Why Collect Historical Autographs?

Museum Framing

War dated Paul Revere Signed Document at Castle Harbor (Boston)


Unlike rare coins or fine art, you can collect amazing rare letters and documents signed by prominent historical men and women for a fraction of what you would expect.  For example, a document signed by Abraham Lincoln as President can be had for around $5,000.  Whereas a coin of that same era of similar popularity or scarcity can be acquired for about $25,000 and up. An important painting or print from a similarly known artist would be in the six figures or millions.

And, among Abraham Lincoln, a rare coin, or an artist, who had the most impact on American or World history?  Although autographs has gained some popularity in recent years, most people think important autographs are in the museum locked away.

Nothing can be further from the truth.  Yes, museums and institutions are seeking good material for their collections, but, they are also deaccessioning some of their material in their holdings.  This is so they can refine their collections to a specific area or interest.  Plus, as budgets become tight, they seek donations or other means of displaying important historical items, like through photographs or illustrations.

Museum Framed

1794 Ships paper signed by George Washington as President and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State

Autographs are rare.  George Washington isn’t signing anything anymore!  Seriously, as time goes by, documents and letters become rarer.  This can be through outside damage or deterioration through factors inherent in the paper/vellum.  Even the ink used in past centuries, iron gall ink, erodes the paper it is written on over time if not cared or treated.  Also, think about weather events, like floods or fires.

As interest continues to climb and supply is limited, good and desirable material will increase in value.  Bragging rights is a component that helps determine value.  What would amaze people.  A Paul Revere or a Herbert Hoover?  You get the point.

Also, with all the mundane and boring art out there, wouldn’t you rather display a nicely framed John Hancock or a reproduced mediocre print acquired from the supercenter big box stores that buy art wholesaled from countries that crank thousands and thousands a day…that end up in a flea market for $10!




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