Auctions | February 6, 2011

Results of Swann's First Online-Only Auction

New York—Swann Galleries’ online auction of signed performing arts memorabilia ran from January 10 through February 1. It was the first auction in Swann’s 70-year history that was online only, with no live bidding or previewing, and no printed catalogue. Just under 375 lots were offered, and 76 percent found buyers.

The sale comprised material collected by a New England enthusiast in the first half of the 20th century. Most items were offered with estimates of $50 to $100, and several examples far exceeded expectations. A 1945 playbill for the original Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, signed on the cover by Laurette Taylor, Eddie Dowling, Julie Haydon and Anthony Ross brought $1,806*, making it the sale's top lot.

Other highly desirable theater playbills for original productions of well known plays were Death of a Salesman, signed on the cast page by Arthur Miller and every member of the cast including Lee J. Cobb, Mildred Dunnock, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Kennedy, February 1949, $1,506; a pair of playbills for Carousel, one signed and inscribed by each member of the cast, the other signed by the producers and writers, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, 28 November 1945, $966 for both; and The Iceman Cometh, signed, inscribed and dated on the front cover by Eugene O'Neill, December 1946, $792.

Other playwright autographs of note included a program for a production of Our Town at the Amherst [Massachusetts] Drama Festival signed by Thornton Wilder on the first cast page, August 1940, and a playbill for The Glass Menagerie, inscribed and signed on the cover by Tennessee Williams, November 1945, $468 each.

In addition to playbills from theatrical productions like these, the sale also featured Sarah Bernhardt’s signature and date on the cover of a playbill for a one-week appearance at a theater in Boston, November 1916, $636; Paul Robeson’s signature on the front page of a “Tribute to Russia” benefit program, Springfield, Mass, 20 June 1943, $546; and autographed photos of Ignaz Friedman, Polish piano virtuoso and composer, $606; a photograph signed and inscribed, “Tres Sympathiquement,” by signer Edith Piaf, $546; a costumed Enrico Caruso as Rhadames in Aida, $534; and a signed and inscribed portrait of Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler, November, 1919, $492.

Complete auction results can be viewed on the Swann Galleries website: For further information, please contact George Lowry at (212) 254-4710, extension 15, or via e-mail at

*Prices include buyer’s premium.