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Category Archives: Letters

Collectors gear up for Elvis auction

A major sale of artefacts from the life of Elvis Presley is due to take place at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee later today. The auction consists of 72 lots and includes everything from his marriage certificate to his front door keys.

Ahead of the event, let’s take a brief look at some of the most interesting lots.

Early signature

The signature is one of the  earliest known examples

The signature is one of the earliest known examples

Elvis signed this library card in 1947 when he was in 7th grade. During that year he was beginning to gain recognition for his singing and performed twice on local personality Mississippi Slim’s radio show.

The piece is one of the earliest known examples of Elvis’ signature, meaning its likely to attract a high degree of interest from collectors.

Shooting target

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis was an avid gun collector

Elvis had an enormous collection of guns. After a number of death threats he carried one on his person at all times, even while he was on stage.

His penchant for firing at the TV whenever singer and longtime rival Robert Goulet appeared onscreen in the stuff of legend.

This target was set up in his smokehouse in the grounds of Graceland, which he used as a shooting range.

Marriage certificate

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

Elvis and Priscilla married in Las Vegas

This marriage certificate records Elvis’ wedding to Priscilla in Las Vegas in 1967. The couple spent a total of eight minutes in the chapel before jetting off for their honeymoon.

Ironically it was sent back to the marriage office stamped “return to sender” and was kept by one of the clerks, who sold it at auction in the mid 90s.

Keys

These keys were used in the couple's honeymoon

These keys were used in the couple’s honeymoon

This set of keys for Elvis’ holiday home in Palm Springs, California were taken on his honeymoon with Priscilla. The couple spent a couple of days in the luxury apartment before flying on to Memphis.

A Los Angeles Police Department keyring is a nice touch. Alongside his gun obsession, Elvis was an avid collector of police badges.

by Tom

Halloween collectibles – keep your movie memorabilia, the reality is spooky enough!

With Halloween arriving, the world of collecting inevitably looks toward horror memorabilia. The auction world is full of items from the fiction’s most frightening characters – Michael Myers’ signed mask, an autographed copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a Frankenstein movie poster.

Well, you can keep them. For me, the creepiest collectibles are those that come from real-life creatures of the night. The ordinary can quickly become the extraordinary, the mundane transformed into murder most foul.

Take for example, the Albert Pierrepoint memorabilia collection.

Albert Pierrepoint, memorabilia, collection, hangman, pierrepoint, executioner, halloween, collectible,

Albert Pierrepoint (1905-1992) was your average Yorkshire schoolboy. An average schoolboy who, aged just 11 years old, was asked to complete a “when I grow up” exercise in class, to which he responded: “When I leave school I should like to be the Official Executioner”.

That’s a morbid statement that is likely to have sent social workers into a frenzy whichever way you look at it, but in context its something (slightly) less sinister than the murderous desires of a young boy.

Albert was the son of Henry Pierrepoint who, along with his brother Tom, were the UK’s top choppers in a time when capital punishment was still legal. Following the family tradition, Albert took the lives of almost 500 of the country’s criminals in his long-lived career including some of the most famous war criminals and high-profile murders.

The collection, which includes items from each of the family members, is nothing short of chilling. Having recently rifled through its contents at Paul Fraser Collectibles, I can confirm that it sent more than just a small shiver down my spine.

On the surface, there is nothing in the collection that will make you jump out of your skin: a journal, a watch chain, photographs of the family. It’s when you put the items into context that their gruesome nature becomes apparent.

The journals see the Pierrepoint’s coolly calculating the weight and drop of their victims. “Very heavy body, ordinary neck” – just another day at the office for Albert.

The chain, a fine silver piece befitting of the UK’s official executioner, was once attached to the watch that counted down the final seconds of hundreds of lives.

The photographs, somewhat sinister in sepia, show the ordinary men going about their otherwise ordinary lives. Not even Albert’s wife knew of his occupation, at least until he retired. But place these next to the plaster casts of Albert Pierrepoint’s face and hands and the man is temporarily resurrected, bringing a haunting character to the collection – This was the last face that hundreds of criminals ever saw, the hands that secured the noose around their necks.

No spooky movie or horror novel can match the grim reality of this collection.

Joe

Ernest Shackleton memorabilia really takes the biscuit

Recently a set of medals belonging to AF Mackay, the physician on Ernest Shackleton’s 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition, sold for £48,000 ($77,237) – up 864% on their estimate.

