Records & Results: Autographs

Letters from a Young Kurt Vonnegut Top Autographs Auction

Collectors Drawn to Autographs of Innovators


Our auction of Autographs on Thursday, November 8 saw major interest in notable authors and innovators, as well as American heroes in a variety of fields including athletes and presidents.


Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut–an American writer best known for his science-fiction infused anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five–was a standout of the sale with a group of letters written to members of his family, largely from his time enlisted in the army during WWII. The offering of 12 letters, on various subjects including the war, love, alcohol and art also contain small drawings and doodles by the young Vonnegut, reached $12,500 over a high estimate of $6,000.

Lot 356, a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to his brother features a US Army doodle as well as his signature in bubble letters.

Lot 356: Kurt Vonnegut, archive of 12 autograph letters signed to his family, including 6 illustrated, 1930s-40s. Sold for $12,500.


Vonnegut also drew interest with a signed and inscribed unpublished story from the 1940s, which sold for $4,500.


Of the Vonnegut offering Marco Tomaschett, Autographs Specialist, noted:

“Vonnegut’s letters are themselves tiny literary achievements. They sparkle with humor and keen observation, some with parts taking the form of a dialogue between his recipient and a fictional interlocutor; others serving as a sketchpad for clever insignias or flags that make a sarcastic commentary on the text running alongside. Vonnegut’s letters are a joy to read, and that the group Swann offered realized as high a price as it did is a testament to the fact that there are still those who appreciate the joy of reading.”


Literary Figures

Additional literary figures included a Ralph Waldo Emerson photograph signed, which brought $4,750.

Lot 324, signed photograph of Ralph Waldo Emerson sitting in a chair with a book.

Lot 324: Ralph Waldo Emerson, photograph signed. Sold for $4,750.


An autograph manuscript from Elizabeth Barett Browning, that featured a selection from her essay Walter Savage Landor, with holograph corrections, sold for $6,500 over a high estimate of $1,000.

Lot 307, an autograph manuscript by Elizabeth Barrett Browning with a few holograph corrections.

Lot 307: Elizabeth Barret Browning, autograph manuscript, unsigned, 1843-44. Sold for $6,500.


Ernest Hemingway’s autograph letter signed to Marlene Dietrich, thanking her for a number of things (including her patience) earned $4,680.


And, a typed letter signed from Margaret Mitchell to a fan, mentioning her characters from Gone with the Wind as if they were actual people brought $5,980.

Lot 340, a typed letter from Margaret Mitchell to a fan discussing her characters from Gone With the Wind.

Lot 340: Margaret Mitchell, typed letter signed, with references to characters from Gone With the Wind, 1936. Sold for $5,980.



Innovators proved to be popular with collectors with an ALS by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre discussing his newly created portable camera, which grossed $12,350, and a photograph signed and inscribed by Orville Wright. The silver print shows the first flight of the Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903 with Wilbur running alongside the plane and Orville piloting ($6,750).

Lot 366, a letter from Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre discussing his portable camera design.

Lot 366: Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, autograph letter signed, agreeing to offer advice concerning his portable camera design, 1839. Sold for $12,350.



Artist Joan Miró’s illustrated autograph note signed to MoMA Director of Exhibitions and Publications, Monroe Wheeler reached $6,250.



American Icons

American icons saw success with a print depicting the moon landing, signed and inscribed by Neil Armstrong, which garnered $5,250.

Lot 89, a print depicting the moon landing signed by Neil Armstrong.

Lot 89: Neil Armstrong, print depicting the moon landing, signed and inscribed. Sold for $5,250.


A Babe Ruth photograph signed and inscribed by the baseball player earned $8,125.

Lot 168, a signed photograph of Babe Ruth while playing with the New York Yankees

Lot 168: Babe Ruth, photograph signed & inscribed. Sold for $8,125.


Presidents and First Ladies

Correspondents from American Presidents and First Ladies featured an Abigail Adams autograph letter offering marriage advice to her son that reached $5,460. An ALS from Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State reached $9,375.

Lot 221, a letter from First Lady Abigail Smith Adams to her son.

Lot 221: Abigail Smith Adams, autograph letter, offering marriage advice to her son, 1803. Sold for $5,460.


Lot 243, a letter from Thomas Jefferson when he was Secretary of State.

Lot 243: Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed, as Secretary of State, 1793. Sold for $9,375.


Abraham Lincoln was present with an autograph endorsement signed, as well as Mary Todd Lincoln with an ALS on mourning stationery ($6,240 and $5,750, respectively).


Lot 249, a letter from Mary Todd Lincoln on mourning stationery, written during her time in Florida.

Lot 249: Mary Todd Lincoln, autograph letter signed, describing her unwanted visitors as a ‘Rebel horde,‘ on mourning stationery, 1874. Sold for $5,750.


Modern U.S. Presidents featured John F. Kennedy with a sketch of his PT-109 on “United States Senate” stationary, which brought $5,200.

Lot 245, a sketch from John F. Kennedy on United States Senate stationery showing a rough sketch of a PT-109 boat.

Lot 245: John F. Kennedy, graphite drawing, sketch of his PT-109, on United States Senate stationery, 1950s. Sold for $5,200.


Complete Results.

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