George Washington Spy Letter Leads Auction

jhdjiebjfmagmioe.jpgNew York—Swann Galleries’ auction on Tuesday, November 7 saw fine results for Autographs by important historical figures in a variety of fields, from government to science to music. The total of $662K exceeded the estimate for the sale as a whole by almost $100,000, as lot after lot hammered above estimate.

The highlight of the sale was the Jimmy Van Heusen Collection, offering manuscripts by the composer as well as important letters, musical quotations and manuscripts by some of the most influential composers of the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries. Of the 76 lots offered from the collection, 93% found buyers, exceeding the high estimate for the section by more than $70,000. The top lot of the collection was an autograph musical quotation signed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, showing nine bars from the first movement of Serenade for String Orchestra in C Major, 1888, which sold for $27,500, above a high estimate of $15,000. The first autograph musical quotations by Van Heusen ever to come to auction included the drafts for such hits as Swinging on a Star and Love and Marriage ($6,750 and $7,000, respectively). Each of the seven lots by Van Heusen sold well above their estimates, with the working draft of Call Me Irresponsible reaching $9,375, above a high estimate of $2,000. The proceeds from the sale of the Collection will benefit Cazenovia College, which Van Heusen attended when it was a high school.

The top lot of the sale was a letter from George Washington to his spymaster, Benjamin Tallmadge, requesting intelligence at the height of the Revolutionary War. It was written in November of 1780 from his headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, concerning the British troop numbers and locations on Long Island. It sold for $40,000.

A strong selection of autographs by scientists was led by a signed photograph of Sigmund Freud by Halberstadt, signed & inscribed to American psychoanalyst Horace W. Frink, 1922, which sold for $20,000. A pair of photographic portraits signed by Albert Einstein and his wife, Elsa, reached $12,500.

Marco Tomaschett, Autographs Specialist at Swann, was pleased with the sale: “The strong results of the musical autographs demonstrate that there is healthy demand for this category.”

The next auction of Autographs at Swann Galleries will be held in Spring 2018.

Image: Lot 7: George Washington, Autograph Letter Signed, to his spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge, New Jersey, 1780. Sold November 7, 2017 for $40,000. (Pre-sale estimate $25,000 to $35,000).

Auction Guide