 Mackay Shackleton Polar Medals Doctor Surgeon

AF Mackay’s Antarctic medal

For over a century the Shackleton story has captured the imaginations of people around the world. The combination of bravery, stiff upper lips (and even stiffer moustaches) ensures that almost any memorabilia that comes to auction tends to achieve impressive results.

Take for example this biscuit, discovered in Shackleton’s famous Antarctic hut on Cape Royds in 1960 – which achieved a notable £1,250 ($2,026).

Shackleton biscuit

The $2,000 biscuit

You would be forgiven for thinking that that must be some sort of record – however it pales in comparison to the £7,637 ($12,382) paid for a collection of crumbs from a biscuit taken on Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition in 1915!

Personal items tend to be very popular. Last year Shackleton’s own white polo neck sweater made £9,375 ($15,028) at a sale at Christie’s in London, while a handkerchief, featuring a monogrammed E sold for £2,500 ($4,008).

With public enthusiasm showing no sign of dampening after over 100 years, we can offer you this exclusive letter – written to his wife just 9  months before his tragic death aboard his ship in Rio De Janeiro.

‘The dingo stays here’

Did you see that Jane Austen’s ring will be staying in the UK after all?

The Jane Austen House Museum managed to get together the required £149,000 ($238,000) to keep the ring on British shores, after US singer Kelly Clarkson had “bought” it at auction last year.

Clarkson had reckoned without the might of the British government, which from time to time slaps temporary export bans on some “national treasures” that look like they’re about to leave the country.

The dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

Stubbs’ dingo leaves the UK on November 5 unless a new owner is found

The bans, which last just a few months, are intended to provide museums and institutions with sufficient time to purchase the items. In this case, it worked.

“The export licensing controls for objects of cultural interest are designed to balance the need to keep nationally important objects in this country, the rights of owners and the encouragement of a thriving art trade,” says England’s Arts Council, which advises the government on these matters.

The current collection of items in limbo makes for interesting reading, and suggests that someone at the Arts Council, or perhaps Britain’s minister for culture, Ed Vaizey, has a particular penchant for Australian animals.

Here’s the list:

  • Two paintings by George Stubbs, depicting a kangaroo and a dingo, respectively.
  • A photo album containing snaps by British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn’s ‘Rembrandt Laughing’.
  • Letters and documents from British army officer James Wolfe.
  • A Bentley Blower 4.5 litre racing car.
  • A collection of works pertaining to Thomas Baines’ North Australian Expedition from 1855 to 1857.

When we get word on the dingo’s new home, you’ll be the first to know.

Dan

39 years ago today – Nixon resigns

Today in 1974, Richard Nixon announced on national television his resignation from office following the Watergate scandal.

The next day he would step aboard a helicopter in the grounds of the White House, and leave for San Clemente, California – never to return.

His successor, Gerald Ford, stated that he hoped Nixon would find peace.

It seems he did. In fact, it appears that Nixon was eventually even able to laugh at himself, as this souvenir copy of his resignation, personally signed by the former president, demonstrates.

Nixon signs his resignation - again

Nixon resigns – again

You can own it today.

Dan

Top 10 Romantic royal memorabilia

Following on from Dan’s post about wedding collectibles yesterday, here’s an article on the Top 10 Romantic royal memorabilia from Wikicollecting.

There’s also the Top 10 Celebrity Love Letters ever auctioned.

Lots to enjoy!

Louise

Should you keep your collectibles to yourself? The case of Samuel Beckett’s notebooks

On July 10, six of Samuel Beckett’s notebooks are to cross the auction block at Sotheby’s.

Filled with Beckett’s seemingly interminable scrawlings and scribblings, the notebooks offer a rare glimpse into the avant-garde author’s imagination during a period in which he underwent psychoanalysis.

Written between August 1935 and June 1936, the books, which are valued at $2m, have emerged from a private collection.

Their contents have never been widely available to scholars.

Image

Whoever happens to cast the highest bid come July will gain access to a flood of new information regarding Beckett’s often gelid, occasionally comic, yet always captivating canon.

Rightly or wrongly, it will be completely up to that individual or institution whether or not they chose to share this information with Beckett scholars…

I really like the idea that the planet is covered in secret clues out of which people might patchwork together new versions of men and women long departed, be it a telegram sent by Vladimir Lenin mere months before the October Revolution took place in Russia, one of the many letters written by Charles Dickens, or the present bundle of heavily-illustrated notebooks.

Whether accidentally or on purpose, we all leave behind some sort of paper trail, which might one day be picked through by historians, or police officers.

What do you think?

Should the contents of the Beckett notebooks be made public?

What would you chose do with them if you bought them? Have them incinerated or digitised? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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