The History Bank’s Largest Sale with 350+ Items Goes Live September 1, 2021

Just a reminder to those of you collecting not just studying the World’s Columbian Exposition, as I post this article there is just one month until the opening of our next sale.

Approximately 20% of the items in the sale will be Columbian. Some of them will be included in our forthcoming COLUMBIAN RARITIES book. I’m very pleased with the selection we’ve been able to assemble for the sale.

The Columbian portion of the sale includes medals, tickets and other ephemera. Besides Columbiana we will have a wide range of expo material and other historical items.

On the expo side, we will have more than a dozen different world’s fairs represented, including one of the largest group of items seen in a single sale from the first-ever world’s fair, the Exhibition of All Nations at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851. Two highlights include an original framed photo of the massive glass building and a beautiful porcelain lidded box with the building on the top. Amond the many medals from the fair is an NGC slabbed gem BU medal featuring the Crystal Palace.

The sale will also include items from the little known and little collected first world’s fair held in the United States, New York’s version of its own aptly named Crystal Palace held just two years after the original. I suspect that it is not a well-collected fair because so very few items exist from it. Our sale includes the first we’ve ever seen of a book-length guide to the Exposition. While highly collectible, it also serves as a very rare reference source. We also have a very handsome original engraving of the New York Crystal Palace that would be very impressive framed in a home or office.

Besides expo material, the sale includes Civil War items (from stamps to cannon balls!), numismatic items and other scarce Americana. While we virtually never handle modern medallic art, we have several beautiful contemporary high relief medals in the sale, including one patterned after the rare medal that Harlow Higinbotham presented to World’s Columbian commissioners.

Filling multiple collecting niches is an archive from the 19th century Eastman (as in Eastman Kodak) Business College. The collection is primarily from the Civil War through the 1880s. Among the items is an original diploma, student handbook, Eastman autographed note, a very rare token classified as a Civil War storecard and a rare series of fractional currency notes. One lot is a complete run of the fractional currency, while other lots include single fractionals as well as the school’s privately issued currency from $1 to $10.

The story of the Eastman College is quite interesting and it was unlike similar institutions around the country in that era; most were small schools with commensurately small enrollments. Eastman College was huge by comparison to other 19th century schools teaching accounting, bookkeeping and stenography. The college was a bona fide private college (not just a small school) that turned out hundreds of graduates annually, who were highly sought after by businesses throughout the country because of their high degree of training.

The sale will begin at NOON PACIFIC TIME SEPTEMBER 1 and will be held in two locations online:

  1. The majority of items, all offered at fixed prices, will be in our online store, http://www.thehistorybankstore.com.
  2. Auction items, which will make up 10-15% of the lots, will be posted on Ebay, also going live at noon on the first.

Please contact me with any questions, both general or about specific lots, at:

(425 )481-8818 or at norm@thehistorybank.com.

The John Kennel Collection and my forthcoming COLUMBIAN RARITIES Book

We haven’t ignored posting new material lately, but simply have been doing a lot of writing about the Columbian Expo that isn’t yet in print.

Working on our third World’s Columbian Exposition book has been nearly all-consuming for me roughly since I began working with the John Kennel Columbian collection in the Spring of 2019. And I’m optimistic I’ll make my own self-imposed deadlines leading up to the planned publication of the book in December 2021.

I’m very excited about the book and what I have been able to accomplish gathering the material for it. COLUMBIAN RARITIES has gone through many changes, large and very small, since I began researching and writing it. That’s typical with many nonfiction books, but in this case it has been quite a merry-go-round of planning deciding how best to structure the book. As of July I have selected all of the contents and have begun the task of writing. While I first contemplated dividing the book into simple sections–medals, tickets, other paper items and 3D material–I soon found that it simply didn’t afford the opportunity to present everything in the best possible way.

The book will have an editorial flow and logical progression, but rather than 4 major sections it will consist of several longer essays and dozens of shorter articles. Rather than a photo and caption of a particular medal in a chapter on medals, for instance, I will discuss the TOPIC and story about the medal and include it and other relevant items/collectibles in a story about the overall subject, not just the medal.

I will include a substantial overview of the Exposition and its unique rarities and a detailed article about John Kennel and the Kennel Columbian Collection that has been a major focus of mine for more than two years. From when my son and I loaded everything that would fit in the back seat and trunk of a full-size rental car on April 1, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio, I have catalogued, inventoried, photographed, researched and written about the more than 5,000 items in John’s collection.

His contribution to the forthcoming book has been immense. While many folks judge such collections based on quantity, my focus has always been on quality. The Kennel Collection had quantity, to be sure, but even moreso it contained perhaps the finest accumulation of RARITIES of any of the major private Columbian collections with which I am familiar. While I have many colleagues and clients with quite amazing collections, most folks prefer anonymity or at least a large degree of privacy so for the most part I can’t compare and discuss such collections.

Perhaps the largest collection out there fortunately belongs to a gentleman who happens to enjoy sharing information about his Columbiana. Steve Sheppard, the only collector I know of with his own museum/library, some years ago purchased the apartment next door to his in New York City (the Bronx to be precise) and turned it into what he lovingly refers to as his museum. While I’ve never visited, I know that Steve has thousands of documents, photos and paper items; his 3D collection simply must be even more voluminous than most any private or museum collections of Columbiana. Fortunately there is more than enough from the 1893 expo to go around.

I cite Steve’s collection while discussing the Kennel Collection to better describe just what the latter consisted of and how John built his collection. Everyone who is a collector, regardless of what they collect, has his or her own style of collecting. I think Steve’s approach has been similar to John’s–if you see a piece you don’t have, and you like it (a word about that in a minute), then buy it if you can afford it…and beat everyone else to it!

All of us who have been collectors for most of our lives have certain things that we find personally more important than others. For me it has always been tickets and paper first, medals second–and everything else third. I have a longtime customer/friend with an incredibly eclectic collection of Americana that I believe he wasn’t a Columbian collector when we met in the 1990s; in fact, while I’ve never asked, I suspect that he first turned seriously toward world’s fairs and expositions when he and I became friends. But despite the broadest range of collecting I know of, he purchases Columbia from me regularly. He also has his own “favorite” type of item–glassware. I don’t know what Steve covets more than any other, and I suspect that John’s passion was flip-flopped from mine, medals first, tickets second in his case. This is only speculation on my part but his collection seems to lean a bit in that direction and he was at one time both a serious coin collector and also a dealer, which contribute to my guesstimate of how he viewed Columbiana.

I’ve never asked Steve Sheppard about his favorite, but I suspect his answer might be “anything from the World’s Columbian Expo.”

I met Steve before Christine Laing and I wrote our history of the Columbian Expo for the National Trust for Historic Preservation that was published in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the fair in 1993. I am not quite certain of when I first met John and Heike Kennel, but it was around that same time nearly thirty years ago. I recall speaking to Heike on the phone more than John and exchanging lengthy notes with him about very detailed bits of research. The Kennels both sold me items and purchased others from me. But I found John to be more than the average collector, if there is such a thing. And his willingness to share information was a much appreciated trait for the rest of us in the Columbian community.

