1860 Abraham Lincoln Signed Letter
Appraised Value: $30,000 - $50,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:50)
GUEST: My parents were collectors of antiques, and my father bought a desk. In the desk drawer they found several president letters.
APPRAISER: And how long ago was that?
GUEST: That was probably in the '50s, maybe.
GUEST: Yeah, 1950s for sure.
APPRAISER: And then from that your father began to collect presidential letters from various sources.
APPRAISER: So we're not sure if this particular letter was in that desk, but it is an autographed letter signed by Abraham Lincoln. We can see a signature here at the bottom of the letter. And it's dated from Springfield, Illinois, in June 1860. May of 1860, he had just won the Republican nomination in Chicago. He had kind of a come-behind victory over William Seward of New York. And as soon as the convention was over, he returned to Springfield, where he had a law practice, to kind of settle affairs and begin the process of working towards the election. We know in June he was very busy. He had many hundreds of visitors, and he had thousands of letters as he had now become a national figure. He didn't actually write a lot of letters back to people who had written to him. But in this particular case, he's written a letter to a Mr. William Jones. And he says that he's very eager to see his old Spencer County friends. Lincoln lived in Spencer County, Indiana, from the age of seven to 21. And William Jones was essentially Abraham Lincoln's first employer.
GUEST: Oh, for heaven's sake.
APPRAISER: When he was a teenager. It turns out that Mr. Jones was a man of modest means, but he had a fairly interesting library of books on American history. And according to Mr. Jones, Lincoln as a teenager read all of these books and learned about American history from Mr. Jones. So this essentially is a letter to his first mentor. Mr. Jones's house in Indiana, it is today a museum because of his association with Lincoln. It's very rare to have letters because he was so busy at this perfectly important period in his development. Have you ever had it appraised or have any ideas about what it might be worth?
GUEST: My sister told me that my parents had had it appraised, and she thought it was several hundred dollars.
APPRAISER: Well, hopefully that was a long time ago, and I hope they don't cause any problem with the family. We see a lot of Lincoln documents on the Roadshow. People have military appointments and the like with his signature on it. It's very rare to have a whole autographed letter signed. Documents sell between $5,000 and $7,000. But a letter of this importance and with this content and historical importance would have an auction estimate today of probably conservatively $30,000 to $50,000.
GUEST: You're... oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: So a little bit more than a couple of hundred.
GUEST: I cannot believe it.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.