|By Jim Rutledge
FORT LEE, N.J. — More than 350 Internet bidders dominated the buying at the 12th Archives International Auctions (AIA) sale last month. Internet bidders spent more than $500,000 to grab rare banknotes, historical documents and artifacts.
One of the nation’s most-treasured documents topped the three-day selling spree.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence made in 1848 by distinguished 19th century printer and journalist Peter Force sold for $9,000 in the second annual Wall Street Collectors Bourse on Oct. 20, the highest-price paid for any lot of the AIA auction at the Museum of American Finance in New York. The event moved to AIA’s New Jersey office for the second and third day of the auction.
The famous document was among the featured highlights in the three-day, Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23, auction that included more than 2,000 historic documents and objects, financial artifacts, artwork, security printing ephemera, coins, stock and bond certificates and rare U.S. and worldwide bank notes, many items never before sold in auction, or for sale to the public.
Force’s finely executed copper engraving, measuring 37 ¾-inches by 25 ½-inches, was printed from the original copperplates by engraver William J. Stone in 1823. The Force printing, an exact facsimile of the document printed on rice paper, remains today as one of the best representations of the Declaration of Independence as the manuscript looked over 150 years ago, just prior to its nearly complete deterioration. Very little of the original document is legible today. Force printed the copies to be included in his five volumes of historic documents, a collection of authentic records, state papers and many other important documents issued from the 17th Century to 1789. It’s estimated that 500 copies of the Declaration were included in his volumes, but many were removed from the volumes by collectors or others, and have suffered wear, or were lost. AIA estimated the value of the document at $10,000 to $20,000.
The auction was operated by AIA president Dr. Robert Schwartz and featured more than 2,400 lots with total sales of $554,375.80, including an 18 percent buyers premium. About a thousand lots did not sell.
The second top selling auction item was an early 19th Century ticker tape machine, the Edison Stock Ticker, manufactured by T. A. Edison, Inc. It sold for $8,260 to an unidentified collector, below the high estimate of $10,000. Encased in the lacquered, brass frame are telegraph instruments, two alpha numeric rollers and a ticker tape feeder with an escapement mechanism. It has a cast iron base which is 7-inches in diameter with an 8 ¼-inch high glass dome and included used ticker tape. The artifact was used for 80-years for receiving stock and commodity quotations from the nations’ leading exchanges, mostly in New York City’s financial district.
Currently, British antique dealer, Paul Frazer Collectibles of London, has a similar, early model Edison ticker tape artifact selling for 29,950 Euros or more than $38,000 dollars. It has been listed on the firm’s website for approximately 6 months, according to director Adrian Roose.
AIA sold a second Edison Stock ticker for $5,900, dated about 1900, with a label that said, “Serviced by Western Union.” Another very different model, the Black Box Stock Ticker manufactured by the Teletype Company of Chicago, sold for $950. This ticker tape box was used after the Wall Street crash of 1929. Some of these models were still used until 1959, when they were replaced by a new generation of tickers.
Other important documents offered included: an 1833, $150 bank check signed by President Andrew Jackson to his Tennessee neighbor Thomas J. Donelson and sold for $1,250; an autographed postcard from German composer Johannes Brahms sold for $850; an 1863 Civil War letter discussing the treatment of slaves and the use of metal slave collars, sold for $950; a 1962 autographed letter signed by former Michigan Governor George Romney on the governor’s stationery (father of the 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney), sold for $75. A couple of interesting items that did not sell: a 1970 Charles Lindbergh autographed letter with a black and white photograph listed for $1,000 to $2,000; a 1906 autographed letter by Samuel L. Clemens and signed Mark Twain, listed for $3,000 to $6,000; and a 1975 bank check signed by convicted insider trader, Ivan Boesky, dated a year before he started his firm, Ivan F. Boesky & Company, was listed for $100 to $200.
Day two of the auction, October 21, featured more than 800 items, mostly stock and bond certificates, a few dozen ephemera items, and a dozen sports collectibles. Topping the day’s sale were three items: an 1908 $1,000 City of St. Louis specimen bond that sold for $575; a lot of 25 1868 Territory of Montana $100 bonds sold for $375; and a $1,000, 1919 Tacajo Sugar Corp. of New York, specimen stock bond for $375.
And what many buyers considered the most popular items of the three-day sale were 804 lots of worldwide banknotes, several selling for more than a $1,000 each. There were banknotes from 114 countries including the United States. And bidders weren’t shy from picking up notes from war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, and troubled countries like Pakistan, Syria, Iran and Yemen.
The auctioneers had a special note of caution referring to the printed banknotes in AIA’s, 262-page colorful catalogue. In an attempt to prevent counterfeiting of the printed samples of banknotes and other forms of currency, AIA published the samples with the serial number “000000” and with the word “Specimen” overprinted on many of currency notes and/or punched “cancelled” on others, to prevent them from being used surreptitiously.
The top selling banknote was an 1905, $100 International Banking Corporation “specimen” banknote for China that sold to an Internet buyer for $5,500. It was described as “a trophy for the advance collector.” A 1920, $100 Commercial Bank of China, “Dollar Issue” specimen, sold for $4,500, and was the second highest banknote sold.
Among 26 rare Pakistani banknotes were 12 notes that sold for more than $1,000 each and were issued from 1949 to 1983, in various denominations of 1 rupees to 500 rupees. Ten Pakistani banknotes did not sell. According to AIA, these Pakistani banknotes were recently discovery by an unidentified collector.
Three of five Iranian banknotes issued in 1937 and 1958, sold at or above the estimates and one 1937 note did not sell. The 1937 note had Shah Reza pictured, and the later notes featured Shah Pahlavi who was later overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Bank Melli of Iran issued the banknotes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 200 rials each. The 1958 notes sold to an Internet buyer for $1,800 to $2,100 each. The 1937 note sold for $220. The exchange rate in 1958 was 75.75 rials to $1.00.