1802 Meriwether Lewis Officer Commission
Appraised Value: $25,000 - $35,000 (2000)
$150,000 - $250,000 (2013)
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We contacted appraiser Selby Kiffer for an updated appraisal in today's market.
• Current Appraised Value: $150,000 - $250,000 (Increased)
Appraisal Video: (2:32)
Books & Manuscripts
Books and Manuscripts Dept., Senior Vice President
APPRAISER: Most presidential documents are valuable because of who signed them. But the document that you brought in is really significant because of who it was given to. Who was that?
GUEST: Meriwether Lewis. My family is descended from Meriwether Lewis's sister, and he, of course, had no offspring of his own. My great-grandmother grew up in the Lewis family home in Locust Hill, Virginia. And one day as a young girl, she found the commission as she was rummaging through an old chest. And she was told that she could have it. Years later, as a grown woman, she and her husband and children were living in Galveston Island in 1900 when the horrible hurricane struck that city. Their home was completely destroyed, but before it was destroyed, they managed to salvage just a few of their treasured possessions, or silver, and apparently this document.
APPRAISER: And this document, you referred to it as a commission, which is what it is. It's Thomas Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis a captain in 1802, and that was two years before...
GUEST: The Lewis and Clark expedition.
APPRAISER: And that's really what makes this so intriguing. It can almost be seen as the genesis of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which from 1804 to 1806 went from St. Louis to the Pacific and back.
APPRAISER: Congress authorized the expedition in order to open up trade ties with the Indians. But in fact, it really proved the feasibility of transcontinental travel, and probably remains the most important expedition in American history. In addition to Jefferson's signature, it was countersigned by the Secretary of War. Both of those pale in significance to Meriwether Lewis. What a magical name in American history. If this were a typical Thomas Jefferson military commission, I would value it at about $4,000 to $6,000.
APPRAISER: What do you think the increase in value might be for its having been given to a significant historical figure? Two separate individuals have looked at it. One said around $4,000 to $6,000, another said about $75,000.
GUEST: Well, it's funny. I'm going to come down about halfway between. I would estimate this at auction between $25,000 and $35,000. If it wasn't faded the way it is, I might go a little bit stronger. But believe me, it's the sort of thing that would cause excitement, and the final price could well exceed that estimate.
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