Sunday, November 18, 2007

Declaration Sells Big at Skinner

A hush fell over the room at today's Skinner auction in Boston when Lot 11 came up - that was the early Boston-printed Declaration of Independence broadside I mentioned here on Friday. Presale estimates on the broadside were $70,000-90,000, but those quickly fell by the wayside as a flurry of bids from the floor and the phones drove the price up rapidly ... and they kept coming. Most of us were occupied with just looking around trying to see who was bidding in the room, totally dizzied by the numbers we heard.

When the hammer finally fell, the price was $625,000 before premium (Update: Skinner's saying the total was $693,500). The buyer was Seth Kaller, Inc. out of White Plains, NY - before the end of the day the broadside was in their booth at the Hynes fair, marked "sold." I asked who the client was and they told me they'd purchased it for an individual, not an institution. That will, I believe, make this the only known copy of the imprint in private hands [correct me if I'm wrong].

Once the bidding ended most of the spectators clapped, many went up and congratulated Mr. Kaller, and the auctioneer - Stuart Whitehurst - quipped "Okay, let's all go get a drink. We're buying." It was quite a thing to see.

The Boston Herald ran a short piece on the auction today with a bit more background on the selling organization, which is described as "a central Massachusetts historical society." The article notes that the society has owned the broadside since the late 1800s, but felt that due to the risk of theft, it was more a liability than an asset. Whitehurst told the paper "They realized they couldn’t display it because of how expensive it was. So it’s being sold to benefit a trust fund for a historical society. But it was a tough decision for them, I imagine."

Whitehurst bobbled a bit when introducing the item, first saying it was being sold to benefit "the Massachusetts Historical Society," then adding "no, no a Massachusetts historical society, not the Massachusetts Historical Society."

If I find out any more information I'll be sure to pass it along.

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