At the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last year, a dealer in historic document quietly told me that he had purchased an Alexander Hamilton manuscript intending to make a quick sale to a client involved in the Broadway show who had been waiting for just such an item to become available.
Clearly the market for Hamilton material has experienced a seismic shift in the past couple of years, due in very large part to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical. Or, as Nathan Raab of the Raab Collection wrote in Forbes last month, “The interest in Hamilton had already begun to grow after 2005 and publication of Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton. By the time Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical hit Broadway, we were already well on our way to Hamilton fever. And then the temperature spiked.” Pieces that used to sell for $2,000-4,000 are now selling for $12,000-15,000, he added, and the supply is drying up.
Well, until next week. On January 18, Sotheby’s New York will offer an unprecedented collection of Hamilton letters and manuscripts that has remained in the family for two hundred years (it was consigned by sixth-generation descendants and had been “stored in a trunk in the family basement,” reports the New York Times). There are incredible documents, such as Hamilton’s appointment to his position as Washington’s aide-de-camp (estimated at $150,000-200,000; pictured above), love letters exchanged between Hamilton and his wife, and a previously unrecorded autograph draft of his “Pacificus” essay No. VI.
Unquestionably, it will be the auction of the season, and for those in New York, take the opportunity to check out the pre-auction exhibition at Sotheby’s created by David Korins, set designer of Hamilton. In the video below, he shares his enthusiasm for the project--and for the documents.
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. P.S. Today is Hamilton’s 260th birthday!