Auctions | April 21, 2015

Record for Reagan Autograph and 94% Sell-Through at Swann Galleries


NEW YORK—Bidding was strong across all categories at Swann Galleries’ March 19 Autographs auction, resulting in a sell-through rate of 94% by lot. A five-page autograph letter signed by Egon Schiele from October 1918, in which he talks about military interference in his art, was the sale's top lot at $33,800*.

A photograph signed by Ronald Reagan, on which he inscribed, “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!” set a new record for a Reagan autograph at $16,250. Other featured presidential material included a reading copy of the speech that launched John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, an unsigned typescript with holograph annotations, which sold for $17,500; a Theodore Roosevelt autograph manuscript signed, a working draft of his statement evaluating his favorite hunting rifle, circa 1915, $9,375 and an archive of 27 typed letters signed by Harry S. Truman, including 12 as President, to friend Shannon C. Douglass, Washington, 1938-51, $8,450.

A collection of autographs by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included autograph manuscripts signed, of his short stories The Nightmare Room, 1921 and The Parish Magazine, 1930, $11,250 and $10,400 respectively, and a group of four letters signed, on various subjects, $7,280.

There was also an autograph album with more than 50 items signed by prominent writers including Herman Melville, Walt Whitman and Henry Longfellow, 1831-86, $10,625; an ALS from Charles Dickens to his daughter, delicately rejecting a poem she had written, January 1858, $8,750; and two typed letters signed by J.D. Salinger, each to a Robin Westen, concerning her encounter with a Zen master, January and February 1984, $7,250.

Daniel D. Emmett’s autograph musical manuscript inscribed and signed, a copy of music and lyrics for “Dixie’s Land,” December 1900, brought $15,000.            .


Scientists and inventors were well represented, with a signed and dated Albert Einstein photograph from 1954 bringing $13,750; and two autograph letters signed by Alexander Graham Bell, on his attempt to extract the bullet from President Garfield, 1881, $10,625; and a typed letter signed by Julius Robert Oppenheimer, as Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, to chemist Lester Guttman, May 1943, $10,000.

Also attracting interest was Charles Stewart Parnell’s autograph manuscript signed, a draft of his appeal To the Irish People of America, 1891, at $6,760.

For complete results, an illustrated catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to propose consignments to upcoming Autographs auctions, please contact Marco Tomaschett at (212) 254-4710, extension 12, or via email at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Ronald Reagan, color Photograph Signed and Inscribed, “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!” Sold for a record $16,250 (including buyer’s premium).

Second image: Egon Schiele, five-page Autograph Letter Signed, indignant at military interference in his art, October 1918. Sold for $33,800 (including buyer’s premium).