YORK, Pa. - Whether it comes from the world of politics, entertainment or sports, if an object or memento has added meaningfully to the pop-culture landscape at any point in America’s rich history, it’s a natural fit for one of Hake’s Americana & Collectibles’ online and absentee auctions. The Pennsylvania-based company’s current auction (#214), which closes over March 17-19, showcases nearly 2,800 items organized to close in chronological order. The vast selection of memorabilia, featuring many rarities from renowned collections, spans a timeline that begins with Revolutionary War leaders and culminates with 20th-century comic book superheroes.
Topping the 500-lot political section is Lot 4, a military discharge document signed on June 8, 1783 by General George Washington, with the countersignature of his aide-de-camp John Trumbull Jr. The double-sided document honorably releases Corporal William Peek from military service after six years of duty and awards the soldier the Badge of Merit. A rare relic from the earliest days of America’s independence, the discharge comes with a Hakes Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and JSA Letter of Authenticity (LOA). Its auction estimate is $5,000-$10,000.
Another star in the political category is Lot 17, an 1861 Civil War-era document signed by President Abraham Lincoln in which he appoints William S. Edgar a “Surgeon.” Boldly signed by Lincoln at the bottom, the certificate is framed with a photographic portrait of Lincoln and a period postcard bearing a famous Lincoln quote. Accompanied by a Hakes COA and JSA LOA, its estimate range is $2,000-$10,000.
The enduring mystique of Harry Houdini cannot be denied, but few would know that the famed illusionist launched his own film-production company in 1921. Houdini Picture Corporation produced two films - both starring Houdini - but the venture was not a high-profile one. Hake’s offers as Lot 789 a very rare 1921 stock certificate for five shares in the company, hand-signed by Houdini as president and secretary/treasurer. Together with a promissory note signed by the same stock purchaser, the two-item lot is estimated at $2,000-$5,000.
An extraordinary survivor from the early days of Negro League baseball, Lot 885 is a 1907 photo-pictorial book by Sol White titled History of Colored Base Ball. It is one of fewer than a dozen known examples of a highly important book that documents late 19th/early 20th-century African American baseball players from a time when there was very little information available on the subject.
“This book was so ahead of its time, and it just never turns up at auction,” said Hake’s President Alex Winter. “A copy was not even in the legendary Richard Merkin collection, which is well known for containing items of tremendous rarity pertaining to the Negro Leagues. When we announced we would be auctioning other pieces from the Merkin collection some years ago, we immediately started receiving calls from people asking if this particular book was in the collection, and remarkably, we had to say ‘no.’ Other examples of this title have sold for more than $20,000 in the past, and if any of the images shown in the book were individual 8 by 10 photos, I have no doubt they’d sell for anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 apiece.” Lot 885 is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Moving into the realm of fictional heroes, there’s Lot 1433, one of two known prototype “ashcan” pulp magazines printed in August 1936 to establish copyright for The Lone Ranger. It was not until April 1937 that the first official issue of The Lone Ranger Magazine actually saw the light of day, and by then, the cover art had been completely changed. On the earlier iteration, The Lone Ranger wears a red bandanna to disguise his face, rather than the later - and more familiar - black eye mask.
Already an extremely rare publication, the desirability of this prototype ashcan (so named because it was meant to be discarded after reading) is further enhanced by its CGC grading. As Winter explained, “CGC does not typically grade pulps, so it’s an anomaly that they chose to grade this one.” The opening bid on the magazine is $5,000, and its estimate is set at $10,000-$20,000.
One of Hake’s areas of particular expertise is early, original comic strip art. The March auction contains the actual hand-drawn and artist-signed original artwork for two phenomenal Sunday newspaper pages drawn 80 years ago. Lot 1598 is George Herriman’s 11-panel art for the November 3, 1935 Krazy Kat strip featuring the lead character plus Offissa Bull Pupp, Ignatz Mouse and Ignatz’s rarely depicted wife and three children. This well-known Sunday strip with multiple backgrounds, superb inking and imaginative storyline has been reprinted in every major Krazy Kat book and Herriman publication. Estimate: $10,000-$20,000.
Krazy Kat is followed by another favorite comic-strip feline, Felix, who stars in Otto Messmer’s original artwork for the Sunday, Oct. 6 edition of Felix the Cat. Felix appears in all 12 panels, with a storyline that places him in the laboratory of a scientist who applies a powerful anesthetic to the cat’s midsection. Felix then goes on a hamburger binge, obviously immune to a stomachache. One of the nicest Felix Sunday-page originals ever offered by Hake’s, it has a King Features Syndicate copyright label and comes with provenance from the Jan Wahl collection. Estimate: $5,000-$10,000.
Lot 1635 is the original Jack Davis color cover art for the January 1962 Dell comic book titled Yak Yak - A Pathology of Humor. Bright and vividly hand-colored, the artist-signed art comes with a pair of 4 by 6-inch color photos of Davis in his studio with the Yak Yak artwork. All Jack Davis original cover art is scarce, and this lot should have no trouble achieving its $5,000-$10,000 estimate.
Approximately 60 items will be offered from the revered Doug and Pat Wengel Disneyana collection. Among the standout items is Lot 1797, a rare 14-inch tin sandpail made in France in the mid 1930s. In a repeating scene against a shell-pink background, Mickey plays the concertina while Minnie Mouse dances. In their reference book Comic Character Metal Sand Toys, the Wengels describe the pail as “perhaps the finest…Disney ever produced.” Bidding is expected to reach $2,000-$5,000.
The piece de resistance in the Wengel selection is Lot 1764, a pair of circa-1935 Old King Cole Mickey and Minnie Mouse mechanical store displays. Made of painted composition, each figure is supported by a wood framework and motorized to enable an action. When switched on, Mickey moves his outstretched arm up and down, while Minnie holds a mirror in one stationary hand and moves her other arm up and down. Striking, colorful and with provenance from one of the all-time great Disney collections, the pair is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Other highlights include Lot 2156, a linen-mounted three-sheet movie serial poster for Adventures of Captain Marvel, est. $2,000-$5,000; and Lot 2129, a hardcover Photoplay edition of Tarzan and the Golden Lion signed by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, publishers Alexander Grosset and George T. Dunlap, the film version’s executive producer Joseph P. Kennedy, and many others involved with the movie’s production, including star Boris Karloff. Its estimate is $5,000-$10,000.
Hake’s Americana Auction #214 is now open for bidding by phone, mail or online at www.hakes.com. The first session will close on March 17, 2015, while the second session will close on March 19. March 18 is an interim day in which bidders can peruse the catalog and prepare for further bidding. To request a free printed catalog or for information on any item in the sale, call toll-free: (866) 404-9800 or (717) 434-1600. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the catalog online at www.hakes.com.