wrapping me around her finger - I find his drawing of Holden's little sister especially poignant. She is the ultiamte instrument of his final unraveling. He's undone by the simplicity of her love and the sincerity of her attachment to him - at least that's how I read it now... And how I'll read it tonight before I go to bed.

The world lost a great and difficult one today. Perhaps Salinger now has the peace he so desperately wanted when he was still in human form. - Noah Fleisher)

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This Sunday Night! Force 10 from Navarone takes Heritage Auctions Weekly Internet COmics sale

Jan. 27, 2010
Written by Barry Sandoval

When I saw the striking image you see here in this week’s Sunday Internet Comics Auction, I didn’t need to read the description to tell me it shows a scene from a real masterpiece of a thriller, Force 10 From Navarone!

If you have never read this Alistair MacLean classic from 1968, you are missing out on an incredibly tense adventure story. Personally I would rank it behind only Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal on my list of all-time favorite thrillers.

The book was a major bestseller when it came out, but it gets respect from the pros, too. In Dean Koontz’s book How To Write Bestselling Fiction, Koontz advises aspiring writers to read the last part of Force 10 From Navarone as the perfect example of a suspenseful situation and a climactic scene. The scene shown in the painting comes near the end of the story and features Mallory (an unforgettable character!) and Miller… and when that part gets resolved there’s still more excitement after that!

The book is the rare sequel that’s better than the original, though the original is darn good. I speak of The Guns of Navarone, published in 1957 and made into a movie in 1961.

That brings up an odd thing about Force 10, which begins on the same day the previous story ends. One early scene has Andrea Stavros (that’s a guy not a girl, and he’s another very memorable character) getting married, despite having no mention of any fiancĂ©e in the previous book! It turns out MacLean just wrote the sequel as if it were a sequel to the movie rather than to his own previous novel – the first time I had ever heard of that happening.

Force 10 was itself made into a movie in 1978 with Robert Shaw as Mallory, and with Miller being played by Edward Fox (best known as the Jackal in… now I’m back to mentioning the The Day of the Jackal again!).

Here’s the poster art for that movie, illustrated by Brian Bysouth.

Heritage has offered the poster now and then and it’s been quite affordable at $15-$20.

Anyway, the original illustration being auctioned this week is by Gil Cohen, one of the top illustrators for the now defunct genre of men’s adventure magazines. One such publication was the testosterone-laden Male Annual where this was published.

The art is being auctioned without reserve, so give it your best “shot”… as it were.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Barry Sandoval

Monday, January 25, 2010

Coin Monday: ‘Well, now, I wouldn’t say that!’

Jan. 25, 2010
Written by John Dale

I had something of a “throwback moment” recently, reading through a copy of the “Greysheet” for the first time since — was it my internship here in the summer of 2004, or all the way back in 2002, when I was still in high school?

The Greysheet, more formally known as the COIN DEALER newsletter [sic], is a weekly publication listing “bid and ask” - suggested “buy” and “sell” prices - for many collectible U.S. coins in a variety of grades. The Greysheet, named for the signature color of its paper, has been a coin-shop staple since its inception in 1963, and two of its spin-off publications are of similar importance.

First, the “Bluesheet,” or CERTIFIED COIN DEALER newsletter, covers high-grade coins certified by NGC or PCGS, such as this 1944-D Walking Liberty half dollar, MS67 NGC, in Heritage’s upcoming February 2010 Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction. The other major spin-off is the “Greensheet,” or the CURRENCY DEALER newsletter, which covers collectible U.S. currency, but I’ve never actually used it; you’d have to talk to “the currency folks” for that one.

So if the Greysheet is such a numismatist’s essential, I should look at it every week, right? But as the Richard Q. Peavey character from The Great Gildersleeve would put it, “Well, now, I wouldn’t say that!” (For those of you unwilling to admit you heard The Great Gildersleeve over the radio, or those under the age of 55, perhaps you’ve seen a classic wartime Looney Tunes short, “Draftee Daffy,” in which Daffy Duck tries with increasing desperation to avoid the deliverer of his draft notice. The bespectacled messenger makes frequent use of the Peavey catchphrase.)

As a cataloger, I just don’t have much of a reason to pick up a Greysheet and look at it. I write about coins; I don’t make buying or selling decisions for the company, or help others make them. Thus, I consult price guides with less frequency than one of Heritage’s wholesale buyers, or a consignment director giving a client advice on proper venues for coins. When I do check a price guide, usually it’s to help me decide whether a coin should be photographed for the catalog, for example, or get a full-page description.

