Review by Carly Timpson; Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS — Nearly 700 lots of historical artifacts evincing American milestones and memories were offered during Heritage’s Americana & Political Auction on November 13-14. After two days of bidding, the sale achieved $1,591,200 and sold 92 percent of its offered lots.
A true collectors-driven auction, most of these lots went home with private buyers. Curtis Lindner, the Americana and political director at Heritage Auctions, shared that quality, unusual pieces performed well, as expected. “People are still confident in investing their money into collectibles; it really is a healthy, robust market.”
One of the most prominent features of this sale was the selection of more than 20 celebrated flags from the Zaricor Collection, one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of American flags. Each of the offerings from Zaricor was paired with documentation outlining the item’s exhibition and publication history. Though, as Lindner shared, “flags are always popular with collectors,” the detailed record of each flag’s provenance certainly inspired buyers. The top three sales all hailed from Zaricor’s collection.
Leading the sale was a 50-star American flag that was recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks. One week after the tragedy, David Bliss, a volunteer firefighter from Ohio, discovered the still smoldering flag while digging through the rubble that was once the South Tower. Ben Zaricor acquired the flag in 2003 after it was displayed in Walt Disney World’s EPCOT World Showcase and in San Francisco at the Presidio exhibition, “The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord and Conflict.” The hallowed South Tower flag earned $52,500.
Finishing at $35,000 was a very rare early form of the iconic “First National” Confederate flag. This version is particularly desirable to collectors as flag historian Howard Madaus identified it as having military, rather than private patriotic, use. This historic flag was once part of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Museum’s collection before Zaricor obtained it in 1996.
A handloom embroidered United States Presidential Office flag, likely used in the White House during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, was sold for $32,500. The silken yarn used in the embroidery on this flag serves as an indication of the president’s status as Commander-in-Chief at official military ceremonies. This was likely among the last flags made in this pattern, as the updated US Presidential flag was designed in 1945, when the eagle’s head was turned to face the olive branch and a ring of stars replaced the four corner stars.
Also performing well was the 1868 presidential campaign flag for Ulysses S. Grant — a shockingly rare find. The flag’s 37 stars are arranged in a desirable medallion pattern: a large central star with two rings surrounding it and a star in each corner outside the rings. In the center of the flag is a detailed portrait of Grant with the slogan, “The People’s Choice,” situated above his head. Blue text in the white stripe beneath the portrait reads “Grant & Colfax.” This flag soared to $30,000.
Kennedy memorabilia collectors were thrilled to see a number of lots containing personal items pertaining to the president. Most notably was a pair of cufflinks originally belonging to John F. Kennedy and given to White House maid Viola Wise during the summer of 1963. The pair features the Presidential Seal and are engraved with the president’s initials on the reverse. Lindner shares that “the most interesting thing about them was actually the letter written by the maid who had them. She has held on to them for all these years and her letter shows their provenance.” Paired with Wise’s charming letter on White House stationery, the cufflinks brought $27,500.
Another Kennedy piece that showed great success was a commemorative Cuban Missile Crisis calendar given by the president to George W. Ball in 1962. This Tiffany & Co silver paperweight displays an October 1962 calendar with the 13 days of the crisis, from 16 to 28, emboldened, emphasizing the significance of that period on the nation’s history. Kennedy commissioned 30 paperweight mementos to be given to members of the National Security Council’s Executive Committee to honor their work during that time and only one other calendar from the set is known to have passed on to a private collector. This one sold for $27,500.
A poster advertising “New York’s Birthday Salute to President Kennedy” was also among the top performers of the day. On Saturday, May 19, 1962, the Democratic Party hosted a fundraiser and birthday celebration for President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was at this party that Marilyn Monroe performed her sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” for the honored guest. Unlike tickets, programs or other small papers advertising this sensational event, posters are incredibly hard to find. Lindner shared that the price of $26,250 for this poster was indicative of its rarity.
It was not only items relating to presidents that saw success. Lindner said, “Items and things owned by famous people and personalities tend to garner a lot of interest and do well.” One such item was a top hat owned by J. Pierpont Morgan. Complete with a monogrammed storage case, and given its excellent condition, the hat earned $27,500.
Heritage’s next political and Americana sale will be in March.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.ha.com or 877-437-4824.