Auctions | March 29, 2013

Extraordinary Recent Discovery of Custer Materials Sold At James D. Julia

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March  2012 — Woburn, MA — At James D. Julia, our goals include bringing our global community of customers the very finest and most interesting antiques and artifacts possible. At our recent Winter 2013 Extraordinary Firearms Auction — which grossed over $13 million and featured remarkable militaria spanning four centuries — many lots also came with breathtaking provenances. This one in particular, with both deep Civil War and family roots, really caught our attention.

The Col. George G. Briggs Civil War Collection

The lot, number 1480, was a breathtaking collection of Civil War materials. These items, consigned by a Rhode Island family who were direct descendants of Col. George G. Briggs, were estimated at $45,000 to 65,000.  Briggs was the last commander of the 7th Michigan Cavalry and a trusted friend and confidante of Lt. Colonel George A. Custer, the famous officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.  After spirited and competitive bidding, the package sold for $184,000, including the buyer's premium.

The Briggs collection had two spectacular highlights.  The first was a framed letter written by Custer's wife to Briggs featuring a snippet of the actual Confederate "flag of truce" from the Appomattox Courthouse, a chip of wood from the desk that Generals Lee and Grant signed the surrender document on that ended the war, and a piece of the red bandana Custer famously wore at the surrender.  The second was a gold Tiffany-made Custer Valor Medal, a private military award authorized by Custer and awarded only to heroic and favored members of the 7th Michigan Cavalry. There are probably no more than 4 or 5 of these Custer gold medals in existence today, and this was the first gold medal presented to an officer of this type known to ever come to auction.   The collection also included wartime documents concerning Briggs; numerous cabinet photographs of Briggs; additional badges including Briggs' gold and silver enameled Sheridan Cavalry Corp badge and MOLLUS (Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States) Membership Badge; a reunion era souvenir Gettysburg presentation polychrome cane and wooden gavel; a 6 foot section of Col. Briggs' silk sash, and other military memorabilia. 

Partnering with James D. Julia To Find the Right Buyer — and Price

Although these cherished and historically important items were part of the seller's family legacy for more than a century, the family realized it was time to move these treasures into new hands upon the passing of their oldest generation.  This was a difficult decision, given how the collection had become such an integral part of the family on many levels.  The seller and the James D. Julia team - including President Jim Julia himself - met to review the precious items in early January, 2013.  

The seller, understandably nervous and emotional about parting with such irreplaceable items, was immediately put at ease about the decision to sell the items as well as the auction process itself as a result of this meeting.  She recalls, "Right from the start, the attention to myself and the "package" was impeccable.  The publicity, work, and time expended by James D. Julia honored the significance of Col. Briggs as well as making me feel as if what was in my best interests was of primary concern.  I was concerned about finding a buyer and getting a healthy price for the collection, but I also wanted it to go to the right party, one that appreciated and valued the items as I did during my time of stewardship. I am certain that Julia's made sure that anyone who should be aware about the opportunity to purchase collection did."  

This important transaction required resources and expertise from both Julia's Fairfield, Maine headquarters, as well as the company's full service office in Woburn, Massachusetts, which delivers first rate identification, valuation, and auction services to customers in the Boston and southern New England areas. According to James D. Julia, the company's President and a Civil War historian himself, "This collection is extraordinary, not only for the individual items, but for the depth of the story it tells as a grouping.  Holding the Valor Medal in my hands was a once in a lifetime experience and extremely meaningful.  We have handled Custer related artifacts over the years here at Julia's, but this particular package was by far the most personal, and perhaps one of the more complete, of any in memory."

About James D. Julia, Inc.

James D. Julia, Inc., one of the top ten auction antique houses in the nation, is headquartered in Fairfield, Maine. The company also has an office in Woburn, Massachusetts. In business for over 40 years, the company conducts high-end antique, collectible, and decorative arts auctions throughout the year. Julia's routinely establishes new world records through its sales events. Julia’s has four key divisions, including rare firearms and militaria; fine and Asian art and antiques; lamps and glass; and important toy, dolls, and antique advertising. Each division has been ranked nationally for excellence and is staffed with world-class specialists to insure fair and professional authentication, identification, and valuation services.

James D. Julia is a proud recipient of the 2012 Governor’s award for Business Excellence, which is administered by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. This honor recognizes companies that demonstrate a high level of commitment to the community, employees, and to manufacturing or to service excellence.

Julia's next Fine Firearms auction will be held in October, 2013. For more information on James D. Julia, Inc. please visit


Wes Dillon 

Department Head, Rare Firearms and Military Division 

James D. Julia, Inc.