John shared what I consider my passion for historical information. He was more than perhaps any other Columbian collector, a historian. While that moniker is mine professionally–I’ve spent my entire adult life (and a bit of my youth, as well) studying historical Americana and writing about it and myriad other topics, he might unfairly be called an “amateur” historian. There was nothing amateurish about his constant hunting for information. Before most people identify their future careers–I don’t mean when quite young and the goal was policeman, fireman, cowboy or princess!–but when we became old enough to think seriously about our careers, I was already freelance writing and spent 2 1/2 years of high school as a newspaper writer and editor. I was very, very fortunate to have a world-class educator for a high school journalism teacher. All this is to say that everything I do with regards to collecting comes from a base of being a historical researcher and a journalist. While John Kennel was neither by trade, he certainly was by avocation.

I have always been impressed by the historical knowledge of many serious collectors and in John’s case he was fastidious about details and information regarding whatever Columbiana he encountered and most definitely with those items he acquired.

More about John and his collecting will be a chapter in the forthcoming book because whether it was his intention or not, he seemed to find and purchase more rarities than just about any other collector I know. John and I would discuss the minutiae of Columbiana. He was interested in much more than just an assigned rarity (R1…R10) of a piece based on someone’s or a committee’s consensus that 10 to 20 or 100 to 500 of a medal was known to exist. He did his own research to quantify such things, and to often show the fallacy of some of those accepted “facts.” While others collected for rarity of course and for financial considerations (say ‘to make money!’), as well as to obtain the most complete subcategories within their main focus, John relished collecting history–facts, figures, details and unknown information about items he found.

I have always been irritated that HK154 and 155 are categorized the same, even though most collectors acknowledge that 155 (the small type variety of the Columbian medal struck by the U.S. Mint) is seen somewhat less frequently than its 154 (large type) counterpart. John agreed with me that HK155 was not “a little” scarcer than HK154, but rather significantly so. At one point I undertook an informal tally, logging every appearance and sale of them on Ebay over several months. HK 155 wasn’t seen a little less frequently, but rather dramatically so. I saw ten times more HK154s than HK155s which would hardly make them at all equally scarce or common.

John undertook a similar study on Ebay, not to determine rarity but to identify as many Columbian medal recipients as possible. At the time of his death he had logged close to 300 different award medals on Ebay (K don’t know when he began) and it also underscored something he and I knew–that in determining rarity you have to be cognizant of the same coin or medal being resold. Unless a coin or medal is well-known–such as a million-dollar coin that sold at auction three years earlier for half as much–we don’t often have a handle on just how often items are resold and thus give us perhaps a false sense of their scarcity. Tallying award medals with the winner’s name on it tells us, as my Russian grandfather used to say, “the exactly situation.” John pointed this out to me as he more often than he would have guessed, I believe, the same medals would pop on Ebay being resold with some regularity.

I cannot not tell just how John came to own so many rarities, but I suspect I know at least part of the answer: He didn’t just collect, he studied not only the market in general but items in particular. He noticed transactions most of us would have missed.

My COLUMBIAN RARITIES will lean heavily on the collection I’ve been proudly handling since April 2019. I don’t think John could have been blessed with a supernatural power to find the “best” material but I saw in him the approach I’ve always tried to take. When you focus on the historical details you naturally put yourself in a position to FIND more rarities. A simple story of mine regarding an Ebay purchase I made illustrates that very clearly.

In the very early 2000s while in the midst of my constant surfing through Ebay, I spotted a simple and small group of items that mentioned the World’s Columbian Expo. The listing featured two cabinet card photos, one taken in Chicago at the same time the fair was underway while the other was taken some years later in Los Angeles. The first was a picture of a young bride and the other was a photo identified as the first Cadillac in LA. Why only these two photos? I wish I would have thought to quiz the seller further about the mini-collection for sale. It obviously was a little microcosm of this woman’s life and it spanned more than two decades from her wedding to her life halfway across the country years later.

The wedding photo was of a YOUNG bride; the Cadillac photo with she and her husband proudly seated in the pre-World War I vintage automobile, showed a much heavier and older woman. Lord knows just twenty years can change how we look!

I was intrigued by the photos and of course that the fair was mentioned; that naturally caught my eye but so did the cabinet cards. Most of the history books I have written have relied heavily on period photos, from the Civil War to the Columbian Expo. I wasn’t so interested, at least at first, in purchasing the group but in why it was such a very tiny snapshot of a significant portion of one person’s life. I don’t recall the other two or three other insignificant in the lot (I believe they were just ‘scrapbook’ material from California in the 1900-1930 era and not of particular interest to me). But knowing that the woman had been at the World’s Columbian Expo I was intrigued by a portion of another piece of paper that peaked out from behind the cabinet cards in the Ebay listing photo.

It was easy to discern it was a ticket and the bit that showed mentioned “tree of wonder,” which held absolutely no meaning for me. I recall that my first thought was of that wonderful “Trees of Mystery” in the California Redwoods. It was a highlight of my first major vacation as a wide-eyed five-year-old on his first extended family vacation. I couldn’t think of a correlation between that “ticket” and the Columbian Expo but it seemed a possibility.

I purchased the lot for about $35 just because it was interesting, personal and sort of oozed of late 19th century history.

I share that bit of history because, much like John Kennel’s approach, it was the history that caught my collector’s eye more than a specific item.

I am not giving myself any credit whatsoever as having some special collecting talent; but looking beyond the obvious and especially when a sought after collectible isn’t in the picture often yields surprisingly positive results, moreso than when one ignores what isn’t obvious. That ticket turned out to be one of my favorite stories of my 40+ years studying the Columbian Expo. Naturally the fact that it ultimately sold for more than any ticket in my collection (Heritage Auctions sold my WCE tickets for nearly $40,000 in 2008 and that mysterious ticket, by then identified, sold for more than $3,000) makes it an especially nice story! But it was the discovery of a ticket that was unique–by definition, one-of-a-kind!–that really does ring true for me. I’m nearly certain that John would have approached that lot similarly.

By the way, that ticket was the only one known to exist for a Midway Plaisance attraction that never operated, Camera Obscura, subtitled “Tree of Wonder” on that ticket. Look up the history of the camera obscura invention, a legitimate forerunner to photography; that’s another story, but the concession was assigned a number, was listed in many guides by its Midway location, yet for whatever unknown reason, never opened. I have speculated that perhaps it came close to opening and thus our beloved bride pictured in the cabinet card perhaps strolled the grounds as did tens of thousands of others while construction was still underway. A 25-cent ticket got one access to many areas of the fair before it opened. In fact, fair management had no plans to allow visitors before the opening, but relented due to the very high demand. They figured if they were going to allow mostly Chicago residents an early visit, why not charge a fee. Perhaps the camera obscura concession actually existed in some tangible form and they gave out a few tickets to folks who might come back after opening….but whatever the case, no other has ever been found that the concession never occupied the space allocated to it in several fair guides.

Rarities abounded in John’s collection because he was not just the consummate collector, but a very natural historian. I don’t even want to call him an “amateur” historian; many collectors are. John was a serious one, albeit not one trained in the field.

That knack and hard work studying and researching led him to have an inordinate number of rarities and to help build the foundation for my forthcoming book. I doubt that had I asked John about such a high percentage of rarities he probably wouldn’t have realized just how many items in his collection were as rare as they turned out to be. He wasn’t seeking specific rarities, but by the nature of his collecting, he found them.

When I sold my collection in 2008 a special item (it “only” brought about a third as much the camera obscura ticket) was a large ticket on thin and very dog-eared orange paper for the Oriental Odeon theater in the Moorish Palace.

