This Month in Collecting History - December 2016
By Mike McLeod

December 2, 1859: Painter Georges Seurat was born in Paris. His dot-painted Island of the Grand Jatte (1884) auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $35.2 million (, 5/11/99).

Photo Right: Island of the Grand Jatte

December 3, 2015: Ringo Starr’s 1963 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl drum kit used in 200 live performances and 180+ studio recordings sold for $2,110,000 at Julien's Auctions.

Photo Right: Ringo Starr’s drumhead
(Photo courtesy of Julien’s)

December 4, 2013: Norman Rockwell’s Saying Grace sold at Sotheby’s for $46,085,000—the highest to date for the artist. It was his most popular cover painting for The Saturday Evening Post.

Photo Right: Saying Grace
(Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)

December 5, 2014: An 1891 Coca-Cola calendar sold at Morphy Auctions for $150,000. Two versions of it were printed that year; this one was the only known example of this variation.

Photo Right: Coca-Cola calendar
(Photo courtesy of Morphy Auctions)

December 5, 1791: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35 in Vienna, Austria. A single-page note he wrote to a friend requesting the return of three scores of his music was sold for $217,000 by RR Auction in 2015.

December 6, 1955: “Honus” Wagner passed away at 81. In 2007, his T206 tobacco card sold for $2.8 million. In 2016, a T206 “Jumbo” Honus Wagner card graded PSA EX 5 hit $3.12 million at Goldin Auctions (artfixdaily, 10/2/16)—the most ever paid for a baseball card to date. The card’s wide borders gave it the name “Jumbo”; some other T206s have been trimmed to make crisp edges.

Photo Right: A T206, not these T206s.

December 9, 2004: The Badminton Cabinet sold at Christies for $36,662,106—the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold to date. Purchased by the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna, Austria, this 12-foot-tall cabinet was made with ebony, gilt-bronze and pietra dura. It was originally commissioned in the early 1700s by 19-year-old Henry Somerset, the 3rd Duke of Beaufort. The cabinet’s title is from the Earl’s home, Badminton House in Badminton, Gloucester, England.tchell was born, causing a straw hat to sell for $52,500.

December 10, 2010: Gen. George Armstrong Custer’s last flag from the Little Bighorn auctioned for $2,210,500 at Sotheby’s. Discovered three days after the battle, it is known as the Culbertson Guidon because it was found by Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson. Also, an 1865 Model Spencer carbine owned by Custer sold at Heritage Auctions in 2012 for $179,250.

Photo Above: Custer’s carbine (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Photo Above: Custer’s last flag (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s)

December 11, 1972: Apollo 17 landed on the moon, the last to do so. Command Module pilot Ron Evan’s OMEGA Speedmaster watch sold for $245,000 at Christie’s in 2015. He remained in the module and did not walk on the moon; but he did walk in space during the mission while wearing the stainless steel watch.

December 13, 2012: Ralph DeLuca, owner of the movie collector website, purchased a rare Metropolis (1927) movie poster in a lot with other classic posters for $1.2 million. Many versions were made of the Metropolis poster, but only four are known of his bronze-toned one that portrays the Maschinenmensch (machine-human) before the cityscape. Leonardo DiCaprio is said to own one, as does the Museum of Modern Art and the Austrian National Library museum (, 12/13/12).

Photo Right: This restored Metropolis poster (27 x 41 inches, Cinecom, R-1984) showing the Maschinenmensch sold for $131.45 at Heritage Auctions. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

December 14, 1799: George Washington passed away at the age of 67. In 2012, his annotated copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (1789) sold for $9,826,500, and in 2009, a signed letter from 1787 to his nephew Bushrod Washington about the ratification of the Constitution hit $3,218,500, both at Christie’s.

December 15, 1890: Lakota Sioux war chief Sitting Bull was killed by Indian Agency policemen trying to arrest him, suspecting him to be part of an uprising. Sitting Bull participated in the battle against Custer at the Little Bighorn. A signed, original 4.25 x 6.5-inch cabinet card portrait of him sold for $29,005.20 at RR Auctions in 2012.