For that judgment call, I turn to Heritage’s Permanent Auction Archives and get my numbers from the past results. The Greysheet calls itself “The Only Source for Accurate, Timely & Unbiased Rare Coin Pricing Information!” I’ll admit to being a bit biased myself, but considering all the information, the actual prices paid for actual coins to be found in the Archives, I have only one proper response: “Well, now, I wouldn’t say that!”

To leave a comment, please click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Fangs - only very occasionally - & very subtle..." - Anne Rice originals bring vampire glow to Heritage Auctions

Jan. 22, 2010
Posted by Noah

I will be forthright with you: Anne Rice has never been my thing. I always preferred my vampires more Count Chocula than Brad Pitt. I know you're shocked.

Rice hasn't really been anybody's thing for a decade or two really, but that's forgivable. The incredible splash she made on the American fiction scene in the mid-1970s with her first novel, Interview With The Vampire, and her impact on American Pop Culture are things to be greatly respected. And I'm sure she cried into a pillowcase full of money every time she laments her diminished flame.

Her more dubious legacy of having left us with the translucent, abstinent, doe-eyed vampires of Twilight, I am not so in awe of - anger is more like it... but that is for me and my therapist to discuss...

Considering what was shortly to become of Rice and her little book, there is indeed a magic of some kind in that book and signature. Most novelists would take 1/10th of that magic for their first book. 1/100th. The estimate on it is $1,500. We'll see if there are Rice fans out there who absolutely have to have this and what that means to this piece.

Again, while it's not really my particular cup of tea, this is an interesting look at the writer's process, and it contains Rice's thoughts on her publisher (Knopf - not good) and her thoughts on the possible adaptation of Interview, which wouldn't happen for another 17 years(!). I will concede this however, it contains an absolute gem of writing when, in her thoughts on the movie, she writes:

"Fangs - only very occasionally - & very subtle..."

Nice. What other way is there, really to present fangs? Besides in chocolate cereal with marshmallows...

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feelin' Leyendecker: Ready for Illustration Art in February at Heritage?

Jan. 21, 2010
Posted by Noah

I knew when I woke up on Monday morning that something felt different for me, and I don't mean the change in the Dallas weather for the warmer - though that's been pretty nice. 70 degrees this week, anyone? Anyone?

I soon pinpointed what it was: We're a month away from February Illustration Art, that's Feb. 18, to be exact, and the third section of Martignette. Hoo boy!

Now, I'm not going to make the mistake this time and tell anyone what my most absolute favorite painting is, because I have expensive taste and want to have just a teeny tiny wheeny whiney little chance of getting something I want out of this auction - though the truth is that I probably won't because, like I said, I've got some good and expensive tastes.

That said, and putting aside my love of the Pin-Ups and Pulps here, I have to tip my hat to J.C.Leyendecker's absolutely sublimely astounding Bringing in the Turkey (Thanksgiving cover), Saturday Evening Post cover, December 2, 1933.

You can see by the picture above, and by clicking on it and going to the lot, that this thing is an absolutely masterpiece of form and color. And it's not going to come cheap, either, estimated as it is at $100,000-$150,000. Needless to say, I am not going to be placing a bid. In fact, I can hear the money gods laughing their derision at the very thought of it....

There is something wildly evocative and instantly familiar about Leyendecker's scene, even though I'd venture a guess that most of us have never had a butler serve us Thanksgiving - at least I haven't - and most of us probably don't have three hound dogs chasing that non-existent butler into the dining room. I have actually served Thanksgiving dinner to people before, and I've even cut a turkey. Can you believe it?

But I digress.

As usual, this auction offers up just a tremendous amount of superb stuff. And there is actually one painting I will at least make a try for, but I refuse to tell you... After all, it was probably you who bought the one I wanted last time, and there's no way I'm going to go through that again...

See you Feb. 18, hopefully along with a few more world record prices.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Noah Fleisher

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coin Monday: Behind the Gold Bars

Jan. 18, 2009
Written by John Dale

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have a penchant for vintage California gold bars, specifically the mid-1850s assayers’ ingots recovered from the S.S. Central America; I’ve already dedicated one Coin Monday slot to their remarkable qualities.