At the time John mentioned that he was surprised to see it in my collection as he thought he owned the only one in existence. I had the opportunity to sell both known examples, as The History Bank sold John’s much nicer example of the ticket very early in 2019–and for much more than the only other known example in my collection.

When I began the daunting task of going through John’s Columbian collection it was far easier than it might have been because it was so well organized–tickets in sleeves in binders, medals meticulously identified in boxes, small 3D items in Riker boxes and so on–I was shocked in a very good way to see so many items I’d never seen before. I had no inkling that so many rarities existed about which I knew nothing.

Everyone evaluates collections in different ways. I am amazed at the enormous breadth of material in Steve Sheppard’s collection. He no doubt has hundreds of unique items, although they might not be categorized as “collectibles” per se. I refer to documents, letters, photos and so on that are historically invaluable and one of a kind. I only know about Steve’s ticket collecting, for example, because we used to go head-to-head for many years (along with a handful of other collectors including John Kennel) in auctions trying to add unique or rare tickets to our own collections. Steve, I think rather magnanimously became less aggressive many years ago, deferring to his protege. He introduced his son-in-law, Tom Duffy, to the Columbian Expo and Tom became one of the most dedicated Columbian ticket collectors. I assume since he’s well known in the collecting community and linked so obviously to Steve, that Tom would not object to being mentioned here. I have never seen his ticket collection but I have watched him build it and have contributed in some not insignificant way selling him many rare tickets over the years.

I have also learned that virtually every Columbian ticket collection has some rarity hidden in it, regardless of how insignificant the overall 50 to 100 tickets might otherwise be. Some years ago I sold a collection, like a great many, handed down over the years to relatives. Most of the tickets were $20-$50 items and they were neither rare nor even scarce.

But it included one item that will be mentioned in COLUMBIAN RARITIES, a hand-written pass to Cairo Street. The consignor’s great grandfather left this obscure little album of tickets he acquired at the Expo. I wish I knew details of his time at the fair–an employee, a supplier or just one of millions of visitors? I am quite certain (although with no verification) that the small hoard of tickets was just what he kept from his visits to the fair. Somewhere along the line he was given that hand-written pass. Obviously his relative had no insight into why. Perhaps he met the general manager over a cider on the Midway and the gentleman kindly scribbled a quick note allowing him to see Cairo Street at no charge. But it is the only such pass I have ever encountered; it is, however, interesting to note that such hastily written notes on scraps of paper or the back of business cards do exist for many Midway attractions. It apparently was not a terribly uncommon practice to hand out such passes.

The dozens, perhaps hundreds, of rarities John Kennel owned spanned all the various genres of Columbian items–tickets, medals, 3D items and others. I know for example that while my own ticket collection was worthy of note for several very rare pieces, John’s collection included many times the rarities that I had, tickets I’d never seen or heard of. I believe that most collectors would say the same thing. And, in December, I’ll be very pleased to introduce Columbian collectors and researchers with an unprecedented collection of COLUMBIAN RARITIES, a great many of which once belonged to John Kennel.

Major Columbian Sale December At thehistorybankstore.com

We are excited to announce a major sale next month as well as our plans for the coming year. The pandemic has affected everyone in so many ways, pervading  our daily lives, and collecting hasn’t been exempt. While rarities continue to bring record prices, the “meat-and-potatoes” items that sell for as little as $25 up to several hundred dollars are substantially lower than before the pandemic. 

We have been selling the John Kennel Columbian Collection for 18 months and the number of rarities and previously unknown medals, tickets and other items has been remarkable. Next month, our online store (thehistorybankstore.com) will include more Columbiana from the collection in all price ranges, as well as a selection of other collecting genres: U.S. coins, medals and tokens; items from other world’s fairs; Civil War tokens and others.  

Please continue following our sales on ebay; we have lowered our prices across the board as our goal is to keep selling, unlike many who do not lower prices to accommodate demand—and whose items you see unsold for months and even a year or longer on ebay. As collectors have had to tighten purse strings, we have attempted to make items more affordable. It definitely is a buyer’s market and a time to take advantage of what should be temporary lower prices.

We will notify existing customers via email when the sale is ready to launch.

We will also be expanding the sale of books in the store in 2021. This includes vintage Columbian books and books from other fairs, the Civil War, and many we have written and published on a broad range of subjects. 

We have been writing about and selling the Kennel Collection for the past 18 months.

The Kennel Collection has included an unparalleled group of rare medals and tickets, two areas of our longtime interest and expertise and which will be integral to our new book to be published late next year.

ALSO, we are offering 20% off one ebay purchase in November (one or multiple items in a single purchase). We will rebate 20% of the purchase price to a buyer’s PayPal account on the purchase of any one or more items purchased together (one time only) during November! Just contact us when buying to confirm an order and we will credit 20% of the purchase back via the buyer’s Paypal account.

Uodate: 6 Additional Columbian Day of Sale Tickets Discovered

In April 2018 we posted an article about the expanding list of known Day of Sale tickets. In 1980, when the Doolin booklet on Columbian tickets (the only catalog/publication that has been published devoted to WCE tickets) a total of 23 tickets were known. We have published perhaps as many as 100± pages of material about Columbian tickets since Doolins 16-page booklet was published. These articles have been included in our various catalogs, newsletters and sales pieces, included in our two books about the Columbian Expo, in numerous Kennel Collection materials we have written and so on. As we discussed in our most recent Journal post, our new book planned for 2021 will include substantial previously unpublished/unknown material about Columbian tickets. We have been working seriously gathering such material and compiling information about Day of Sale tickets for more than twenty years. Several Columbian collectors have also kept a watch on various sales and auctions for previously unknown tickets and have kept us informed whenever they found aother; these have been discovered mostly on ebay since that platform’s inception, but also in several more obscure locations.

In our April 2018 post we were up to a total of 51 known letter and letter/number combinations of Day of Sale tickets. In that article we discussed previously unknown information in the Columbian collector community about the tickets; please refer to that earlier post on this site; we won’t repeat all of the information again here.

We now know of a total of 57 different Day of Sale tickets. We have added them to the April 2018 listing below. At the end of each line in bold italic typeface (and thus out of order to ensure they are easily seen) are the additions discovered in the last 30 months. The 23 noted with an asterisk represent the ones initially published by Doolin in 1980.

Below is the log of known tickets 30 months ago, with an asterisk indicating the known tickets as published by Doolin in 1980 (just 23 letters and letter/number combinations).

Single letters (9): G L, N, R, S*, U, Y, X…….W

Number 1 (16): 1/D*, 1/E, 1/F*, 1/G*, 1/H*, 1/J, 1/K, 1/L*, 1/N*, 1/O*, 1/P*, 1/R*, 1/S*, 1/T, 1/Y*…….1/B

Number 2 (5): 2/J*, 2/L, 2/M*, 2/X……….2/O

Number 3 (5): 3/A*, 3/B, 3/G, 3/H*……….3/C

Number 4 (3): 4/H, 4/L, 4/M……….no new discoveries

Number 5 (6): 5/R, 5/S*, 5/T*, 5/U*, 5/Y……….5/W

Number 6 (13): 6/A, 6/B*, 6/C*, 6/G, 6/J, 6/L, 6/M, 6/N, 6/O, 6/P*, 6/R*, 6/S……..6/X

Should any of you find any additions to this list of 57, or know of other details regarding Day of Sale tickets we did not include in our April 2018 article, we would be very grateful to hear from you. Please contact The World’s Columbian Journal, Norman Bolotin, at norm@thehistorybank.com or phone us at (425) 481-8818.