Photo Right: Sitting Bull cabinet card
(Photos courtesy of RR Auctions)

December 16, 1775: Jane Austen was born. In 2012, American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson bought Austen’s gold ring for $236,557 at Sotheby’s in London. However, she was barred from taking it out of the country—it was deemed a national treasure. The Jane Austen's House Museum, solicited donations and purchased the ring from Clarkson (, 9/24/15).

Photo Right: Jane Austen’s ring (Photo courtesy of Jane Austen’s House Museum; photographer Peter Smith)

December 18, 1886: Birthday of Tyrus Raymond “Ty” Cobb. A family going through their great-grandparents’ old house found a crumpled paper bag containing seven of his T206 White Border tobacco cards. Four of the so-named “Lucky Seven Find” have been sold privately for a total in excess of $1 million. The sales were brokered by Rick Snyder, President of MINT State Inc. The individual prices will not be revealed, but after all are sold, the final total will be. The cards were PSA graded 1.5 to 4.5, with 4.5 being the highest grade of this card (

Photo Right: The VG-EX + 4.5. T206 Ty Cobb card
(Photo courtesy of

December 19, 1997: Titanic was released in the U.S. and won 11 Oscars ( Kate Winslet’s pink coat worn while sloshing around below decks made $164,520 in 2013 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions. Artifacts from the real Titanic are always a hot collectible. The most paid to date was $1,454,400 for the violin that belonged to bandleader Wallace Hartley found attached to his body (, 10/19/13). It was sold in 2013 by Henry Aldridge & Son.

Photo Right: Wallace Hartley and his violin
(Photo courtesy of

December 20, 1957: Elvis Presley received his draft notice from the U.S. Army. By this time, he was a star with hits like “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Love Me Tender.” Elvis’ Army uniform sold for $46,875 at Julien’s in 2015.

Photo Right: Elvis at his swearing in

December 21, 1911: Negro Leagues slugger Josh Gibson was born. Playing catcher for the Homestead Grays of Pennsylvania, his career batting average was .359 (possibly higher since NL records are not complete) and .517 in his best season. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, right after Satchel Paige. In 2016, Christie’s sold Josh Gibson’s Spalding Model Number 300 bat for $319,500. It dated from the 1935 labeling period and had “J. GIBSON” on the barrel. Also, a twice-signed 1931 real photo postcard of Gibson, during his first full season, sold for $81,200 at Robert Edward Auctions in 2006.

Photo Right: Josh Gibson’s photo postcard
(Photo courtesy of

December 22, 1941: Archie Andrews first appeared in Pep Comics #22. An Archie Comics #1 (1942) CGC VF+ 8.5 brought $167,300 in 2011 at Heritage Auctions.

Photo Right: Archie Comics #1
(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

December 24, 1809: Hunter, trapper, frontiersman, guide, explorer and hero of dime novels Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was born. His 1816 flintlock pistol issued in the Mexican-American War sold for $18,000 at Manitou Galleries in 2012.

Photo Right: Kit Carson’s flintlock pistol
(Photo courtesy of Manitou Galleries)

December 25, 1776: George Washington crossed the Delaware River and defeated Hessian troops in Trenton, N.J. German artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868) painted his idealized Washington Crossing the Delaware three times. The original was destroyed in Allied bombing in 1942; the second, begun in 1850, was purchased for $10,000 ( After being sold a few times, it was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1897 where it resides today. The third is held by the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.


Emanuel Leutze

December 26, 1991: The snub-nosed .38 Colt Cobra Jack Ruby used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald sold for $220,000 in Las Vegas (, 12/27/91).

December 28, 1922: Stanley Martin Lieber, aka Stan Lee, was born. Creator of many super heroes, including Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the Webslinger’s first appearance in the 1962 Amazing Fantasy #15 hit a record $454,100 at Heritage Auctions in 2016. The Human Torch introduced in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939; a CGC VF/NM 9.0 copy burned up $207,050 in 2010 at Heritage Auctions.

Photo Right: The Human Torch has evolved since Marvel Comics #1.
(Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

December 31, 1869: Birthday of artist Henri Matisse who lived until November 3, 1954. His 1911 painting, Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose (The Cowslips, Blue and Rose Fabric) sold for $46,286,022 at Christie’s in a sale of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s estate.

Photo Right: Henri Matisse


Photos not credited are public domain, PD-US.
Credits: and



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