December 2010 | Jeremy Dibbell

Auction Report: Sotheby's NY

The main Books and Manuscripts sale at Sotheby's New York on Thursday made a total of $2,239,188, with 75 of the 115 lots selling. The top lot was Bob Dylan's lyrics for "The Times They Are A-Changin'", which made $422,500. The first edition presentation copy of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia ([Paris, 1785]) sold for $362,500. An Alberto Giacommetti letter to Marlene Dietrich fetched $266,500 (well over the estimate of $18,000-25,000), while the Second Folio sold for $194,500. The Curtis North American Indian volumes failed to sell, as did the Nuremberg Chronicle, the inscribed copy of A Christmas Carol, and the first edition Book of Mormon.

When it came time for the big single-item sales, however, the bidders were there. "Custer's Last Flag," a guidon from the Little Bighorn battlefield, consigned by the Detroit Institute of Arts, sold for $2,210,500 to an American private collector. Robert F. Kennedy's copy of the Emancipation Proclamation set a new record for a presidential document, fetching $3,778,500. It was purchased by an anonymous telephone bidder.

And then were James Naismith's original typescript rules for the game of basketball, which set a new record for sports memorabilia at auction, making $4,338,500. That lot went to Austin, TX money manager David Booth, a native of Lawrence, KS who hopes to see the rules find a home at the University of Kansas (he says he will challenge the university to "provide a suitable venue"). Proceeds from the sale go to the Naismith International Basketball Foundation, a charity.