The Swann Galleries’ Oct. 23 auction in Gotham centers on autographs, and the catalog lists signed items from such notables as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Juan Peron and Albert Schweitzer. The international auction house estimates each item’s worth at anywhere from $100 to $10,000.
The auction heavily features, as Daily Variety terms them, non-pros. But who wants to collect history when you can have a piece of showbiz? By far the highest estimate — $30,000-$40,000 — is reserved for Judy Garland.
In the catalog’s alphabetical listings, Garland falls between Mahatma Gandhi and King George III, but she gets more space than those two combined. And why not? According to the catalog, the Garland package features 12 letters to then-agent David Begelman, including two apparent suicide notes, a “rambling, almost incoherent (undated) letter” and an ID bracelet “from one of her many hospitalizations.”
Other showbiz goodies include items from Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Maria Callas, two postcards that Enrico Caruso addressed to himself, a set of four stripper photos (“inscribed and signed by well-known ecdysiasts”) and a letter from Eugene O’Neill to a doctor “regarding his use of poison in ‘Mourning Becomes Electra.’ ” (“I am darn glad to know it held your interest,” the playwright wrote.)
There is also a signed item from George Bernard Shaw, in which he blasts autograph hunters (“I refuse to stray into the byways of money making …”) Of course, he might have changed his mind if he’d had a look at this catalog.