New Columbian Book Targeted for Late 2021 Publication

Included here is a detailed discussion of the publishing process for this book, the John Kennel collection and its vital importance to the book and evaluation of whether this should be a single volume or the beginning of a series of books.

I have progressed enough with my ideas for a next book that I feel marginally comfortable enough to announce it as a “real” forthcoming work in progress, not just an “idea” for future development. Besides the contents of the book, the development process has been quite interesting as well.

As of yet untitled, the working identification inhouse is “the new Columbian rarities book.”

Progressing to the point of targeted research, photo compilation and actual writing (at least for me) usually takes years rather than months. This effort grew out of literally more than a decade of collectors telling me that I should write THE comprehensive book on World’s Columbian tickets. This subject first emerged when I decided to sell my collection of WCE tickets in 2008 at auction with Heritage, the premier collectibles auction site in the world. My collection was small potatoes for the giant firm. Because I had worked with one of the founders of the company and its director of Americana sales for years, the company agreed to sell such a small collection. I am sure its quality and history were of interest, but we all know that most every endeavor in life is linked to its monetary value.

My 300 or so Columbian tickets fetched nearly $40,000 in sales, pretty impressive as far as Columbian tickets go, but not much when compared to Heritage’s typical $5-10 million “small” auctions of coins, art, antiquities and so on. We won’t even consider discussing Heritage’s big bucks events where individual items often sell for millions of dollars. This sale was the catalyst for focusing a great deal of Columbian attention on The History Bank and Norm Bolotin.

I first was introduced to Columbiana in the late 1970s which led to my writing and publishing the comprehensive history of the fair for the National Trust for Historic Preservation to coincide with the centennial of the exposition in 1993. I have spent the bulk of my more than four decades of Columbian involvement studying and expanding my knowledge of both the fair in general and collectibles more specifically. I have actively collected and sold Columbiana for those four decades and along the way built my expertise on the subject. I’ve written articles, given talks, consulted and appraised collections over the years, working with primarily private collectors but also with several major museums. The natural evolution between that first book in 1993 and the second in 2017 included being asked many times to assist collectors with their collections. I also taught (for five summers) a University of Chicago course I developed for publishing and museum professionals. I began accepting collections on consignment around the turn of the century–which seems a very odd reference to the year 2000 after it being such a common phrase attached to the “real” turn of the century a hundred years earlier.

With the publication of the Midway history the University of Illinois Press arranged for me to make appearances both autographing and speaking at bookstores, as well as addressing the University Club of Chicago, an event I was surprised to find out was going to be a sold-out luncheon event. I am quite sure that the crowd was there because of the never waning interest in the World’s Columbian Exposition as opposed to their being excited to hear a “famous” author speak.

The culmination of the publication and many bookstore and other events in Chicago seemed to refocus my energy on the possibility of writing and publishing additional books on the subject, whereas my typical reaction to the publication of a new book was to sit back and enjoy the long-awaited completion and not to think about what might be next. I virtually never geared up for another high-intensity project soon after the publication of a book.

Instead, the completion of the Midway history saw me excited about (trying) to move forward on another book or books and not coincidentally, the 2017 publication also resulted in many people contacting me with questions and ideas. .

Two different collectors asked me to sell ticket collections for them; one was more impressive than the other and included a few tickets I’d never seen before. Shortly after, an old friend contacted me about another collection, this one just a tad larger than the previous two. I had worked with collectors and dealers John and Heike Kennel for many years. In that relationship much of the buying and selling was Heike’s purview, while John and I focused more on discussions of Columbian history and rarities, as well as the exchange of ideas, including the need for new and comprehensive books for collectors. They were both always so pleasant, interesting and collegial. John and I last communicated on Christmas Eve 2013; he passed away in June 2014. I was, like a very wide fraternity of Columbian hobbyists, very saddened to lose such a knowledgeable colleague and quality human being. In reviewing old emails about Columbian topics I recently found a note to myself to contact John for his take on an obcure question about medals. Alas, that discussion never took place. In 2018 Heike had gotten to the point of deciding to sell’s John’s Columbian collection, emotionally not ready to deal with it earlier. I gave her suggestions and we discussed the viability of a couple sellers who were interested, frankly, in skimming off the finest rarities and not handling the rest. One auction house came right out and said that photographing and cataloging a large world’s fair collection simply wouldn’t be profitable, while a very small auction firm was interested only in the rarities.

Then in late 2018, Heike asked if I might be interested in taking on the entire collection and frankly, if I felt I was equipped to do so. Besides being very interested in working with her and such a terrific collection, of course, I had to evaluate the best ways to promote and sell the collection. One of my sons and I flew to Dayton from Seattle in April 2019 to pack and load the collection in a rental vehicle and drive 2,500 miles back to Seattle. The collection was so large that the boxes of books had to be left behind to ship and we needed to set up a virtual staging area to accommodate more than a dozen banker boxes plus odd-sized containers/pieces. As I write this we are 18 months into the project and have worked through perhaps 2/3-3/4 of the collection I estimate consisted of more than 4,000 items. As a historian and a seller, I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such rarities and also those myriad less expensive items others found burdensome.

The Kennel collection has had a major impact on my thinking and work for this new book. And believing I can do in one book what I initially thought would take two and even a third has been a major leap of faith. To an extent, every book in part writes itself. One hears such things about fiction, but even in a history book or hobby guide we outline the contents and compile the text and photos, but as the book grows it takes on a life of its own and many factors determine the scope and size–and if it can be accomplished, as in this case, in a single volume. If the size, cost and time to create it were not considerations, a single volume would be fine. But spending two or three times the time and money, and ending up with a 500-page book, are not viable options.

So through many iterations, we have come to a working outline. The hope is that it will be possible to utilize much of the Kennel collection, plus my own years of continuing research and building archives of information and photos, and publish a new book that will be a COMPLETE REFERENCE on both Columbian medals (and tokens) and tickets (including passes and invitations).

Doing two separate volumes, one on tickets, one on medals, would be logical, and then we would perhaps add a third volume pulling together a great deal of peripheral facts, figures and essays. Again, time and dollars–and the size (or lack there of) of the market–must dictate the approach and hopes of being able to recoup expenses. Can we accomplish all of our editorial goals in less than 200 pages? We’ll see.

Right now as of October 28, 2020, I would like to share our preliminary plan for this single volume. I’ve wasted no time over many years researching regardless of how the final book or books look. But I very much would like to produce a single book that can accomplish several things for readers/collectors: Provide a comprehensive package on ALL World’s Columbian medals and tickets, with a variety of material beyond just a cataloging of these items.

I will continue working toward the publication of this “Columbian Rarities” new book with the decision to come AFTER I complete many tasks that come before writing. Research is the obvious broad activity that needs to be undertaken (as it has for many years) and to call it an arduous task is an understatement; completing the research is what counts.

I have been working through our own archives and research/reference files–including photographs–quite pragmatically since deciding to write a book or books. I built these files going back to the publication of our history of the fair published in 1993. I would like to claim that the files are immaculate and constructed and maintained as any library might be. That would have meant solid full-time work from the beginning. I have, in the course of working, studying and writing, put documents, notes and photos into general files. For example, we have files by client and major projects, and have always attempted to be diligent in maintaing the integrity of those files while also filing background information and photos leading to a sale in the appropriate main file.

