Happy New Year 2019 and Columbian Good Wishes for the Year

So much has happened in the past year that we want to present a brief recap and share some very exciting news for the coming year.

This blog is focused on Columbian History and forty years of studying the WCE has taught me that it is often impossible to separate “collectibles” from the fair from purely historial research.

Having spent so many years as a researcher and as a collector and student of what those collectibles mean, it has become crystal clear that they contribute immensely to the knowledge base of our fair. Most any medals–let’s say aluminum so-called dollars–are viewed generally as collectibles. But the artwork on the so-called dollars–the landing scenes and the obverse of Columbus or Columbia–contribute strongly to the perception of fair history. Why is is that in a dozen aluminum medals that illustrate Columbus, his men and in some cases a subservient Native are not all identical. How many men came ashore wih Columbus, did they carry a flag or two, did they all take a knee and pray upon their landing and what role did Natives play in that event? It seems quite odd that a male or female Native would simply kneel with the Columbus crew and instantly become an acquiescent member of Columbus’ party. This is contrary to accepted history. So just how accurate were the medals and why the difference from one to the other, perhaps no more than artistic license?

This simply demonstrates that the collectibles offer historical perspective and warrant further study whether by historians or collectors.

In 2018, as most of you know, we had three sales on our store site. The first two were remarkable in their own right. The consignor was not a collector, per se, but he and he and his wife stumbled upon a wonderful collection of Columbian tickets. They found a homemade album in a drawer in a deceased great aunt’s Manhattan appartment and recognized the rarity of the collection.

The discoverer, who preferred anonymity, discussed with me the value, the rarity and his concern that each ticket had a small circle of glue where it had been adhered to the album. The consignor came to The History Bank after researching sellers, large auction houses, small houses and so on. It became apprent that our approach to history and application of it to the tickets was superior to others. The consignor noted that he felt we sold twice the volume/value than any one else would have. There certainly is more to selling Columbiana than just putting it out there with a price tag. Buyers want to trust the seller and trust in his/her knowledge of the subject.

We split the sales into two parts and sold the approximately 100 tickets for $20,000; The real success in the sale was two fold: Bringing rare tickets to the market where only 1 or 2 had been seen in the last decade. But primarily for the historian and the collector, the treasure was a group of 10 previously unknown tickets, primarily restaurant tickets from the Midway. This only reminds me of the urgency to compile a compensive reference catalog of both Midway and overall fair tickets. They have such a story to tell, not the least of which is how commerce took place on the 1893 Midway.

Following these two sales we collected a bit of a conglomerate of items to present in December–Columbian rarities and items from other  fields in which we study and sell–Seattle World’s Fair, 1950-60s toys, Disneyana and scientific specimens, among them meteorities and dinosaur fossils. It’s a quite diverse group and we sold roughtly 1/2 of our listings in the first week of December and unsold items will show up in our listings over the course of 2019.  That brings us to 2019 and a remarkable group of material we plan to offer.

Until we receive permission from consignors, we won’t identify them. But as we type this on January 2 (buried in such fun things as our new medical coverage and federal taxes!) we do intend to move forward rapidly with the new listings.

1.We have a scapbook of Midway documents, including very rare items. We will need to utilize a very sharp knife to remove some of the items from the scrapbook and others will be offered with the first page intact and the second page glued into the scrapbook, unfortunately.

But don’t be mislead by a bit of glue, however, as the material is superb.

2.We have a wonderful collection of World’s Columbian books of all type and sizes coming from a curator at the Smithsonian. We’re awaiting more but currently have enough to form an excellent sale. We also have a separate smaller collection of Columbian books that will be combined with this group.

3. I am at a loss to describe this third collection. I believe it will be the most complete collection brought to market in at least four decades. I have reviewed the ticket collection portion which is superior to the $20,000 collection which we just sold in 2018 and also superior in many ways to my own collection sold by Heritage for $40,000 in 2008. This collection has a tremedous number of unique pieces. Once we have reviewed the 3D collection, uniform(s) and other pieces in the collection we will be begin to assemble multiple sales we feel make the most sense. I only know of one colletion today in pure quantity which would be larger, that of Steve Sheppard. But again, quantity versus quality is worthy of close inspection and Sheppard continues to “shop” and shows no indication of selling.

Once we are able to review this entire collection, and photograph it, we will be ready to offer it to collectors and institutions.

Before hand, the long list of tasks include:

  • Complete inventory and details of items–create a brief BW catalog for bidders and possibly a very high-grade color catalog devoted to this collection
  • Plans for multiple sales
  • Identify unique pieces
  • Establish a Publicity Plan centered on Chicago magazines, newspapers, TV and radio
  • Plan for a possuble presentation in Chicago, in which I could present a history lecture for 2-4 hours and also present items from the collection

The collection is worthy of broad publicity and editorial coverage that will dovetail with the sale(s). We are working with the consignor and my goal is to present this collection as a unique lifetime assemblage of historical information about and items from the World’s Columbian Exposition and as such, a unique opportunity for buyers, both collectors or institutions.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your interesting articles and the 1893 Columbia Exposition Tickets. My wife has been going through some of her family’s mementos and has found 4 tickets A for Chicago Day, 1 Child’s ticket for Chicago Day, and one Good Only on Day of Sale, Chicago, U. I am able to find Ebay sellers for all but the Good Only on Day of Sale ticket, to get an approximate idea of there value. While I see some Good Only on Day of Sale, none have the letter U.

    Do you know where I might find the approximate value of the Good on Day of Sale U ticket? And the best place to offer these tickets for sale, if my wife is so inclined? Thank you for any help you might be able to provide.


    1. Dear Dick. Thanks so much for your kind note. I can provide appraisal information on most any Columbian materia–I’m in the midst of inventorying, appraising, cataloging and selling a wonderful 4,000-item collection. I unfortunately cannot be of help with “U” series. In 40 years of handling Columbiana my sense is that all the letters are random and you just get lucky with what you get. You may find a collector with 5 “U” tickets or ask 100 collectors and none have the “U”. I can tell you that there is no difference in value by series letter EXCEPT to a collector who wants one. I can tell you that over the years I’ve paid 2-3 times “value” for an item because it was something I really wanted or a ticket that fell into that category. I sold my own ticket collection in 2008; it was about 300 tickets and $40,000. I would be happy to send you a color 16-page Heritage catalog (photos are terribly small as they were large online) and a sheet with the prices realized on each ticket. It’s now 11 years and some sell for more, some for less. In 2018 I sold a collection for a couple who found a ticket scrapbook in a great aunt’s apartment after she died. There were at least a dozen I didn’t have and now with this current 4,000-item collection I would guess at least 20-25 were not in my collection. It’s a subject I’m quite nerdy about. As a historian I fell in love with the 1893 fair when I discovered it in 1979. I’ve written two books and I’m embarrassingly buried and haven’t been keep up this blog. I’m sorry I gave you a bit of babble and no answer to your inquiry re: “U” series but if I can help please let me know. If you have time visit thehistorybankstore.com and if I have your email addresss I can see that you have access to the current collection catalog which is already more than 150 page. And if you send me your street address I’ll send you the 2008 ticket catalog. All the best, Norm Bolotin, The History Bank


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