Celebrities and Auctions Make for Bad Bedfellows: Kennedy Memorabilia

This $200-$300 JFK poster brought $2,500 in a Kennedy auction.

This $200-$300 JFK poster brought $2,500 in a Kennedy auction.

Sometimes, as a collector, you just have to take a look at auction results and laugh. Then remember the quote that, rightly or wrongly, is attributed to circus giant P.T. Barnum: A sucker is born every minute.

Combine auction frenzy with Americans’ inexplicable interest in celebrities, and anything goes.

Earlier this year in Massachusetts, there was an auction of President John F. Kennedy memorabilia once owned by JFK friend Dave Powers, who later became curator of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.  This combination of JFK memorabilia from a close friend and auction fever led to some unbelievable results.

Take, for example, an Air Force One bomber jacket in the auction. It brought an eye-popping $570,000 before buyer’s premium.

A $30 1960 Inaugural invitation sold for $3,200 at a specialty Kennedy auction.

A $30 1960 Inaugural invitation sold for $3,200 at a specialty Kennedy auction.

Political collectibles in the auction that can be bought commonly every day went out of sight. One of the best examples was an approximately 2-foot by 4-foot poster for Kennedy’s 1960 presidential race. This poster sells in the $200-$300 range all the time at political collectibles shows and Internet auction sites. In this special Kennedy auction, however, the poster sold for an eye-popping $2,500. Yep, the same poster.

An invitation to the 1961 Inauguration, which can be bought for $30 or so at political shows, commanded $3,200 in this auction.

You have to wonder how long it will take for buyer’s remorse to set in. Did the buyers get home before it struck?

The lesson in this, as a collector, is to keep your head at auctions. And probably avoid ones where celebrities are involved.




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