October 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Folsom Prison Blues at Auction...

folsom-ha.jpgWhen a big, eclectic auction comes up, like Heritage Auctions' Rare Books & Historical Manuscripts sale later this week in Beverly Hills, it feels impossible to handpick a few of the best or most interesting books and documents. So I peruse the catalogue, awed at everything, but waiting for the moment when I am star-struck. That happened on page 25 of the HA Rare Books catalogue when I spied a Folsom State Prison Mugshot Book,1915-1923. Johnny Cash fan or not ("I Got Stripes..."), this is a mesmerizing book, with 1,300 pictures and basic stats about each convict. The auction estimate is $5,000. It is followed by a similar mugshot book from San Quentin from 1928-1929, which holds the same estimate.

kent-ha.jpgThe Rockwell Kent personal photo archive of his homes in New York and Maine and his excursions to Denmark, Greenland, Alaska, etc. is one of the big-ticket items, estimated at $50,000. The 1,400 black-and-white photographs, taken from 1931-1953, were developed and printed by Kent, and most bear his ownership stamp. The majority are housed in albums, with spine labels in Kent's hand.

kennedy-ha.jpgFor me, another "wow" moment happened on page 72 of the Historical Manuscripts catalogue, where there is a 1963 Christmas card signed by President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. The president and first lady signed this card (and about thirty others) just days before making their fateful trip to Dallas. But, of course, the cards were never sent. The estimate is $10,000-15,000.

Then, at the very end of the same catalogue, I found a neat collection of wax seals, including a large gilt bronze wax seal stamp in the shape of a crow (estimate $750-900), some agate-handled, some brass, some decorative seals, and even a massive locket seal ring (estimate $200-250).

You can preview some more of the rare books auction's highlights in the three-minute HA video: