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  • Appraisals

    Documents with Presidents' Signatures

    Appraised Value:


    Appraised on: July 29, 2006

    Appraised in: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Appraised by: Ian Ehling

    Category: Books & Manuscripts

    Episode Info: Milwaukee, Hour 3 (#1119)

    Originally Aired: November 12, 2007

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 8 Next 

    More Like This:

    Form: Document, Autograph
    Material: Paper
    Period / Style: 19th Century, 18th Century
    Value Range: $17,500

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    Appraisal Video: (2:47)


    Appraised By:

    Ian Ehling
    Books & Manuscripts
    Vice President, Specialist Books and Manuscripts

    Appraisal Transcript:

    GUEST: I brought some presidential autographs. I have a complete collection of presidents' signatures with the exception of the... our current president, George W. Bush.

    APPRAISER: Uh-huh. And the three items you brought today, you said you bought those in the 1970s?

    GUEST: Yes, I did, uh-huh. It was a little bit more affordable back then, so I invested.

    APPRAISER: Well, the three documents you brought here are very interesting. The first one here is a discharge paper signed by George Washington in 1781, and he is discharging John Mackenzie from the army. It says in the document that he's having served in the United States. And the interesting thing about this part is that it could read "having faithfully served," and the "faithfully" has been taken out. When the "faithfully" is crossed out from a document like this, it essentially means he could have done a little better. The document over here is signed by Abraham Lincoln, and that is an appointment of Samuel B. Ward, who is, in 1864, appointed to be an assistant surgeon volunteer. Lincoln appointed three other assistant surgeons that day.

    GUEST: Oh, really?

    APPRAISER: Yeah. And lastly, it is a document signed by Garfield appointing a postmaster, Mr. Mack. That was signed in 1881. Do you remember what you paid for the Washington?

    GUEST: The Washington I paid $1,700 at the time.

    APPRAISER: And the Lincoln?

    GUEST: Uh, about $600 as I recall.

    APPRAISER: $600. And how much did you pay for the Garfield?

    GUEST: I think it was several hundred dollars. I can't just remember exactly what I paid for that.

    APPRAISER: Okay, do you have an idea how your documents have appreciated over time?

    GUEST: I've seen some catalogs. I know that Washington is at least several thousand dollars now, and I think Lincoln would be in that category, too. The Garfield, I have no idea. I haven't been able to find any catalogs or anything of Garfield signed as president.

    APPRAISER: If I were to put those in an auction, I would probably estimate the Washington at $10,000.

    GUEST: Wow.

    APPRAISER: The Abraham Lincoln appointment I would put at $6,000.

    GUEST: Wow.

    APPRAISER: And the Garfield would be about $1,500.

    GUEST: $1,500. Okay, uh-huh.

    APPRAISER: It's a wonderful group and you've kept them in really good condition.

    GUEST: I really treasure them. I think it's so fascinating to have something that a president actually touched or laid his hand upon.

    APPRAISER: Yeah.

    GUEST: I just love these things.

    APPRAISER: Thanks for coming in.

    GUEST: Thank you.

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