This Month in Collecting History - September 2016
By Mike McLeod

September 2, 1973: J.R.R. Tolkien passed away, but his tales live on. Though he did not live to see it, all of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies have raked in $5.89 billion to date with production costs of about $1 billion ( A presentation copy of The Hobbit inscribed and signed by Tolkien commanded £137,000 at Sotheby’s in 2015. Gollum’s “Precious,” aka “The One Ring,” the penultimate prototype gold ring slipped away for $12,800 at Julien’s Auctions in 2013. Other prototypes of the ring in gold and silver were also made. John “Gimli” Rhys-Davies’ double-headed battle axe sold for $185,000 at the same auction.

September 4: In 1886, Geronimo surrendered and was a prisoner for the rest of his life. Even so, he was invited to be a part of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. An 1886 Winchester owned by Army Captain Henry W. Lawton, who led the cavalry troopers in the capture of Geronimo, sold for $1,265,000 at Rock Island Auction in 2016. It was the highest paid to date for a firearm at auction. In 2007, Geronimo’s U.S. Model 1870 Springfield rifle went for $99,450 at Bonhams.

Photo Right: Geronimo holding his Springfield

September 4, 1893: Beatrix Potter told the story of Peter Rabbit for the first time in a letter she illustrated. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down by several publishers, so Beatrix Potter had it published herself in 1901. One of the initial 250, a first edition, first issue with a brown cover, sold for $75,000 in 2014 at Sotheby’s. In 1950, Mort Walker’s GI goof-off Beetle Bailey began life in syndication, where he still gets into trouble today.

September 6, 1622: The Spanish galleons Nuestra Senora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita sank near Key West, Fla., in a hurricane. On July 20, 1985, the $450 million Atocha Mother Lode treasure was found by Mel Fisher—40+ tons of silver in addition to gold and emeralds ( A gold and emerald cross from the Atocha was blessed with $118,750 at Guernsey’s in 2015.

Photo Right: The Atocha cross (Photo courtesy of Guernsey’s)

September 7, 1860: Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born. She began painting at the age of 78 and became the famous folk artist Grandma Moses. In 2006, her 1943 Sugaring Off, a snowy landscape painting of making maple syrup, sold for $1.36 million. A smaller version of Sugaring Off went for $254,500 in 2010, both at Christie’s.

September 8: In 1998, Mark McGwire hit home run #70 to break the record for the most home runs in a season. That ball went over the fence at Guernsey’s for $3 million in 1999. McGwire’s record was broken in 2001 by Barry Bonds who hit 73. In 1504, Michelangelo hit an artistic grand slam when he unveiled his priceless, 17-foot-tall marble masterpiece, David.

Photo Right: David (Photo courtesy of Jörg Bittner Unna)

September 11, 1297: William Wallace’s men defeated an English army at Stirling Bridge, Scotland. In 2001, Mel Gibson’s 52-inch sword used in Braveheart brought down $170,000 for charity at Sotheby’s.

September 12, 1857: The wooden side-wheeler steamship SS Central America sank in a hurricane off North Carolina, taking more than 400 people to the bottom—along with tons of gold (estimates range from three to 20 tons). The largest ingot retrieved from the ocean floor weighed 80 pounds; it was called “Eureka” for its size and because it came from the California gold fields. Eureka sold for $8 million in 2001 to a private buyer (, 11/9/01).

September 14, 1914: The Lone Ranger Clayton Moore was born. While most remember him for his 169 episodes in the TV series, he also acted in 40+ movies ( In 2014, his outfit (gun belt, Colts, blue shirt, pants, Stetson hat, boots and red kerchief) said, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” and rode off for $195,000 from A&S Auction Co. in Waco, Texas. One of his masks, his gloves and Tonto’s headband sold for $12,000 at Profiles in History in 2010.

Photo Right: The Lone Ranger and Silver

September 16, 1956: David Copperfield magically appeared. His International Museum and Library of Conjuring Arts contains 80,000 pieces, including books dating to the 16th century and much of Harry Houdini’s memorabilia ( Copperfield owned the Best Director Oscar for Casablanca for a time, buying it in 2003 for $232,000. He sold it in 2012 for $2+ million (, 4/3/13).

September 17, 1796: President George Washington’s Farewell Address, saying he would not seek a third term, was published in a newspaper, not given in a speech (U.S. Dept. of State, Office of Historian). A 19-page pamphlet imprint titled, "President Washington's Resignation, and Address To The Citizens of the United States, September 17, 1796,” auctioned for $3,500 at Heritage Auctions in 2014. Also that year, Keno Auctions brokered the sale of Washington’s first presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789, to a private buyer. It was offered for $8.4 million.

September 20, 1934: Don Quixote’s Dulcinea was born in Rome. Sophia Loren has more than 90 film credits, and she has won four Golden Globes and an Academy Award (for Two Women, not Man of La Mancha). A purple Georgia Armani purse she once owned sold in a 2011 charity auction to help Siberian children for $287,000 (, 11/30/11).

Photo Right: Sophia Loren (Photo courtesy of Allan Warren)

September 22, 2015: The all-around great guy Yogi Berra passed away. In 2016, his 1950s New York Yankees, game-used and autographed catcher's mask made $29,586 at Grey Flannel Auctions. In 2013, his 1955 American League MVP plaque hit $36,098.50 at Goldin Auctions. Yogi’s 1948 Bowman #6 SGC mint 96 rookie card sold for $3,883.75 in 2006 at Heritage Auctions, and in 2008, a PSA mint 9 of it auctioned for $8,287 at SCP Auctions. Yogi was famous for his sayings. Have you heard: Half the lf the lies they tell about me aren't true."

Photo Right: Yogi’s rookie card (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

September 25, 1951: There was a stirring in the Force this day when Mark Hamill was born. The movie-used model of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter sold in 2012 for $221,400 at Profiles in History.

Photo Right: Luke’s X-Wing Fighter
(Photos courtesy of Profiles in History)

September 27, 1956: Super athlete Mildred E. "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias passed away. She had 41 LPGA tour wins and won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics. Baseball, softball, basketball, diving, bowling—she did it all. Her golf bag and 14 clubs hit $31,250 at Nate D. Sanders auction in 2014.

Photo Right: The other Babe

September 28, 1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered, and in 2006, a replica of the Starship Enterprise-D from the show conquered $576,000 at Christie’s.

September 29, 1547: Coincidentally, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born the same month as Sophia Loren. His novel, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, has been hailed as among the best in Spanish literature, and 500+ million copies of it have sold. A third authorized edition from 1605 (authorized because there were knock-offs in those days, too) sold for $116,500 in 2012 at Christie’s. Earlier in life, Cervantes was captured by pirates at the beginning of his military career and kept in prison for about five years until ransomed.

September 29, 1935: The Killer was born. Jerry Lee Lewis had many hits, including “Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On,” and the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” In 2015, his 1959 Harley-Davidson FLH Duo-Glide sold for $385,000 at Mecum Auctions (, 1/24/15).

Photo Right: Jerry’s Harley (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions)

September 30, 1955: Rising star James Dean did not survive a car accident. In his short five-year film career, he acted in 31 movies, won two Golden Globes and received two Academy Award nominations, posthumously ( A white t-shirt James Dean wore in Rebel Without a Cause sold for $11,352.50 at Heritage Auctions in 2006.

September 30, 2015: George Reeves’ Superman costume from the second season (the last in black and white) sold for $216,000 at Profiles in History. The sale also included the “flying pan” that he laid in so special effects could make him fly.


Credits: and
Unless otherwise credited, all photos public domain, PD-US.



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