Published: March 9, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Hake’s Auction
YORK, PENN. – Hake’s Auctions set a single-sale company record when the firm produced $2,888,163 at its February 24-25 Premier Auction #231, propelled by a mix of American, political and sports memorabilia with strong results seen for toys.
The auction house said it also set a record for a sell-through rate at 98 percent, bidder volume and the number of bids placed. In short, interest was quite high.
“It was a record-breaking sale in every way, shape and form,” Hake’s Auctions president Alex Winter said. “The material was certainly the catalyst; we had an incredible lineup of items. Because the items were there, the bidders showed up in record numbers.”
Bidding on behalf of a client, dealer Seth Kaller walked away with the sale’s top lot, an 1860 Lincoln and Hamlin “Wide Awakes” all-seeing-eye parade banner that brought $143,104. The firm said it was a record auction price for a Lincoln textile. The Wide Awakes were a youth organization that had their genesis in Hartford, Conn., when on the evening of March 5, 1860, a group of 36 young men led Lincoln to his resting place that night by the light of their torches. At the time, over half of the United States’ population was aged 19 or younger. Within months, chapters of the Wide Awakes had sprung up in every northern state, creating the spectacle of torch-lit night marches in support of Lincoln’s candidacy. In six months, the group swelled to more than 500,000 members.
The auction house wrote, “banners like this are almost non-existent, especially in private hands, and even when considered alongside other pre-Civil War textiles, this artifact’s uniqueness and visual appeal distinguish it among its impressive peers.”
Kaller said, “Just looking at the flag, it is easy to understand how special it is. The Wide Awakes, created to support Lincoln’s candidacy, became a movement throughout the North, and literally awakened people – particularly young men – to the new Republican party formed to halt the spread of slavery. Contrary to the clear intent of the founders, if the Dred Scott doctrine were to be enforced, states that had thought they were done with the slavery issue would see it return.”
Behind at $130,909 was the Birmingham jailhouse correspondence logbook featuring 12 Martin Luther King Jr signatures. King was in the Birmingham jail for eight days following his arrest for protesting. He wrote his famed “Letter From Birmingham Jail” while here, initially crafted as a response to an op-ed in a local newspaper written by eight white clergymen who urged the Black community to not protest. King began writing his essay on the margins of a newspaper and bits of paper as he released it in pieces to his lawyers. The logbook documented each time King received a letter or correspondence while in prison. A jailhouse employee was ordered to destroy it, but instead preserved it in his family where it remained ever since. This was the first time the public ever saw it and it sold to a private collector.
“Very few people knew this even existed,” Winter said. “We had so much outside interest, especially from people who had never heard of Hake’s before. It’s such a historical piece, we had some people who were not collectors at all who wanted to own this or those who wanted to buy it and donate it. Museum quality gets thrown around a lot, this was a museum-quality piece.”
Rising to $42,480 was a Cox & Roosevelt 1920 jugate button that the firm estimates is one of only 60 known spread across six designs. Hake’s wrote, “Enthusiasm was low for the Democratic field in 1920 with Gov. of Ohio James M. Cox becoming the nominee on the 44th convention ballot and selecting the relatively unknown 38-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt in part for his famous last name and service as Wilson’s Assistant Sec. of the Navy. As a result not much material was produced and jugate buttons are the most highly coveted artifacts in the canon of political button collecting.” It is theorized these were only produced as samples by the button makers and never ordered in any quantity. They represent Roosevelt in his earliest years as a politician.
Original Mickey Mouse art found strong results, including $61,739 paid for a daily strip by Floyd Gottfredson and Earl Duvall. From 1931, the pen and ink centers on the Mickey Mouse versus Kat Nipp storyline. It had come from the estate of Duvall, who worked with Disney very early on and then went on to Warner Bros. From the same estate was a pen and ink 1931 Mickey Mouse daily strip by Duvall from the Mickey Mouse, Boxing Champion storyline. Duvall’s 1931 employment contract with Disney secured his role as a “Cartoon Artist” and a “General Utility Artist.” He was paid $100 per week and $150 per week should Duvall grant exclusivity. The contract sold for $5,568.
In sports memorabilia, the firm found $52,367 for a 2¼-inch button featuring the Boston Red Sox in their 1915 championship year. At the top of the picture of the team, which includes 22 members and the trainer, is written “Boston Royal Rooters,” a fan organization led by Mike McGreevy that likely produced the button. The button represents among the very few images of Babe Ruth in his rookie season and came with a red stocking, which is how it was originally issued. Only one other example is known.
Michael Jordan rookie cards did well when a 1984-85 Star Co., #101 rookie card in BGS 7.5 near mint went out at $30,863. A 1986-87 Fleer #57 Hall of Fame rookie card in BGS mint brought $28,556.
On the meteoric rise of Jordan memorabilia, Winter said, “It’s pretty incredible. I’m a basketball fan and card collector. I was there in the early 90s when the boom happened and then the market got saturated. Overnight at the end of last year, these went from stagnant prices to astronomical gains. I’ve never seen any one type of item take this much of a rise that quickly. It’s unbelievable.”
All prices include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For additional information, www.hakes.com or 717-434-1600.
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