The major ongoing task is to work through all of the Columbian files to create a master index of medals and tickets. That is a monumental task and I can’t begin to write or make final decisions about the overall contents of a book until that work is completed.

Currently, the three major files and the number of entries in each:

  1. General World’s Columbian text and photos — 6,440
  2. Columbian medals text and photos — 8,087
  3. Columbian tickets text and photos — 1,800
  4. Second level files (not included in the above three) include the Midway book, the Kennel Collection, Clients and more. These include a total of 2,872 files.

The major work, mentioned earlier, is simply going through the files to create the most inclusive and complete list of entries for a master list of all medals and tickets. Over the years while researching, writing, buying and selling I have discovered perhaps as many as 500 previously unlisted medals and tickets, not to mention the collection of previously unpublished information. The history of the fair included a great deal of information never before published; the Midway book even moreso was overflowing with previously unpublished and unknown facts about every conceivable aspect of the Midway. I will never publish just a basic checklist of known items without important, useful and interesting information to complement such a list or index.

As this book evolves over the next year it will become quite obvious what limitations exist in publishing the rarities book. I can easily identify essays and articles plus tabular information I have assembled or even completed thus far. This material might be a 100-word sidebar or an important supplementary article.

CONTENTS COMPILED THUS FAR

While the backbone of any book or books will be the major components that collectors have clammored for–that I have wished for–at least for 15-20 years. As collectors, we have just two references:

  1. The Eglit guide to Columbian medals and a variety of periphal related topics, published in the early 1960s….nearly SIXTY years old!
  2. The Doolin guide to Columbian tickets, essentially fewer than twenty pages with no illustrations and little more than a type-written checklist. This year marks the FORTIETH anniversary of its publication.

One can only speculate on how many new discovery pieces have been identified since each book was published. A third book worthy of inclusion into this list is the Hibler and Kappen guide to So-Called Dollars. There are 917 numbered entries in H&K, not counting scores of varieties within the numbers (a, b, etc. listings). Columbian so-called dollars represent catalog entries 154 to 243 plus 42 additional sublistings (a, b, etc.) or more than 130 distinct entries.

Eglit tallies numbers 1 through 596, again with a variety of sublistings. But while Eglit is generally considered the definitive (and only) book devoted to Columbian Medals, its complete title is: Columbiana, The Medallic History of Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Exposition of 1893. But he took a very liberal and often confusing approach to his entries. The book includes pinbacks, souvenirs, tickets among other non-medal entries and each of these entries represents a very small and incomplete smattering of these categories. It is as if the book is intended to be a somewhat inclusive list of medals and a sample of other “Columbiana.” It is very difficult to understand whatever logic may have behind the contents of this publication.

An even greater issue exists within the catalog of medals included. As a compilation of just medals from the World’s Columbian Exposition, for a document produced nearly sixty years ago, if is quite comprehensive in this regard. As a compilation of just medals created to honor Columbus and/or his “discovery” of America, it is a wildly diverse and wholly incomplete catalog. Included are dozens of Latin American medals commemorating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the New World. These represent a very small percentage of such medals produced and likewise the few other similar medals from France, England, Spain and other countries is very limited. Finally, there are also many entries from the U.S. that feature Columbus, the Santa Maria and that first voyage…but that were struck later than 1892. For example, why would one include a beautiful medal struck in 1912 as Eglit did; what about the literally thousands of other U.S. twentieth century medals honoring Columbus?

Our cataloging of medals will include those struck to commemorate or that were used/issued at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Sidebar material about the other areas Eglit haphazzardly touched on or rationalized their inclusion under a broad umbrella of “Columbus.” There are some entries in Eglit that might warrant inclusion as an asterisked category of medals that somehow may be related to the exposition although the medals do not include any reference to the fair. A good argument for inclusion of, for example, a Chicago token or medal dated 1892 or 1893 could be made that since the medal (or token) was used by or purchased by fair visitors it is closely enough associated with the exposition that it could or should be part of such a book.

As one can see, besides the immense task of assembling all the information about and photos of Columbian Expo medals, there are myriad questions about which of thousands of Columbs-related medals and tokens belong in a book about the fair.

Doolin’s book is small and straightforward and really needs no dissecting, per se; it is the only catalog we know of published in the last forty years listing only Columbian tickets. Period. A minor question to be answered surrounds clearly related tickets NOT for use at the fair, i.e. railroad tickets used in getting to and from Chicago and the exposition. Many such tickets, as well as steamship tickets to and from the grounds, contain a world’s fair reference as part of their printing. Those should be included, but what about tickets issued at the time by a railroad which included “Chicago” in the name of the line or had a destination of Chicago, but with no specific or implied relationship to the fair?

We won’t delve into the many issues of completeness or adequacies of Eglit and Doolin, or for that matter H&K. Of greatest importance is the value they have provided collectively over the last half century!

The work involved and the simple volume of entries is amazing. They were so complete that together they still represent the vast majority of Columbian medals and tickets. Neither of the two main books, Eglit and Doolin, provide as much detail and background as most would want or at least appreciate, but the fact that today I can “only” cite a few hundred new additions indicates how comprehensive each was.

Still, no one would dispute that it is time for updates.

Our new “Rarities” book will not only rectify the omissions and illogical inclusions but offer the substantial background and information lacking in both. We have already begun writing a variety of essays and sidebars for the book, including:

  • The Kennel Collection and pertinent information and scope related to both tickets and medals
  • Landing scenes on medals–images, types, number of crew members, number of Native people, designs (dozens of medals include variations on the theme), including landing scene on non medals (discussion not cataloging)
  • Proofs, test strikes/printing, Ferris Wheel proof ticket, Known test strike medals
  • Grading and valuing, changing markets for medals and tickets even moreso than some collectibles
  • Day of Sale and Stand tickets, number of each discovered since previous books
  • Background information relative to tickets, including attendance, complete sales data by concession
  • Important related tickets and medals for related/adjacent concessions such as Buffalo Bill
  • Award Medals
  • Elongateds
  • Index cross referencing topics to assist the reader/collector
  • Photos/captions of concessions related to specific medals and tickets
  • NOT a price guide but detailed information on historical sales (records since the 1990s), how to value tickets and medals, how to determine the validity or lack thereof for dealer pricing (comparing quality vs. rarity and ranges of values and why it is totally impractical to provide a price guide ala a coin Redbook and others

We have made terrific progress, but this has only served to open my eyes even wider in examining the complexities involved in this book.

I would very much appreciate comments about the most important information to you and if a single volume or multiple volumes make more sense: Would a single rarities book as described be of greater or less desirablity than a book dealing only with tickets, another dealing only with medals and then an additional book or annual volumes devoted to information about the fair specifically focused on the needs and interests of the collector.

We have many decisions to make regarding how this book will look; the good news is none of the time invested has been wasted and continuing with our planned priorities as we work can move forward prior to deciding whether we produce one book as outlined here or multiple books as discussed.

I hope you will be in touch (norm@thehistorybank.com) with your input. I value it highly.

