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 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

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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 or contact me at

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,

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 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.


Parade of Boats on the Columbian Lagoons

I have studied not only the social, construction, archaeologial, ethnographic and other aspects of the World’s Columbian Exposition, but I’ve also searched for information on various athletic events. I’ve found medals, but with no specific event designation. I have found information and a program for military games, but nothing for “athletic” events. I’ve even seen a photo of gymnasts and weight lifters, but nothing detailing competition. (We will post that photo shortly.)

One interesting pseudo-competition I have discovered was a variety of boat parades and races in the main lagoon off the “coast” of Wooded Island. Rather than discuss the events, I’ve copied a description from one of the myriad works by Hubert Bancroft. He was criticized for having assistants do much of his voluminous work, but that’s hardly fair. Most every historian (who can afford it) today utilizes one or more assistants (often grad students) to accomplish much of the leg work. So while Bancroft’s style often annoys me (after all, it was Victorian writing), here is a synopsis of the hardcore events on the Columbian waters. There actually were various races of the boats but we’re trying to locate an account of them and will post the information when/if we can find it. Following is Bancroft’s description of “Marine Day.”

“On the 25th of October, or marine day as it was termed (since this was virtually the end of the fair, a variety of light-hearted events took place), a parade of boats formed in four divisions, their course being around the wooded island, through the north canal and grand basin, and thence returning to their starting point. They were of many types and represented many nations, forming a novel and intersting spectacle as they glided through the waterways. First came the naval squadron of gifs, dingies, cutters, launches, and whaleboatss, from men of war, from the Viking ship, the caravels, and the New Bedford whaler moored off the grounds. The fisheries division followed, with dories, striker and folding boats, dug-outs, Lofoden island and other fishing boats, Eskimo kiaks(sic), and Dahomean canoes. Next was the transportation squadron, in which were row-boats, canvas and other canoes, gondolas, coast-guard, motor, and life-boats, electric, steam, gas, and naphtha launches, a Norwegian pleasure boat, a Turkish caique, a bicycle boat, and a Ceylonese catamaran. In the last or miscellaeous division were boats of ancient pattern and Indian craft of strange device. In the afternoon there was hornpipe dancing by young girls in sailor garb, and at night a mimic battle in which fireworks took the place of weapons.”

While I often twitch, snort and grow annoyed when reading Bancroft due to his writing style and not infrequent modification of the facts, the man and whatever team of assistants he employed deserve credit for having written a massive amount about the fair. He could take a jingling musical instrument from say a Samoan band and expend 250 words on how it sounded. Without Bancroft, however, we would be dramatically less knowledgeable about the fair and equally sparse about the characteristics of the thousands of non-caucasian participants. We’ll have more information WCE WEIGHTLIFTERES.jpgcourtesy of the loquacious Bancroft yet to come. The photo above which we found some years ago, unfortunately does not come with anything other than identification as the gymnasts/weight lifters. Our “to find” list is always long and determining what building in which this photo was taken and details of these athletes’ participation remain unknown–for now.


A profuse apology….

My intention has been to provide ongoing information and anlysis of the World’s Columbian Exposition continually and I fell dramatically short over the last several months. No doubt those of you who are regular visitors to this blog noticed the Grand Canyon of gaps in editorial. The reason: I injured my back twenty years ago (yup, playing soccer in my late forties) and after a variety of unsuccessful and mildly helpful treatments, as they say, “I submitted to the knife.” But fortunately surgical technology has evolved dramatically, so that “knife” is hardly what it used to be. I had a fusion–without hardware!–over a three-disc area in my lower spine.

Rather than a hefty knife, the surgery was accomplished with two half-inch incisions and aided by microscopes rather than large blades. The fusion, as opposed to the typically envisioned rods, screws and or plates, this one was quite natural: The fusion was accomplished by inserting cadaver bone between the vertebra.

So after this monumental (to me at least) event I had a more debilitating problem, a neurological issue that lasted some five months and only now is 90% resolved. I was sent to the excellent Parkinson’s research facility here which frankly scared the hell out of me. I was told the best neurological docs worked there on many issues other than Parkinson’s, so my fears were quickly abated. The doctor’s first comment was “you don’t have Parkinson’s” which despite her rather cool approach thrilled me quite obviously.

