Published: December 14, 2010
On December 10 at Sotheby’s, three remarkable treasures were sold for out-standing prices and two new auction records were established. Sotheby’s Vice Chairman David Redden presided over the hushed salesroom as the Kennedy-Lincoln Emancipation Proclamation, “Custer’s Last Flag,” the Culbertson guidon from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and James Naismith’s founding rules of basketball came across the auction block in chronological order. Applause greeted the successful sale of each historic object.
Robert F. Kennedy’s copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, set a new auction record for any presidential document when it sold for $3,778,500, more than double its presale high estimate. The Emancipation Proclamation is one of only 25 copies of the document known to survive, of which 18 are in institutional collections. It was purchased at auction by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1964, who was inspired by the centennial celebration of its signing conducted the year before.
Two bidders competed for “Custer’s Last Flag,” which sold to an American private collector for $2,210,500. The flag was consigned by the Detroit Institute of Art, where it had not been on view since 1928. The proceeds, which can only be used to purchase art, will go toward acquiring Native American works, still to be determined.
After several minutes of intense bidding, the two-page document comprising a set of 13 rules to a new game invented by James Naismith in 1891 sold for $4,338,500, more than double the estimate of $2 million and a new record for any piece of sports memorabilia ever sold at auction. The document was purchased by David and Suzanne Booth, who hope to bring them to the University of Kansas, David Booth’s alma mater. The rules were sold by the Naismith family and the proceeds of the sale will go toward the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.
A full report of this sale will appear in a future issue.
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