World’s Columbian Summer Sale 2020

Photos for the Summer Sale

First, I will apologize for what I hope is not too cumbersome a newsletter and sale for you. As you can imagine, utilizing a designer/expert online for a newsletter and photos of nearly 70 items (tickets, medals, 3D objects and paper items) is not feasible for me to do repeatedly—unless I want to become a charity rather than a historical company intending to generate little profit.

We—my partner Christine (wife and colleague for—oh my gosh—47 years!)-—have produced more than 200 books and I have no idea how many newsletters, brochures and other peripheral documents, not to mention the ten books (and more coming soon) we have written. For many years, we had a small and wonderful staff of six people. Twenty years ago Christine and I sold our building and began working in a 500-sq-ft office at home, with design and publishing experts as freelance staff. That means when the project is a book or website, those experts we have known and worked with for decades ensure the products are professional and first-rate. But in a two-person company, newsletters, sales pieces, and blogs are my responsibility. And while I am a writer, researcher and historian, not to mention appraiser, cataloguer and seller of Columbiana and other historical material, you will not find the words designer or internet expert in my job description.

All this is an awkward and lengthy preface to my decision to post here the photographs of items for sale in the Summer 2020 newsletter. The newsletter itself will be sent via email to our Columbian Expo mailing list, but despite my lack of website design expertise, the photographs themselves—given their size and resolution—seemed more apt for presentation here.

If you’re reading this text and viewing the photos but have NOT received the newsletter, please accept my apology. Email me at norm@thehistorybank.com or phone me any time at (425) 481-8818 and we will ensure you receive the newsletter promptly.

Though the photographs themselves may not do them justice, the items in our Summer 2020 Sale are indeed beautiful. We have several one-of-a-kind tickets and medals from the World’s Columbian Expo as well as many other items that are not only unique, but also, quite rare. The vast majority of the material in the sale is from the John Kennel Columbian Collection, which we have been cataloging and selling since April 2019. John, who passed away about six years ago, and his business partner and spouse, Heike, collected and sold for around forty years, and I was fortunate enough to work with them for nearly half of that tenure. John and Heike accrued more than 4,000 items, which we transported from Dayton, OH and have handled as if they were our own. It has been a sincere pleasure to work with and share the amazing quality of tickets, medals and other items with today’s collectors, especially a new generation of them.

Having had Heike Kennel entrust me with John’s collection last year has meant I have been incredibly busy inventorying, cataloging, and selling a collection that, while not the largest, was assembled by its owner with a love for the fair and a skill in finding and acquiring an impressively large number of rarities and one-of-a-kind pieces. The collection has led me to more study and more writing about the exposition, which includes working on a book for Columbian collectors and students of its history. I’m excited that John’s collection will form the backbone of my third book about the fair. As I sandwich in research and other tasks on the book project between all those projects that already take a normal work week, I have at least 10,000 photos (historical from my two previous Columbian histories and those I’ve taken of items John and I collected) to organize, including medals (I think John had at least 1,000!), tickets (he had more rarities than any collector I know of, myself included), books and 3D souvenirs from the fair.

When I worked with John and other collectors and dealers who began their lifelong adventure with the Columbian Expo in the 1960s, I felt like the new, young kid on the block. As it turned out, I wasn’t all that young, just a novice when I began with Columbian material in 1979. I’m sort of a span between two generations of Columbian collectors. Sadly, like John, many have passed away. I’m hardly young any more at 68 years old, but they say you’re only as old as you feel (That makes me mentally just a kid…but physically it’s just not like it was in the old days)!

I’ve been fortunate to be able to study the fair, to teach at the University of Chicago and to share my expertise with museums, bookstores and other organizations in the Windy City. I truly enjoy working with those who have only collected and studied Columbiana for a short time, and I feel both a desire and urgency to pass on knowledge about what I truly believe to be the greatest World’s Fair in our history.

I will continue to produce newsletters, conduct sales, work on the World’s Columbian Journal and move as fast as possible to publication of my next book. Because of my schedule, and especially the time devoted to the Kennel Collection, I have not done justice to this blog; I simply haven’t had ample time to write even more. But, the next step toward remedying this will be posting excerpts from the forthcoming newsletter.

I hope each of you will enjoy the photos from the summer sale which—if I can master more of these online technicalities so easy for the next generation—will prompt you to ask me for a copy of the newsletter and the details on these items for sale. It will be dramatically easier for me to email you the text of the newsletter than it’s been for me trying to get these photos to my clients and customers.

Thanks so much for your interest and patience and enjoy these items!

— Norm Bolotin

WCE Tix-No serial #

WCE Nwsltr Medals 1A

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WCE Nwslt Medals etc3.JPG

NB Covers3

Columbus Landing Scenes

We have informally studied the myriad landing scenes on souvenirs at the World’s Columbian Exposition for many years. But once we began working with the Kennel Columbian Collection in April 2019 we found more and more depictions of Columbus landing in America. At least 100 medals feature some interpretation of Columbus landing.

We can attribute these derivative scenes to the few paintings done after Columbus returned–and years after his death. The landing scenes from the 1893 Exposition are more than a little interesting. I am researching the scenes as depicted at the fair and they seem a bit humorous when one delves into them.

If you look at common medals (so-called dollars and Eglit listed medals) the first thing you will notice is the similarity from medal to medal. Columbus is typically the central figure, holding a sword in one hand and a cross in another. Christianity was a major theme in Columbus’ life and that of his men. While there are differences from medal to medal and on souvenirs from spoons to purses, these are all remarkably similar. Did Columbus’ men carry a half dozen 7-8-foot tall crosses ashore with them? It seems unlikely. Beyond this, the most extreme cross on the beach with Columbus and his men was shown as a roughly 10-foot tall, heavy timbered cross–with Jesus crucified on it. While that may be a personification of Jesus, showing it on a medal as part of the artwork illustrating Columbus’ landing is rather ludicrous.

The main difference from medal to medal is the clothing of the men (some wore armour, some did not) and the lack thereof on the Natives who typically are shown cowering behind trees and bushes. Men appeared to wear loin cloths; women clearly wore nothing.

Is this just artistic license and 1893 interpretation of events 400 years earlier or providing a theme for souvenirs? Naturally a fair, even one 126 years ago, features visuals with historical scenes more than historical accuracy.

Clearly the various artists creating the myriad designs on souvenirs were tasked with giving fairgoers something that said “Columbus” and landing scenes were the most common portrayal of Columbus on items that fairgoers could take home with them.

There are only two painting known to exist from Columbus’ lifetime, so the dozens–hundreds–of landing scenes are manufactured based on facts as they were known. Souvenirs did not receive artistic attention; they were acceptable if generally perceived as legitimate interpretations of what fairgoers–souvenir purchasers–were happy with.

I selected this topic to research because I found the differences and similarities of landing scenes interesting. That one could find 100 landing scenes on medals is more than just interesting. If one had the time an even broader study would be the portraits of Columbus on hundreds of medals and other souvenirs. Which examples are the closest to accurate is one issue; another is how totally different most are from one another.

If you study the likenesses of Columbus from the Exposition the differences are overwhelming. Whether they look like Columbus is one thing; who they look like is another. The bust of Columbus on the Columbian half dollar is generally acknowledged to be a) the best likeness and b) the best artistic rendering.

I hope to have a completed study on the landing scenes next year, perhaps as a report or whitepaper of something less than 50 pages. If one decides to do a similar study on the portraits of Columbus little research will be necessary. Such a study will be a comparative look at hundreds of portraits. Unlike the historical significance and analysis of the landing scenes, looking at hundreds of portraits will be more or less a guessing game of which ones look like Columbus–and which ones look the least like him.