She and my regular physician believed my tremors, shakes, jerks and other issues were caused by medication, but they were somewhat guessing as to which one or which combination thereof. So I spent far longer than I’d like taking this medication and eliminating that one, and combining these, and changing the does on that and still having difficulty typing, drinking and so on. Can you picture someone at the keyboard attempting to use the mouse and suddenly having it fly across the desk? Or attempting to drink a glass of water and tossing the glass across the counter. And not being able to text accurately even slowing using only my index finger. It’s been an adventure.

Now, with this journey from last spring to the first of December seems as if it is coming to a close. The tremors are virtually gone, although the speed and accuracy of my typing has only partially returned. And my back? I actually experienced a few days pain-free, but driven by the neurologcal problem I had the misfortune of falling a couple times which has caused a return of some level of back pain. I’d especially like to thank the Seattle Mariners fan whowaved his arm wildly at the end of a game and sent me backwards landing on the concrete steps on my back. Not what one should do shorly after surgery. Next stop–a visit with the surgeon in January.

All this adds up to what seems like a silly excuse (to me) for my absence here for many months. It’s all been more difficult to get my head around the situation than to evaluate the purely physical problems. I’ll do my best to get back on a schedule of sharing Columbian information quite soon! Thanks for your patience and please do read the other posts I’m sharing this week! –Norm Bolotin


AN ESSAY ON COLUMBIAN KNOWLEDGE with a view toward the immense volume of world’s fair tickets

In studying the World’s Columbian Exposition for nearly 40 years and writing two history books on the subject, as well numerous articles, essays and analyses, I’ve obviously come to understand a wide variety of rudimentary facts about the fair. But there are many specific areas where I’ve become sagaciously enlightened, where I’ve taken my expertise to another level.

By immersing oneself in a single topic of the fair at one time it’s possible to achieve a level of expertise that you simply cannot when exploring a subject as vast as the entire fair.

I’ve studied the Midway, the fair’s concessions, medals, souvenirs and tickets. I’ve made the study of each topic a personal mission. Certainly in two books and 40 years I’ve learned a bit about the world’s fair in general. While I can discuss concerts, sheet music, marching bands and exotic musical instruments of various villagers on the Midway, I would never consider myself an expert in the minutiae of musical performances and performers. And what about the water craft so prevalent in the exposition dedicated to Christopher Columbus? The New York Naval Parade was a massive display of warships from various countries. What about the replica of Columbus’ fleet and the gondolas and electric launches that plied the lagoons?

My first Columbian book, coauthored with my busies partner and spouse, Christine Laing, was commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the centennial of the fair. That project came with a simple set of guidelines: Write an overall history of the fair, from Chicago’s winning the Congressional bid to host the fair, to building structures from grand building to those of the Midway and take the reader on a stroll through the fair that still lays claim to the greatest exposition of all time.

The biggest difficulty writing that book was condensing tens of thousands of pages into a story of the fair. Where we had a vast knowledge of a subject, the task was condensing it into a paragraph. Just taking the reader on a walk around the grounds that could take two weeks in real time meant we had to tell a story that wanted to be many times longer.

Our story of the Midway was much more detailed and personal. Instead of the massive fair we were tasked with in the first book we had a story to tell that stretched just one miles from east to west.But academically our goal was to accomplish what was never done before: Understanding every aspect of the Midway, of its concessions and the disparate people who lived there. Our goals was to introduce every Samoan, African and Bedouin to our readers. We were able to delve into the sales of souvenirs, the divergent entertainment and even the contracts that made the Midway possible. It all provided both the mortar and soul that brought the world to the doorstep of cultures they’d never seen before.

So why this preamble? Because collecting tickets is only the beginning of the endeavor. Tickets are doorways to concessions, to restaurants, to performances….to human beings from around the globe. Some 20 years ago several colleagues and collectors asked me to write a catalog of Columbian tickets. I soon realized that the task was dramatically larger than any of us thought. Not only are there perhaps ten times more tickets and passes than most of us thought, but there are myriad stories behind each one. Just how I will be able to accomplish this task is unsure, but as I spent recent weeks assembling the material that follows I became determined to finish.

