Auctions | April 18, 2018

Swann's $1-Million Americana Auction Continues Upward Trend

New York—Swann Galleries’ auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana on April 12 was the department’s highest-grossing sale in four years, continuing an upward trajectory as each offering of Americana and African Americana becomes more curated. Highlights of the sale included historic bibles and a broad selection of unique and manuscript material.

Religious texts constituted many of the highlights of the sale, including an unusually well-preserved first-edition Book of Mormon, which topped the auction at $77,500, going to a collector. Additional highlights included a first edition of the Aitken Bible, the first complete Bible printed in English in the United States, which brought $47,500 despite missing 6 text leaves, and a rare Pony Express Bible that was purchased by a collector for $20,000.

Swann is known for offering exceptional Mormon material. In addition to the top lot of the sale, highlights included an 1844 extra broadside issued by the Nauvoo Neighbor, containing the first official report of the murder of Mormon leaders Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It was purchased for $37,500 in its first auction appearance since 1966.

Many of the other highlights were unique or making their first appearances at auction in several decades. The first edition, first state of Thomas Paine’s American Crisis brought $50,000 in its first auction appearance since 1955. An ornately framed cypress sprig cut by Lafayette from Washington’s tomb—the only known example of this tender keepsake—brought $13,750. Cecil Stoughton’s 16 albums of John F. Kennedy photographs brought $15,000, and his shot of Kennedy with Marilyn Monroe (the only known photograph of the two together) brought $10,625.

Institutions were active throughout the auction. Historic Deerfield acquired a volume of Iroquois religious tracts by the noted Mohawk missionary Eleazer Williams, while an account book of the noted physician George Huntington was purchased by his alma mater, Columbia University. 

A volume of sixteenth-century records from the silver mine at Taxco, Mexico, brought $30,000, leading a rich selection of Latin Americana. Many items far exceeded their high estimates, most notably manuscript material in the Chinantec and Nahuatl languages. Printed highlights included a 1620 decree by the Mexican Inquisition prohibiting the use of peyote, which sold for $25,000, above a high estimate of $9,000.

The $1M auction continues Swann Galleries’ upward trajectory in the field of Americana. Coming just two weeks after the house’s successful sale of Printed & Manuscript African Americana, “the market shows no signs of slowing down,” said Rick Stattler, Director of Americana at Swann. He added, “This was the strongest Americana auction we’ve had in four years. We saw strong results in every section of the sale, and participation from a remarkable breadth of buyers.”

The next auction of Americana at Swann Galleries will be Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III on June 21, 2018. The house is currently accepting quality consignments for autumn auctions.