Our work with the Kennel Columbian collection began in April and will likely not be finished by next April. If you have not seen the catalog–which is now at 170 pages–or The History Bank Store please contact me to ensure you are on our email lists or go to thehistorybankstore.com or contact me at norm@thehistorybank.com

World’s Columbian Expo Research Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

I have been terribly lax in filling these blog pages. If a few paragraphs showed up every time I thought of something interesting or planned to add an article we would be overflowing with text.

That it was 10 weeks or so since my last article is embarrassing. Reasons, yes; excuses, no. The last post discussed our beginning efforts with the John Kennel Columbian Collection. I hardly had a clue then as to the scope of the collection, not to mention the mediclous work John devoted to it. I have for many years said that collectors and collections were under appreciated for their historical research value. Having now spent 47 years as a working professional in history and publishing, I have seen repeatedly the hisorical value of collectors, their knowledge and their the valueof their material.

Working with the Kennel Collection since bringing it back from Ohio (to the Seattle area) the first week in April has continually underscored this value. I was retained to do more than sell the Kennel Collection. The fact that The History Bank is small and specialized made us the best choice; but so did the fact that I view Columbian souvenirs as artifacts. My job includes researching and describing some 4,000 items. Major auction houses do a good job at the thin upper layer of such collections. They do a poor job on the other 90-95% of the items because they cannot afford the time or manpower to spend on every $50, $100 or even $500 item. They tend to “lot” material: “Here are 15 tickets” with a one-sentence description. Collectors love these lotted items in auctions. It’s how they–we–make bargain purchases. Generally, the auction house lacks the detailed information on each of the items that make up such lots, so they may toss in a half dozen $500 rarities and the bottom line is the buyer ends up with a market value of say $2,000-$3,000 for a purchase price that is often ridiculously low–$500 or $1,000 for example.

Heike Kennel, John’s widow who worked alongside him collecting for several decades, was well aware of this. When Heritage sold my ticket collection for $40,000 in 2008 this was a point of contention and very evident. One rare ticket fetched by far the most ever for a Columbian bit of paper–$3,000–but there were lots of 15, 20 and even 37 tickets lumped together. My complaints run deeper than dollars, and Heike selected us to sell the collection because I will devote far more time to it than any auction house would or could, and every ticket, medal and souvenir is being described with a historian’s and collector’s skill.

I knew John, but not well, and I was aware of his passion for the Columbian Expo. Once I took possession of that office-full of material I realized that he was the embodiment of my belief that collectors and collections are invaluable to authors, historians and researchers alike.

In this first 10 weeks of working with the collection I’ve been repeatedly impressed, astounded, at the information that accompanied so many of the items. Many of you reading this blog may not be serious collectors or collectors at all. One publication that is critical to working with Columbiana is the small paperbound reference written by Nathan Eglit in the 1960s. It was self-published and finding a copy today is almost impossible. As a publishing professional, I found myself annoyed and frustrated with Eglit’s book. It lacks any organization and the index is likewise weak and often useless. But over the years I got over it. Somehow, Eglit assembled this amazing compilation of primarily medals from the World’s Columbian Exposition. A few tickets and souvenirs are tossed in with no apparent reason or explanation. But if you find yourself with a medal or token from the fair, the odds are very good that it is listed in this resource. You may have to thumb through the entire 142 pages to find it, since there is often no other way to do so.

Today, as with the Kennel Collection, the majority of 1892 and 1893 Columbian medals that were struck will be referenced in “Eglit,” as the book is known. When one is discussing or selling a medal that is “unlisted,” it instantly has cachet as a rarity. Eglit does not have a copyright notation, a publication date or a publisher’s address. It was printed about 50 years ago and still, when we discover a medal that is “unlisted” THAT is the rarity. How he was able to compile something so complete more than 50 years ago is truly amazing.

In beginning the process of researching, identifying and listing for sale Kennel’s medals, the first reference is of course Eglit. Kennel’s enormous collection includes about 800 medals, many in duplicate. John created a template for use with his medals, a form he filled out for each piece. Line items include description, metal composition, size (millimeters in diameter)…and Eglit number. Few collectors are so thorough; this information is like a museum reference. Identifying a medal in Eglit can be slow and tedious. It is the norm, not the exception, to start at the beginning of the book and read your way through until you find a listing. Attempting to use the index to match a medal is a poor substitute for organization. I began my work with the Eglit number provided on more than 500 of Kennel’s medals.

I began the process of selling Kennel’s collection–tickets, paper, photos, medals, 3D souvenirs and so on–by creating a catalog. The catalog is unlike those a museum or auction house would create. My intention has been to provide a reference for buyers, other collectors and researchers. Rather than the typical catalog which is created and published, ours is an evolving document. I am adding items every few weeks and when an item sells it remains in the catalog along with the price realized. I am also including editorial material in much the way that this article and this site do.

One of the editorial tools in the catalog is a cross reference of Eglit numbers with Kennel catalog numbers. Buyers can instantly find an item in which they are interested by Eglit number. After the collection is sold, researchers can do the same. The catalog is arranged by item category and number. Tickets and other paper, for example, begin on page 5 and with catalog number K1001. Medals begin on page 34 with number K2000. Finding an item is easy by design.

I have discussed the process but not the specifics of historical value that lies within the catalog pages, due in great part to how John Kennel approached his collection. He was not unique among collectors, but he was near the very top, to be sure.

Discussing historical value and interest varies in general by the type of material. While there is much to be gleaned from tickets, obviously advertising, guides, brochures and other paper have more to offer. Having spent four decades studying the Exposition, much of that time specifically researching with an end goal of writing two books, I have found remarkable tidbits of information via tickets that I never would have found otherwise.

A major component of my history of The Midway Plaisance was detail–often minute–about the concessions and villages on The Midway. Tickets provided otherwise unknown information for example about soft drink concessions. It was excruciatingly frustrating to find financial data on concessions but not where they were located or what a drink cost, for example. One sentence on a ticket noted “right across from the bright blue dome” and suddenly I had a location for a concession that went out of business and vanished without leaving a trail of photographs or other information. Few museum professionals think to look for historical information in souvenirs or tickets or medals. The minority who do so realize their collections hold more secrets than they would have guessed.

For collectors, Eglit provides basic information about medals, such as the designer, engraver and perhaps the meaning of allegorical designs. I would venture to say that the majority of museum professionals with Columbian Expo collections do not have a copy of Eglit and have never heard of it.

As a collector as well as a historian and author, I often seek out the minutiae that earns one that “nerd” moniker. I thrive on those tiny bits of information. Kept in perspective, they can provide both valuable and interesting additions to an article or a book. Another example of value via souvenirs/medals was the Italian medal designed by Pagliaghi. While working on the Midway book I tripped over his name. A seller in Old Vienna was one of only two places fairgoers could purchase a Paghliaghi medal. The other was in the complete opposite (southeast) corner of the grounds at La Rabida, a reproduction of the convent where Columbus spent his last days. That information was interesting to a collector but not of great value in the book. But the fact that someone was selling medals in Old Vienna was intriguing. This turned out to be the key to unlocking very interesting information about Old Vienna and other concessions on The Midway. It seems that many of those who were granted concession licenses subleased a bit of space to vendors with absolutely nothing in common with their host. Old Vienna had a veritable mini mall where vendors sold souvenir pencils, soap–and medals. Now THAT was very interesting in assembling a history of The Midway and its concessions.