And as I’ve learned more and more about tickets, it became clear that just as with the Midway, the task must be driven by passion and for the serious collector (individual or museum and library collection) one needs to learn everything possible, not just collect a yellow ticket and a blue pass. These tickets are intimate pieces of the fair’s stories, the palettes and the wallpaper and also the invaluable stories we don’t want to lose over time.

My own passion for all things Columbian is far too great to complete as much as I would like. This blog allows me to share mostly short stories about the fair, but I also hope to continue to share self-contained essays such as recently done on Day of Sale tickets and the following information.

Also, this subject is directly linked to our most recent post discussing our forthcoming two-part sale of rare Columbiana. The material in the sales represents the finest group of tickets in the marketplace in more than a decade.

In 2007 and 2008 two of the finest collections became available. Longtime friend and colleague David Flippin sold his collection first. It contained several one-of-a-kind tickets, the only ones known in the hobby. In 2008 I sold my collection of approximately 600 tickets via a Heritage Auction sale which grossed $40,000 and also contained several unique specimens. Many of these are represented in the following information on Columbian tickets and their prices.

I use the term “prices” rather than values for obvious reasons. One can see on ebay that a ticket sells for $50 today, the identical ticket sells for $100 tomorrow and a third example might easily sell for $40 or $140 the next day. It is all about who is bidding or buying when a given ticket is for sale and more so, if multiple buyers want the same item. It is all too common to see 30 bids on an ebay lot—14 by bidder A and 14 by bidder B, with a couple of inconsequential bids thrown in for good measure. We recently saw a common ticket on ebay—that routinely sells for $50±—sell for nearly $500 because Collectors A and B were both apparently determined to win the ticket. We assume the underbidder simply purchased the next one available for $50.

You will see the range of prices in tickets listed that follow. Our goal is to show approximate “values” by way of showing multiple selling prices. It’s then up to the future buyer to determine just how much the item is worth to him or her.

I apologize for the length of the introduction. But I felt it was necessary before I moved on to a small portion of my treatise on Columbian tickets. The number of tickets is overwhelming. Following are just a few articles in the context of my study.

–The complete list of 51 Day of Sale tickets, which was published when we discovered several new examples. It was published April 15.
–The announcement of our major sale of Columbian tickets upcoming in two parts this summer, which was published May 22.
–The complete list as I know it of “Stand or S.” tickets. I have to assume that many of you have seen others and I would love to have you share that information. Included is information on the entire process of “S” tickets as well as a list of them. This follows immediately after this introduction.
–In going through my data files of photos and ticket reference (that requires an enormous amount of work) I have completed a list of tickets that include those for which

I have data that have sold for more than approximately $200. It is complete in that I have compiled it over several decades, but I am also sure that some have escaped me. You will notice dozens of tickets not on the list because in the past several decades they have sold for anywhere from $50 to $200—steam ship tickets, Electric Launch & Navigation tickets, Old Vienna, Germany and of course Stand tickets. This is intended to expand the knowledge of Columbian tickets dramatically….and at the same time to cause many collectors to say “wait, I have a $450 ticket that should be included.” I hope that all those reading this report will share any omissions or other data they have. My goal is to compile the most complete information on Columbian tickets as possible.


You can always contact me at or via phone at 425-481-8818.

Thanks for taking your time to read this material.

Norm Bolotin
The History Bank
P.O. Box 1568
Woodinville, WA 98072


NOTE: As ticket transactions occur. our data changes continually. In just January-May 2018 numerous noteworthy sales took place. We have added them to the information that follows and each is in bold italic type.



Stand Number Tickets Known

Columbian Stand Tickets Known-By Number Stand Ticket Denominations
Design of Stand ticket with no number 10 cents
S. 3 (Cons.13) 5 cents Moorish Palace
S. 3 (Cons 13) 10 cents Moorish Palace
S. 3 (Cons 13) 25 cents Moorish Palace
S. 5 5 cents
S. 7 5 cents
S. 6 or 8 (top cut off) not recorded
S. 9 5 cents
S. 11 10 cents
S. 15 10 cents
S. 17 10 cents
S. 18 10 cents
S. 19 10 cents
S. 20 10 cents
S. 21 25 cents
S. 22 25 cents
S. 23 25 cents
S. 24 25 cents
S. 25 25 cents
S. 26 25 cents
S. 26 50 cents
S. 27 25 cents
S. 29 25 cents
S. 29 50 cents
S. 32 50 cents
S. 35 50 cents
S. 38 $1.00
S. 41 $1.00


