1993 J.D. Salinger Initialed Letter
Appraised Value: $1,500 - $2,000
IMAGE: 1 of 4
Appraisal Video: (2:40)
Books & Manuscripts
Director, Fine Books and Manuscripts
Bonhams & Butterfields, LA
GUEST: I brought in a letter that I wrote to J.D. Salinger that he initialed. He wrote a little bit on the bottom, a little note saying that he doesn't respond to letters or give autographs, and he kind of did both on mine. I wrote this in '93, and beginning in '92, I started collecting autographs. My parents had a friend who was an autograph dealer, and he kind of told me who to write to. I wrote to several thousand people, I have about a thousand signatures now, and I entered them in a county fair as part of a 4H project.
APPRAISER: Did you win?
GUEST: I got a big purple ribbon, yes.
APPRAISER: Oh wow, congratulations.
GUEST: Thank you.
APPRAISER: You've got a nice collection and this is really a star in your collection. I was just so intrigued that an 11-year-old girl would write J.D. Salinger. Had you read Catcher in the Rye at that point?
GUEST: I hadn't, I had no idea who he was and my mom actually wrote underneath it in pencil "J.D. Salinger," so when I was older I could know what the "JDS" initials were.
APPRAISER: So you wrote to him, you didn't know who he was, you didn't expect to get a response, is that correct?
GUEST: Right. I was told that he was the hardest to get out of any celebrities, and so it was kind of a joke that I wrote to him and was expecting absolutely nothing in return.
APPRAISER: Well, I love this letter, you tell him that you are collecting autographs for your 4H project, you're 11 years old, I think you must've sent a photograph with it. What was the photograph of?
GUEST: It was just me with my pet llama, his name was Lance.
APPRAISER: You're really tugging at the heart strings, trying to get this guy to write you back. He certainly was notoriously reclusive. He did not correspond with very many people at all, and consequently his letters and his autograph are rare. But you did it, you sent a letter, you defied the odds. And so Salinger's response here at the bottom is, "I don't sign autographs, Amber, "and, if I can help it, I don't answer mail. Lance, I imagine, feels much the same way about it." So he writes you this sort of funny, snarky response. And then because he says he doesn't sign autographs, he, of course, wrote himself into a box and couldn't sign his full name, but he did actually initial, "JDS", and then your mother added this little note so that you would know. In today's market-- again, as I say, he is very rare, he is very collectable-- and even though this is a very short note, with initials only, it's still quite a collectable piece. At auction, I would put a value of $1,500 to $2,000 on this piece. So not bad. There's a second ribbon for you for your 4H project.
GUEST: Wow, my husband's going to freak out.
APPRAISER: Is he? Good!
GUEST: I thought maybe 50 bucks. I understand and appreciate it more now than I did when I was 11.
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