Souvenirs often have many stories to tell whether they’re at Disneyland or the World’s Columbian Exposition. And the work done by collectors, historians and curators all intersect at many points, just how many depending on the circumstance.

My hope in spending much of 2019 researching, describing and selling the John Kennel Collection is that the developing catalog will become an invaluable resource for collectors and just possibly for museums as well.

I will continue to share information about the collection here and I absolutely would be pleased to provide today’s version of that evolving catalog for the asking. Included in the catalog are two very valuable references–the Eglit number cross referenced to collection medals and the new rarity scale we developed specifically for Columbian tickets. Collectors had long used one or more of the well-known numismatic rarity scales, but that was a case of bending the existing scale to another use. After pondering this issue for a very long time, working on the Kennel Collection seemed to fuel my creativity and I developed the new scale specifically for tickets. Both are including in the catalog, but we may include them here simply to ensure more people see the data. Finally, in the near future we will provide an update to the Day of Sale tickets which we have researched and compiled sinc the very early 2000s.Kennel 2646-4.JPGThis previously unknown medal from the Kennel Collection is both beautiful and meaningful. It is an unissued example of the medal produced by the German government. It was presented to each of the Columbian Commissioners from Germany. Just finding such a medal provides many questions and also avenues for answers. Just how many Commissioners were there at the fair? There were Exposition Commissioners and a slew of those from every participating U.S. State and foreign countries. Finding a piece engraved to an individual–which Kennel had for an Expo Director–gives you information as a starting point for further research. I have not counted them, but Kennel probably has more than 20 previously unknown/uncatalogued medals, as well as another 10-12 unique test strikes or proofs.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please let me know.

 

 

 

One of the Largest World’s Columbian Exposition Collections Will Be Sold in 2019

As is embarrassingly obvious, I have been buried and not posting material to the blog as I should. It’s not for a lack of material. I have stacks of notes and half-written articles that I think will be of interest. The following text is verbatim from a news release I sent out On March 6. I’ll leave it to you to read before I comment further:

 

“One of the largest and most historically significant collections of World’s Columbian Exposition memorabilia will be coming to market this year.

“The collection was the decades-long love affair of John Kennel with the 1893 exposition. Kennel, who passed away four years ago, became interested in the fair as much as an amateur historian as a collector. From the 1970s through the new millennium, Kennel studied and collected such Columbian categories as tickets, medals, spoons, brochures, literature, books and more.

“Kennel’s widow, Heike, worked beside him for years buying and selling, and recently decided it was time to sell the mammoth collection now, emphasizing its history more than just its incredible value .“It’s important to me to acknowledge John’s serious interest in the history of the fair, ”Heike said. The revenue from the sales throughout the year will outstrip most any other Columbian sales that have taken place over the years.

“Heike selected The History Bank and its managing partner, Norman Bolotin, to catalog and sell the collection. The Kennels did business with Bolotin over several decades and John was a mentor to Bolotin in his early years studying the world’s fair.

“Bolotin and his business partner/spouse, Christine Laing, have made the world’s fair one of their major endeavors for four decades. They have written two books about the fair. Their 1993 hardcover and limited edition books were commissioned for the centennial of the fair by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Their 2017 book is a history of the Midway Plaisance and was nearly ten years in the making. Both books are now available in softcover from the University of Illinois Press. The History Bank also manages an online website/store for sales such as this and also writes a Columbian blog, worldscolumbianjournal.com.

Bolotin began the arduous task of inventorying the Kennel collection in January and it is now only a fraction complete. “As large as I assumed the collection to be, it’s even more so,” he said. “We will probably sell many items direct to clients (and I hope to museums as well), while offering items for sale by category in our online store. I’m sure the size of the collection will require our devoting substantial effort through the entire year.”

“First to be logged and appraised was the ticket portion of the collection of some 300 items—including more than 20 previously unrecorded, unique tickets and passes. Bolotin noted that “The History Bank sold two excellent Columbian ticket collections recently, fetching more $19,000 and $29,000, and the Kennel tickets should easily outdistance those sales.

“Bolotin can be reached at norm@thehistorybank.com or 425-481-8818. When the inventorying is completed in April, The History Bank will publish a catalog detailing every item/lot in the collection, including information on rarity and a range of appraised market value. The items will be priced for sale based on those appraised values and other considerations.

“To obtain a catalog and information on the various aspects of the collection, contact Bolotin at The History Bank’s office in Woodinville, WA. Bolotin has also said that when the project is complete he hopes to publish a full-length book (including all prices realized), with a tentative title of ‘The History of the World’s Columbian Exposition Through the John Kennel Collection.'”

Every day I become more immersed in this project and having been in this business 45 years and having developed and published more than 200 books and catalogs, I generally don’t get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project. But the Kennel collection is a doorway not only for collectors, but for historians as well. John was interested in how tickets and 3D items helped mold the story of the World’s Columbian Exposition. I’m sure he was happy to have items with important monetary value, but I never heard him speak of an item’s dollar value.

In 2008 when I sold my ticket collection via Heritage Auctions, it was one of the largest Columbian ticket collections sold at a public sale. It grossed a shade under $40,000. Obviously the revenue was important to me, but so was the story imbedded in the various tickets. John Kennel contacted me when the sale was ongoing sounding a bit surprised, “I thought I had the only Oriental Odeon ticket that existed.” He was surprised to see that I had one in my collection and I didn’t know any others existed. I also had several unique one-of-a-kind tickets, the most enigmatic of which was the “Tree of Wonder, Camera Obscura” ticket. Just that title is enough to confuse anyone. This was thev first of its kind ever seen and it turned out that the Camera Obscura concession on the Midway never opened. How did someone get a ticket? It probably was in 1892 when concessions were under construction and the fair permitted concessions to sell tickets to advance visitors without having to log the information and pay a commission to the fair. My guess is Camera Obscura was a half-constructed storefront everso briefly.

While I had numerous high quality tickets, what I have found over the years is that many smaller collections (including some we’ve sold) have had 6-8-10 unknown tickets. The Kennel collection will probably have at least TWENTY previously unknown tickets (actually, most of which are passes, rather than tickets, per se).

I will have the rest of the collection (I’ve only 90% of the ticketss to work with thus far) the first week of April. Two of us will be flying to Ohio and loading the collection into a very roomy rental car–to drive 2,500 miles back to Woodinville where I will be logging and appraising every item. It’s a daunting and exciting project. John Kennel was a real collector’s collector. He obtained items for their quality and history and now I’ll have the opportunity to take them to the collecting public. I would like to see several Midwest museums consider adding to their Columbian collection as well. If any of you have connections to regional or historical museums in and around Chicago, I wouldl very much like the names of curators we could contact.

If you have questions–how could you not?–please let me know. And remember that The History Bank is not an auction house or a traditional sales venue. I intend to update catalogs periodically, to accept offers to purchase and to list fixed-price sales in our online store. When I have appraised items it will be based on historical prices realized, rarity and condition and I will provide a price range–$400-$700 for example–and will be happy to entertain offers throughout the process. I assume that the size of this collection will keep me more than busy for the rest of 2019.  –Norm Bolotin

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.