S. 46 $2.00
S. 49 $2.00
S. 50 $2.00
S. 51 25 cents
S. 51 $2.00
S. 57 $5.00
S. 58 $5.00
S. 62 15 cents
S. 63 5 cents
S. 64 10 cents
S. 64 15 cents Wellington
S. 65 15 cents 
S. 65 25 cents Wellington
S. 66 50 cents Wellington
S. 67 $1.00 Wellington
S, 101 5 cents
S. 102 5 cents

2018 Stand ticket sales: S102-$99. $68, 40, 22; S64-$100; S65 marked Wellington $90;

S58-($5.00)-$190. 159, 95; S22-$32





Standard Tickets $1800, 1793, 1600, 1500, 1375, 100, 698  2018-$1395

Estimates of Ferris Wheel tickets in existence range from 30-50 in the
the marketplace and collections. We saw a badly damaged ticket sell for $1000 and
the $698 was likely also damaged.

Ferris Wheel Essay Proof  $1800 Only known example

Ferris Wheel post-fair ticket with vaudeville admission & Ferris Wheel ride $799 (Only known example)

Ferris Wheel certificate of ride $788

Ferris Invitation/pass to ride $508


Foldout ticket book $1900

Natatorium was intended to be multi-purpose with pool, gym and restaurant.
After installing pipe from Lake Michigan to the Midway for some reason, possibly financial, the pool never opened–likely a reason for the rarity of tickets
Strip of 5 tickets $1500
Strip of 8 tickets $818
Gymnase ticket with stub $508, 325
25 cent ticket $295
Gymnase 50 cents $325, 275
Single strip ticket $149

Vertical transit $833, 795, 795, 795, 795,695, 495

We purchased a lot of these tickets in the late 1990s and sold four of them for $795, the last two for $695 and $495; A buyer paid the $833 figure in my 2008 auction at Heritage.

Hale Elevator $508, 455, 350

Rare but less so than the Vertical Transit tickets.


Rolling Chair Ticket, $1195, 1120, 999, 766, 600

For wheel chairs that yellow and red examples could be rented by the hour or day
and with or without an attendant.

Portable chair/
camp chair $1352, 956


Festival Hall Railroad Day $598
Festival Hall Closing ceremonies $598
Chorus Membership $717 (Possibly unique)
As You Like It $275
Musical $250
Festival Chorus $598
Sylvan Dell $311, 294
Children’s Musical $239
Festival Hall Italian Day $202


HANDEL graded/slabbed $1000

HANDEL graded/slabbed $800

FRANKLIN graded/slabbed $900

In our opinion this grading for tickets is ludicrous. A gem mint
“raw” is comparable and easy to come by at $40-$80 per ticket.


We undertook a brief study in February to May 2018 to compare sales prices on admission tickets. The following is derived from those months’ sales on ebay. Obviously it would be far more insightful to conduct a 12-month count but I feel that these figures are similar to what we would see if we studied a full year’s sales.

Handel 10 sales
with an average of $90 per sale exclusive of
a slabbed sale of $800.
Franklin 8 sales with an
average of $70 per sale exclusive
of a slabbed sale of $900.

Washington 22 sales with an
average of $47 per sale.

Indian 11 tickets , average of $38 per sale.

Lincoln 12 tickets with an
average of $34 per sale.

Washington 22 ticket with an
average of $47 per sale.

Chicago Day with stub 13 tickets
with an average sale of $69.

Chicago Day Children’s ticket 4 tickets
with an average sale of $95.

Manhattan Day with stub 9 sales with
an average sale of $62.


Specimen Tickets with 00000 numbers

Franklin $695, 649, 538
Lincoln $599, 288
Indian $599
Unrecorded which ticket but a 00000 specimen $406

Indian Proof, heavy stock, uniface, no number $700


Ticket books—large size and much rarer small size,
with photos, ID and tear-out daily tickets $500, 425, 415, 395, 275, 260, 250, 220

Assume many other examples have been sold in the $175-$250 range over the years.

