Martin Luther King Jr. Signed First Edition Sets New World Record

CHICAGO – A rare collection of letters from notorious American gangster Al Capone fetched extraordinary prices at Hindman’s Fine Books & Manuscripts auction Nov. 8-9. Books and manuscripts authored and signed by presidents and world leaders from the Patrick Atkinson Collection also saw strong attention, with new auction records set for books signed by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. The total sale nearly doubled its estimate and realized over $1.2 million, representing one of the most successful multi-owner auctions of Hindman Books & Manuscripts in recent years.

A set of three Al Capone cards saw extremely competitive bidding, with two of the cards sold in the auction’s top five lots.

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The highlight of the group was a letter written by Capone two days after the attempt on his life in January 1925 (lot 561), which surpassed its estimate of $10,000-$15,000 to realize $53,125. Another Capone handwritten letter (lot 560), written by Cicero in 1924, more than tripled its pre-sale estimate to sell for $43,750. In this powerful letter, Capone urgently writes to Bill asking him to “find that dealer…tell him I want him to come to Chicago immediately” and noting that he “[has] a tall order for him.”

An 1896 Colt New Army & Navy Revolver (lot 564), believed to have been owned by Capone, sold for an impressive $43,750 against a $5,000-$7,000 estimate.

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Manuscripts in the hands of criminals were not the day’s only significant sales, as bidders also sought books and manuscripts from presidents and peacemakers from the Patrick Atkinson Collection.

The Patrick Atkinson Collection of Signed Books & Manuscripts nearly doubled its estimate, with particularly impressive prices achieved for books written by renowned world leaders. A 1958 first edition, first printing of Martin Luther King Jr Step to Freedom. History of Montgomery set a new world auction record for a book signed by King, achieving $50,000 (lot 494) against an estimate of $8,000 – $12,000. A first edition of Gandhi New India, 1919-1922 (lot 486) sold for $37,500 against an estimate of $4,000-6,000, which set an auction record for a book signed by Gandhi.

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Highlights from the collection also included a 1785 letter from George Washington to his land agent (lot 411), which more than doubled its estimate by selling for $18,750. An album that includes more than 140 signatures and inscriptions from major figures of the Civil War era, including Abraham Lincoln (lot 430) sold for $13,750 against a preliminary estimate of $3,000 – $5,000.

Bidding for the November 8-9 auction was available in person at Hindman’s Chicago saleroom, by absentee bidding, by telephone and online via Hindman’s Digital Bidding Room and additional online bidding platforms. Full auction results can be viewed here.


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