That post, however, largely restricted itself to stating the obvious, and there’s much more to assayers’ ingots than “heavy,” “shiny,” and “gold.” Though the company names seen on gold bars rarely lasted long—measured usually in months, and sometimes weeks—the people within the partnerships often made spent long portions of their careers in California, mixing, matching, and establishing reputations. The Harris, Marchand & Co. ingot in Heritage’s February 2010 Long Beach U.S. Coin Auction offers an excellent illustration.

The “Harris” of Sacramento-based Harris, Marchand & Co. was Harvey Harris, a fortysomething native of Denmark. Harris billed himself as “Melter and Refiner” of the firm, apparently newly created, in an October 1855 advertisement quoted in the catalog description.

(The source for the advertisement was California Coiners and Assayers by Dan Owens, a remarkably well-researched book that combines selections from thousands of vital records and newspaper commentaries to paint a picture of the personalities. Regrettably, California Coiners and Assayers, like so many numismatic library essentials, seems to be out of print. Secondhand copies are out there, but if anyone knows a way I can purchase the book “new,” so that a well-deserved royalty goes to the author, please let me know in the comments section!)

Harvey Harris had worked at two U.S. Mints, New Orleans and San Francisco, as well as the private assay offices of Kellogg & Co. and Justh & Hunter. Both firms, or their successors, would also have assay ingots aboard the S.S. Central America. For more information on the Hungarian Mr. Justh, a striking figure in his own right, see this recently offered ingot.)

By contrast, the other “name” partner of the firm, the Belgian-born, Paris-certified assayer DesirĂ© Marchand, has credentials emphasized over experience. The reason? In short, he was a kid. Exactly how young he was is open to debate—sources noting his death suggest he was born in 1836 or 1837, but information from his naturalization as an American citizen suggests a birth in 1838 or even 1839 instead.

So in October 1855, when that advertisement went in the paper, if one goes by the death-notice figures, he was probably 19 years old, possibly 18. If the citizenship numbers are correct, he was 17 or maybe even 16! In other words, by the time I was interning at Heritage, looking at gold, Marchand was in California was assaying the stuff. Commence feelings of inadequacy…

How the two met, or why they went into business together, is lost to time, but it’s not hard to piece together a mental image of an alliance of convenience between Mr. Harris, long on experience but without the benefit of his former assayer employers, and Mr. Marchand, a young technical master who might have been lost in the rough atmosphere of California. And while the firm “Harris, Marchand & Co.” did not last until September 12, 1857, the date the S.S. Central America sank, this ingot, among the last assayed under that title, was in the ship’s cargo, lost to the ocean as part of a tragedy, brought back to the surface as a piece of history.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-John Dale Beety

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Human Target TV Show: Can’t Wait… Or Maybe I Can... (A Heritage Auctions comic expert's dissapointment...)

Jan. 14, 2010
Written By Barry Sandoval

(It's always a treat to welcome the writing of Barry Sandoval to the Heritage Blog. Besides being the Director of Comics Operations here at Heritage HQ, Barry is obviously one of the world's foremost authorities on comics and comics art, and an unbelievable font of Pop Culture knowledge.

I've turned over the digital reigns to Barry today so he could express his outrage - of sorts - about a favorite second tier character that is being made into a most likely very bad TV show debuting this weekend - Shocking, I know, to think that TV or the movies would take a character with strengths and a great back-story and make him a dime-a-dozen pretty boy dope. I wouldn't watch the show that Barry talks about, either, and I certainly share his outrage... - Noah Fleisher)

I was really looking forward to the “Human Target” TV show that premieres next weekend and has been heavily promoted during the commercial breaks of football games for weeks now.

I say WAS because while perusing the Arts and Leisure section of yesterday’s New York Times, I read that the show will change one thing about the character: he won’t be wearing any disguises.


Perhaps I should backtrack.

The Human Target is a comic book character, created by Len Wein, who first appeared as a backup feature in Action Comics #419 (1972). The character’s name hints at his original twist: he’s a master of disguise who saves people who think their lives are in danger by disguising himself as the intended murder victim.

Since he can interact with suspects (who think he’s the dead-man-to-be) without arousing suspicion the way a stranger surely would, he’s able to solve the mystery of who’s out to kill his client, and he’s handy enough with his fists to subdue the bad guy. This pose-as-the-victim gimmick was unprecedented (I think), and was the one thing that separated him from the usual dime-a-dozen suave hero.

The Human Target did his thing in tightly plotted short stories running eight pages or so apiece, popping up irregularly in Action from 1972-1974 and returning in The Brave and the Bold in 1978. All of the preceding are great yarns and highly recommended. The Human Target has appeared in comics now and then in the ensuing years (check out his memorable turn in Detective #500), and believe it or not, he has had a TV show before. It ran just a few episodes in the summer of 1992, starring none other than that suitor of Jessie’s girl himself, the one and only Rick Springfield!

