United States Secret Service Archive, ca. 1900

Value (2008) | $5,000 Retail$10,000 Retail

GUEST:
I brought a collection of the papers and effects of John E. Wilkie, who was the head of the Secret Service from 1898 until approximately 1913. A friend of mine called me up. He said, "I know you collect things. I have a bunch of old papers." He says, "If you want them, you can have them. Otherwise, I'm throwing them away." And so, being a collector, knowing I have too much stuff to begin with, I hesitated, but I went over and I first came across this steel engraving signed by Teddy Roosevelt and I said, of course, "I'll take it."

APPRAISER:
And you took the whole batch.

GUEST:
Yes, and there's boxes, believe me.

APPRAISER:
This is John Wilkie. Explain who he was.

GUEST:
He was a newspaperman back in the 1880s, and he was actually made the chief of the Secret Service by President William McKinley.

APPRAISER:
This is his Secret Service badge, and it has the star, and then you open it up and you have "John E. Wilkie, Secret Service." Now, one of the things that he was doing is he was in charge of protecting the president, McKinley.

GUEST:
That's correct.

APPRAISER:
Obviously there were problems with that protection, in the assassination happened under his watch.

GUEST:
As I've mentioned to you, I have volumes of papers, but the most significant to me, anyway, are the papers that represent the statements by the Secret Service agents who were in attendance at the assassination of William McKinley at the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in September 1901.

APPRAISER:
Here's one of them. "I was stationed about ten feet to the right of the President..." and standing in front of the President, "close to him was a young fellow "with a handkerchief in his hand, "concealing a revolver "from which he had shot the President. "The President stood erect and seemingly did not realize he had been shot." You have a group of papers here from each of the Secret Service agents who were on the spot, giving their detailed account. I mean, it's incredible history. And these are the official documents. And then he, then, was sending this report on to the Secretary of Treasury, who was his boss, and then they had to sort it all out. But also, later in his career, and these were just in the same group of papers.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
This is addressed to Roosevelt, Washington, D.C. "Your life is in danger. The plot is to destroy the Opera House." So you have all the threats to Theodore Roosevelt. It's an amazing archive. Now, there are a few things that I would be a little bit careful of. Anytime I hear about somebody getting papers that were essentially going to be thrown away, I always want to check the provenance. Where did that person get the papers? How did he get them? There are laws called replevin, where, if they're actual government documents, they can get them back. I don't think that applies in this. It's something to look into. Where did these come from? Do a little more research. I mean, that's part of the fun.

GUEST:
Actually, I know.

APPRAISER:
Oh.

GUEST:
The person I got them with bought a house in Palm Springs. One of the bedrooms had these boxes of records. Now, we believe that in fact the records came from John E. Wilkie's son, who resided in Southern California and likely had a home in Palm Springs.

APPRAISER:
Okay, well, now let's talk about the value. First of all, you have a signed picture of the president with a nice handwritten statement to Wilkie. That's worth $1,500, $2,000 just on its own. There are people who collect everything they can get on assassinations, and I would say that this archive of the letters, the Roosevelt letters, are worth at least, in the retail market, $5,000 to $10,000. It's a wonderful collection.

GUEST:
It's great. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Brattle Book Shop
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2008)
$5,000 Retail$10,000 Retail
Event
Palm Springs, CA (June 07, 2008)
Material
Paper
May 18, 2009: In this segment, appraiser Ken Gloss discusses a Secret Service archive, ca. 1905, which he found boxed-up in the bedroom of a newly purchased Palm Springs home. After the episode aired, a viewer wrote in to offer his opinion that while this collection of items was valued together at about $5,000 to $10,000, the Secret Service badge could have a potential worth of about that much on its own. To follow up, we contacted Phil Weiss, an appraiser who specializes in collectibles. Weiss tells us that because law-enforcement badges have their own specialized collectors' market, he agrees this particular badge has significant stand-alone value, which he estimates could be in the range of $3,000 to $10,000.

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