———————————————————————————————————————-TICKETS FOR OFFSITE PRODUCTIONS

Buffalo Bill $865, 810

Siege of Sebastopol $1136
Art Institute 1892 membership card $418

Congresses were held at the new Art Institute and subsequent membership cards after the fair (1894-5-6) sold for less than $100 each.



5 admission tickets $2887

No explanation for the ordinary tickets combining for this amount.
Either there was a heated bidding war or someone had no idea of the value. The 5 tickets should have fetched between $200 and $300 depending on the tickets.

29 Day of Sale tickets sold
as a lot $657

German concert Garden
strip of 9 tickets with last one
damaged $750

German Concert Garden
strip of four tickets $325

Moorish Palace strip of
nine tickets with last one
damaged $750

Moorish Palace group of 5, 10
and 25 cent tickets $350

Moorish Palace 25 cent
strip of four tickets $295

Hagenbeck group of 4—
Arena First Gallery, Check,
Circle $478

Cost Rica ticket and 3 tokens
(all for coffee) $335

Tokens would likely bring dramatically more today.

5 Clow tickets $1500

British brochure, flyer and
ticket for military mock battle $495

Ticket only for British
military show $249

NY Naval Parade, 3 pieces— $896
Men’s pass, Ladies’ Pass,
ship’s ticket

Java Village group of 25 cents
Type II, Theater, 10 cents Type I
and entrance $508

Type I is the cross hatch pattern across the two part tickets from
25 cents to $20 in grouped colors.

Type II are solid color/no cross hatch
and rarely seen and are perhaps 20x as rare as Type I. It is unknown if Type II were first used and quickly abandoned or used at the end of the fair and thus seldom seen

Group of 16 Java Village Type I tickets:
10, 25, 50 cents;$1, $1.25, $1.50, $2.00 (2),
$2.25, $34, $5, $6, $7, $9, and $10. $568



Camera Obscura, Tree of Wonder $3107–the most expensive Columbian ticket known

This most expensive of all WCE tickets is the only known example.
The concession was planned, possibly under construction, but
never opened. Per our MIDWAY book when the grounds were open between dedication and Opening a visitor to this concession could have been given a ticket in anticipation of opening, which never occurred.

Partial Coil of Return Passes $2500

The only other roll ever offered is the one from The History Bank currently available

Kilauea Volcano on Midway $2008

Ticket for opening day which sold for $2008, one of the highest prices paid for a single ticket.

Clow Single Ticket $1016, 952

These are examples of multiple bidders driving up prices as Clow tickets
generally are less than $500. Some collectors have tried to acquire each letter/color on the tickets and someone finding the elusive one they needed could account for the high prices.

Mammoth Ice Caves $1000

Contrary to popular beliefs, the caves were NOT on the Midway. The
only known ticket does not have the Caves printed on it but rather the
concessionaires—Keith & Allabough.

Grand Ball after the fair
for employees $956

International Ball $239

2018 10-cent good for use in phone booth-$341 (unique ticket)

Whaling Ship “Progress” $1500

Kodak permit for camera use $750

Kodak sticker permit for the
camera $275

We know of at least one other hanging permit that was torn at the bottom. This is the only sticker we have ever seen and we assume it was given out with the permit–to hang around the photographer’s neck and the sticker to put on the camera.

Chocolate Menier $455, 388, 299, 275, 200, 100

One of many chocolate vendors onhe grounds. Interestingly every  ticket known is marked “series II”and we know of no series I.

Hagenbeck’s Circle $380

Hagenbeck’s Arena $160

2018-Hagenbeck”s Private Box-Unique $550

Hagenbeck’s workman pass $154

Dozens of Hagenbeck tickets are known and they generally sell in the $80-150 range

German Concert Garden $312, 2018-$78

Over the years we have seen many Concert Garden tickets and simply have not recorded prices; but the tickets generally are $250-$350

Dahomey $300, 215, 200

Dahomey tickets are quite rare and one could expect to pay $250-$450 for an example today.

Java Theater $289, 175, 165, 2018: $71


Libbey 10, 15, 25 cent–$283, 275, 203, 193, 192

These admission tickets were exchanged on goods in the huge glassware facility. We

 heard of ticket selling for over $300 on ebay in April 2018


Turkish Theater $275

Turkish Theater is very scarce but not as much as only one record here would indicate.


