Auctions | November 18, 2020

Letter Signed by Beethoven Brings $275K at Heritage Auctions

Courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Dallas, TX — An extremely rare letter written and signed by composer Ludwig van Beethoven sold for $275,000 to lead Heritage Auctions' Historical Manuscripts Auction to $1,762,995.50 in total sales Nov. 12.

The Ludwig Autograph Letter Signed "Beethoven" roared past its pre-auction estimate of $60,000+ to reach its final result, which was the most paid for a Beethoven-signed document in the last decade. In a short letter to a Mr. von Bauman, Beethoven requests the return of a piano trio and writes he will return soon with a violin sonata.

"It came as a complete surprise because it's beyond the norm for what his letters sell for," said Sandra Palomino, director of Rare Manuscripts at Heritage Auctions. "He [Beethoven] rarely comes on the market, but people got excited about this because he was talking about his music."

The letter was bought by a musician who has researched and given lectures on Beethoven, and intends to donate the letter to the music school at which she studied. The buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the letter was especially appealing to her because "it refers to a trio sonata, which I played so I knew where he was coming from."

"It was my idea that I am getting older and, besides enjoying in enormously, I am going to give it to my alma matter in my will," the collector said. "This was a last-minute purchase, but I feel it is something that will be important for young people to feel.

"It means a lot to me, and Germany has always been so welcoming to me. and Beethoven was my refuge growing up."

Also climbing above and beyond expectations was a John Adams Autograph Letter Signed "J. Adams" that sold for $81,250, against a pre-auction estimate of $25,000+. The letter was written by Adams to his good friend, Philadelphia physician and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Rush, renewing a correspondence between the two men that was suspended for several years due to a misunderstanding. During the 1800 presidential election, which Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson, Rush allegedly claimed that Adams favored monarchy over democracy, which Rush denied. Adams took great offense at what Rush allegedly said and stopped their correspondence.

A Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel Legal Document Signed "Ben Siegel" as President of the Nevada Project Corporation found a new home at $45,000. The legal document marks the transference of the Flamingo Hotel project from William R. Wilkerson to Siegel, who signed the bottom of the document. The second page, also dated March 19, 1947, is a signed statement by the Los Angeles, California Notary Public, N. Joseph Ross. Siegel is popularly thought to be the impetus behind large-scale development of Las Vegas. Siegel returned to Nevada and began working on his dream to construct a hotel-casino complex on what later would become known as the Las Vegas Strip, an establishment called the "Flamingo," a project started by Los Angeles businessman and Hollywood Reporter publisher Billy Wilkerson, who turned the project over to Siegel after running short of funds. This signed document is the evidence of this deal, which was completed in 1947.

A George Washington Autograph Letter Signed "Go: Washington" nearly tripled its pre-auction estimate when it drew a winning bid of $40,000. The letter commends Colonel David Humphreys, his former aide-de-camp, for a position, either as secretary of foreign affairs or as a minister to another country. In a letter to Washington, Humphreys reported that Continental Congress president Thomas Mifflin indicated that a position may be available to him. Humphreys suggested that a letter from Washington would be more effective in helping him a position. Thus, Washington wrote the letter offered here.

Other highlights in the auction included, but were not limited to:

$37,500: A William Harvey Autograph Document Signed

$35,000: A Steve Jobs "Fortune" Magazine Cover Signed "steve jobs"

$30,000: A George Washington Revolutionary War Letter Signed "Go: Washington"

$30,000: A Mary Queen of Scots Document Signed "MARIE R."

$27,500: A Benjamin Franklin Document Signed "B. Franklin Presdt" as President of Pennsylvania

$27,500: A Franz Schubert Autograph Letter Signed "Schubert"