As the Times reported yesterday, this new show is dispensing with the whole “disguise” concept, basically because the actor playing the lead was deemed too good-looking to be encumbered with fake beards and the like.

So… the TV producers paid good money (presumably) for the rights to an obscure character, then changed the one thing worth paying for rather than just invent their own good-looking hero for free.


If you’re intrigued by the investment potential of the character: CGC-certified NM/MT 9.8 copies of Action #419 have been selling in the $90 - $150 range in our Sunday Internet Comics Auctions.
To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.
-Barry Sandoval

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How about that Cowboys memorabilia! - a Lone Star trip through the Heritage Auction Archives

Jan. 13, 2009
Written by Chris Nerat

(Before getting to Chris's blog post for today, I have to give him a heartfelt round of applause for picking himself up off the floor and writing this post about this subject, after his beloved Packers were so unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs by the pesky cardinals and some bad officiating. So here you go, Chris, listen closely right now and you'll hear my clapping.

The subject of Chris's post is indeed the Heritage hometown team, none other than the Dallas Cowboys, and - needless to say - Chris is not going to get a lot of sympathy for his dilemma down here. Right now people in Dallas are excited, yes, but wary. It's one game at a time for most Cowboy fans, nice and easy. It's been a dozen years since we tasted glory, and no one wants to get too overexcited. That said, thanks to Chris for pointing out some of the great Cowboys memorabilia that has come through Heritage, and that hopefully there will be more to come! -Noah Fleisher)

The Dallas Cowboys are probably the hottest team in the NFC, and possibly the team with the most momentum in the entire NFL right now. This late-season run has provided a lot of excitement around the Heritage offices, especially in the sports department. Whether it’s Cowboys memorabilia from yesteryear, such as game-worn jerseys from players like Roger Staubach and Tom Landry, or modern day superstars like Tony Romo, Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith, our Dallas-based auction venue seems to have the inside track on obtaining pieces featuring “America’s Team.”

After a lengthy drought in the NFL Playoffs, the Cowboys finally proved victorious in a post-season game this past weekend, and serious Dallas collectors are definitely ready to take some of the funds they have saved up from the past 15 years, and unload their wallets on high-quality Cowboys memorabilia.

Let’s take a look at a few key pieces we have sold over the past few years, which are of similar quality that collectors can expect from our weekly and Signature auctions:

1969 Roger Staubach Game Worn Rookie Jersey:
There’s something about that little NFL 50th anniversary patch on the sleeve of a 1969 superstar jersey that drives collectors wild. When you combine that enthusiasm with one of the most iconic players in NFL history, and on his rookie jersey nonetheless, this combination transforms it into a piece that is Canton-worthy.Sold for $22,705 in May, 2007.

1971 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Championship Ring:
Salesman’s sample rings are some of the most attractive pieces in the hobby, and also help provide a nice alternative to an actual Super Bowl ring, which normally would break the bank. This beautiful 1971 Cowboys Super bowl ring featured Ten karat white gold, and a fantastic array of faux gem stones. Sold for $5,676 in October of 2009.

1970s Tom Landry Game Used Clipboard with Handwritten Plays, Coaching Whistle:
We sold this intriguing lot only a few months ago in one of our weekly sales. A killer investment for the lucky winning bidder, this lot was equally as affordable as it was significant. Any time you have the chance to purchase a piece that was used by an NFL legend, I advise you to snag it. You can’t go wrong when purchasing items from an iconic figure. Sold for $388 in October 2009.

1995 Super Bowl XXX Lombardi Trophy Salesman's Sample:
There’s nothing more breathtaking than walking into a memorabilia room and seeing a replica of the most recognizable trophy in sports. This salesman’s sample Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl XXX would look extremely nice next to a Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith gamer … By the way, we have sold those too! Sold for $2,031 in October 2009.

1961-63 Dallas Cowboys Bobblehead:
Vintage nodders will and always will be some of the most desirable pieces in the hobby. Due to their condition-sensitive nature, Mint examples command the most investment potential. This charming little fella comes from the early days of the franchise’s history, and he looks happy to have fetched a nice price of nearly $400. Actually it was $388 in August of 2008.

To leave a comment, click on the title of this post.

-Chris Nerat

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coin Monday: Hat Trick at Heritage FUN

Jan. 11, 2009
Written by John Dale

In keeping with Chris Nerat’s post on the virtues of Heritage’s Permanent Auction Archives, I’m going to finish off my coverage of the January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction (don’t forget the Post-Auction Buys!) with a look at what the auction means for Heritage’s archives, and more specifically the coin wing of Heritage’s Auction Hall of Fame.

For starters, Heritage just auctioned off three million-dollar coins. The 1927-D double eagle? Yes. The 1874 Bickford $10 pattern in gold? Yes. The 1913 Liberty nickel? Oh heck yes. Three coins - one auction, one session - for more than one million dollars. No other firm has auctioned three million-dollar U.S. coins as single lots in one sitting. That’s reason to smile.

This isn’t the first time Heritage has pulled off the hat trick, either (credit due to Senior Cataloger Mark Borckardt for the reference). Back in January 2005, Heritage rattled off its first three million-dollar coins. An 1894-S dime was the crowning glory, and it came only about 150 lots after two different types of Brasher doubloons, the Punch on Wing for $2.415 million and the Punch on Breast for $2.99 million, sold as consecutive lots. (Since then, another duo, the 1796 No Stars quarter eagle and the 1796 With Stars quarter eagle, have sold as consecutive lots at Heritage auctions for more than a million dollars, but there was no third million-dollar coin to complete the trilogy.)

November 2005 closed out that year with another hat trick, as the fantastic Phillip Morse Collection of Saint-Gaudens double eagles redefined the record books. Lot 6522, an Ultra High Relief, Lettered Edge coin from 1907 (not to be confused with the “merely” High Relief Saint-Gaudens double eagle) went for $2.99 million. After Morse’s 1921 double eagle went for $1.0925 million, excitement built, since his 1927-D double eagle was still to come - and at $1.8975 million, it did not disappoint.

The two hat tricks of 2005 are important to the history of the company, but two key achievements make the January hat trick all the more remarkable. First, never before in history have three U.S. coins have sold in a single auction for over one million dollars hammer price, before Buyer’s Premium is added in. (Buyer’s Premium is the 15% difference between, for example, the “Sold for $900,000” announced for the 1894-S dime and the customer’s bill for $1.035 million.) At $1.1 million hammer for the Bickford ten dollar, $1.3 million hammer for the 1927-D double eagle, and $3.25 million hammer for the 1913 Liberty nickel, all three clear the bar easily.

Second, while the two previous hat tricks have been dominated by one consignor (the consignor of the Gold Rush Collection in January 2005, or obviously Phillip Morse in November 2005), the January 2010 FUN Auction’s three million-dollar coins all came from different sources. Ralph P. Muller proudly put his name on his collection and his 1927-D double eagle. I also know who consigned the Bickford $10 pattern, though as always, Heritage’s consignors remain private unless declared otherwise.

As for the 1913 Liberty nickel, even I don’t know who owned it. In the coin auction business, there are three broad classes of stories: the stories you can tell, the stories you won’t tell, and the stories you can’t tell. And as for who at Heritage “can’t tell” and who “won’t tell,” well, I won’t be telling…
To leave a comment click on the title of this post.
-John Dale Beety

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Significant, interesting and a little strange at times… Many reasons to check out Heritage’s archives database

Jan, 6, 2010
Written by Chris

It’s only natural to concentrate on the major sports of baseball, basketball, football and hockey when you think about some of the most notable and unique pieces in the hobby.

However, if you normally only have an eye for the classic pinstripes, the extraordinary lumber or the fantastic garments of the gridiron, hardwood and ice rink, I urge you to escape your comfort zone in order to explore the amazing memorabilia that surfaces from some of the more obscure sports.

All it took was a quick run through Heritage’s handy archive database, and I was able to pick out some of the most peculiar, and at the same time, significant pieces of memorabilia, which have nothing to do with the major sports.

When searching through the archives, I like to search from highest price to lowest, but there’s no rule when surfing through our amazing variety of sold auction lots. Here’s a select few I picked out in order to show the collecting public that even some of the “smaller” sports should still have a place in your memorabilia show room, right alongside some of the top dogs that regularly frequent the hobby world.

Some people refer to the legendary horse Secretariat as one of the best athletes to ever live, and others don’t feel comfortable placing an animal next to names like Ali and Jordan. All debating aside, this 1973 Secretariat Triple Crown worn bit and bridle, which the famed horse wore during the peak of its career has got to be one of the most intriguing pieces Heritage has ever offered. This Hall of Fame-caliber lot realized more than $26,000 in our May 2005 Signature sale.

