"Angel-Fish" Pin from Mark Twain, ca. 1895
Appraised Value: $1,500 - $8,000 (2007)
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Mark Twain's "Aquarium"
A closer look at Twain's intriguing "angel-fish" club — a group he formed to raise his spirits while encouraging young women in their artistic interests.
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Appraisal Video: (2:53)
GUEST: This is a pin that's been in my family since my grandmother was a young girl. And my understanding has been that she was given this pin by Mark Twain. Samuel Clemens in his older years had a group of young ladies that he corresponded with and that who visited him at his home in Stormfield, Connecticut. And he gave each of them, when he met them, a little pin, and it was the angel-fish pin and he called this group of girls his "aquarium."
APPRAISER: Well, we have a picture of your grandmother and she is beautiful.
GUEST: Oh, thank you.
APPRAISER: So you also brought correspondence from him to your grandmother, but not original.
GUEST: That's right. These are transcriptions of letters that he wrote to her and she wrote back and forth with him for a few years. And these are the correspondence, and she had a secretary transcribe it.
APPRAISER: Right. I love the way he signed this letter-- "Chief Slave of the Aquarium." That's really interesting. Now, he also encouraged her to become an artist, is that correct?
GUEST: Yes, it seems as though they each had some gift or talent and he encouraged them. Some were writers and some were artists. My grandmother enjoyed art, and one of her first visits there had just been a robbery in his home, and so Mark Twain encouraged her to make a little sign for the robbers so they would not do it again, and that's what this is. Oh, this is one of these drawings and then he signed it, "Very truly yours." I did read that the actual letters from Mark Twain reside at Columbia University's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.
APPRAISER: Now, it's interesting, when I looked at the pin, I tried to date it and that was a little puzzling, because the pin could be as early as 1880 because of the workmanship, the style, the use of the natural pearl, or up to 1910. I don't know who made the brooch or really where it was made. I would only be guessing and say in Europe, not in America. So it's hard to tell, if this really one of the angel-fish pins, but as a brooch, I think that this would be worth $1,500. Which is quite a bit for a charming...
GUEST: Yes, it is for a very little brooch.
APPRAISER: But if we can establish that this in fact did happen, which I'm not doubting, it would be hard to put a price on it. And I've checked with many other appraisers and I think we're really looking at maybe the $8,000 range at public auction. And if you would have had the actual letters from Mark Twain, the price would be sky high.
GUEST: Well, I'm sorry we don't have them.
APPRAISER: I'm sorry, too.
GUEST: Then I would feel obligated to do something with them.
APPRAISER: Right, and now you just can enjoy this angel-fish pin.
GUEST: I can enjoy it, yes.
APPRAISER: Thanks for coming.
GUEST: Thank you very much, Gloria.
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