The sport of boxing has graced the collecting world with many spectacular, and sometimes, downright peculiar robes and trunks over the years. Sold by Heritage in October 2008 for nearly $20,000, this beautiful blue and gold satin garment was worn by boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. There’s just something about this robe from Robinson’s Gold Glove days in New York that’s sure to impress collectors, even if they aren’t boxing fans.

Interesting and eccentric pieces of memorabilia don’t always have to be pricey. Now, I’m not sure if wrestling should actually be considered a sport, or merely entertainment, but there’s no question that these crazy guys are great athletes. Offered in September 2008, for a little more than $1 per card, is this set of 1954-55 Parkhurst Wrestling cards. Colorful characters such as Gorgeous George, Primo Carnera and Mighty Atlas are featured in this rare and affordable collection.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I am in no way a NASCAR fan, and don’t think I’ll ever spend more than a few minutes watching cars drive around a track, but how cool is this item that we sold in April of this year? This uniform, which was worn by the iconic Dale Earnhardt Sr. during his 1996 Daytona 500 race, realized $12,000 in our Signature sale.

Whether it’s these types of unique items you’re looking for, or you simply want to find out the realized prices of your personal memorabilia collection, I want to stress that our auction archive database is unmatched in the sports memorabilia industry. The photo quality and lot descriptions, and the vast array of pieces we have sold over the years are just as impressive as the site’s user-friendly features.

To leave a comment, click on the title of the post.

-Chris Nerat

Monday, January 4, 2010

Coin Monday: The Big Bickford

Jan. 4, 2009
Written by John Dale

A slightly surreal slice-of-life from Heritage, a recent e-mail exchange:

From John Dale to Noah – Still trying to come up with ideas for next Monday’s blog…would a digression into 19th century European monetary unions be interesting at all, do you think?

Reply from Noah to John Dale – As long as you can work in a reference to, or a quote from, The Dude in The Big Lebowski, I think it would be fine…

Reply from John Dale to Noah – In that case, forget it, dude. Let’s go bowling.

… and that’s why today’s topic is the Bickford international coinage proposal, which is well-represented in the January 2010 FUN U.S. Coin Auction, but which is only tangentially related to 19th century European monetary unions.

What the two topics have in common is a nebulous “international coin” movement that saw its 19th century heyday in the 1870s. The Latin Monetary Union, which aligned the values of national currencies of member nations, began with four countries: Belgium, France, Italy, and Switzerland. By 1870, Greece and Spain were also members. Many other countries remained unaligned, however, and currency conversion between, say, Great Britain and France remained frustrating, particularly for occasional travelers.

One such traveler was Dana Bickford, an inventor known in his time for creating an “automatic knitting machine,” but today best known among numismatists for his attempts to create a working international coinage. The Bickford pattern $10 coin lays out its value seven ways: there are six denominations and values in boxes that surround a center listing the weight and metal content.

The proposed gold coins would have been valued at 10 United States dollars; 51.81 French francs; two pounds, one shilling, one penny in British sterling, etc. The center, applicable UBIQUE (or “everywhere” in Latin—thanks, Mrs. Killion!) lists the coin’s weight at 16.72 grams (of gold), 900 fine (or 9/10ths pure).

It’s an utterly delightful and charming idea — until one realizes that as soon as any one country changed the value of its currency relative to the rest, the coin is suddenly wrong. This fatal flaw is why the Bickford $10 trade coin never made it past the pattern stage.

Most of the Bickford $10 patterns produced were made out of copper, like this example. Two precious representatives, however, were made out of gold, and these rarities are among the most prized patterns available to collectors today. One of them, formerly owned by numismatic legends such as Waldo Newcomer, F.C.C. Boyd, and Dr. J. Hewitt Judd (who literally “wrote the book” on patterns), is a highlight of the auction’s Platinum Night session.

In fact, it’s right there on the Platinum Night cover, next to the 1913 Liberty nickel and the 1927-D double eagle. While it may not have the instant recognition of the other two (pattern collectors excluded, of course), the Bickford $10 pattern in gold is actually the rarest of the three. Bidding is up to $725,000 as I type this…where will it end? Nobody will know until the bidding ends on January 7. Heritage’s January 2010 FUN event will be the first great numismatic auction of the new decade. Join us in Florida or on Heritage LIVE!™ to join in all the excitement!

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-John Dale Beety