Lapland $332, 299, 289, 250, 150

Very typical of pricing and how it varies based on many circumstances; a Lapland ticket is very desirable and a current price of $250-$350 is typical.


German Restaurant Table d’hôte $675, 500

2018-Golden Door Restaurant in Transportation Building plus card for Table d’hote $322


Cairo Street 25 cent ticket $285  
Cairo Street Pass $350  
Cairo Street Handwritten pass $800

2018-Egyptological Exhibition adjacent to Cairo Street, tombs/mummies, etc. UNIQUE-$900

Cairo prices area clearly going up. Handwritten passes are very rare and seemingly bargains at any price

2018-Captive Balloon, no known ticket for balloon ride, this for restaurant in the partk Unique-$750

Steamship return checks $352 x 4

A single purchase of $1408; normal steamship tickets (one-way, round-trip, rounded corners, squared corners) are scarce but not rare and can usually be had for $75-$150.

Ice Railway $261, 250, 250, 245

Ice Railway strip of three $448

Ice Railway joined pair $299


Movable Sidewalk $203, 179, 160; 2018-$196
(blue and green, no difference )
Movable Sidewalk complimentary ticket $462

As with many concessions that have a historical price of $125-250 you can expect to pay closer to $300 as of 2018 and the growing demand from a growing population of  collectors. Comp ticket is the only one every seen.


International Dress & Costume  (Beauty Show)    

Pass $875, 465 ; ticket $285, 282, 275; contractor pass $294


French Cider Press
10 cents, porcelain or glass- $2000

Arrived from auction cracked; Could well have been $4,000-5,000 undamaged.


German Village Free Cup of Cocoa (octagonal brass token) $995

Stand 101—sale when this Stand number was first discovered; still
somewhat scarce. $575



Ticket through police line  dedication/parade $633, 406

Hand-written note through the police is known to exist and sold in the vicinity of $1000 circa 2005

Austro-Hungarian Gazette  $717
pass to the fair from the paper (very odd piece)

2018-Admission to Illinois Board Session (Unique)–$700

Complimentary pass to grounds $231

There are no fewer than a dozen different passes used for admission to the grounds.

Pass to the grounds, $231, 170

Press Pass (reserved) to the grounds   $494

Admit to the Grounds before April 30   $499

Closing Ceremonies pass $598

Reserved seat for dedication $362

Dedication Ceremonies, various passes and tickets $494, 359, 300, 287, 215, 191, 184

Dedication reserved seat $362, 128

Civic parade Viewing Stand $361

Corps De Guard Hand written $687

California Building Pass $239

Specific Pre-Opening Pass $425, 249

Pass within Buildings $250

2-part admission, perforated in center $179, 160 (seen as both blue and yellow examples)

Opening Ceremonies pass $263

Press Pass with brown ink and
large image of Columbus $359, 215

Columbian Club ticket ticket book$149

Congress Auxiliary Pass $239

Congress Reporter Table $799

Raymond Vacation ticket book Admission to grounds $388

Several other companies including the Columbian Society provided tickets for lodging, food, entrance to the grounds, etc.

Palmer House Hotel $263
Unclear what the ticket was for



Intramural RR employee pass and ticket book $837

2008 SALE–belonging to Rodney Dexter whose diary and other papers sold in our Heritage auction.

Pass for Intramural Railway $465

Intramural Rwy standard ticket $351, 339, 300, 299, 295, 255, 200, 175, 165; 2018-$149. 78

Intramural Rwy
—Employee and exhibitor strip ticket from book $837, $339 $2018- $450, $159
—Commissioner strip ticket $1912, 999, 2018-$650
—Complimentary standard blue ticket $999, 400
—Engineer’s pass $750

Pennsylvania RR ticket to fair for Eugene Field $598

2018: John Bull Train, including specific days (ie Railroad Day) have brought $30-$60 routinely over the years. 2018-$294, 74



Steamship pass $388

2018: Steamship one-way tickets–$178, 157, 108, 78, 66

Steamship ticket $75-150

Steamship tickets from downtown to fair pier were white, brown, one way, roundtrip and rounded corners and squared quarters. They typically sell for $75-$150.

EL&N Co./Electric Launch and Navigation Co. $305, 261, 239, 203; 2018- $108



Contractor $294, 2018-$158, 66

Wagon Permit $396

Workman’s pass/permit $342, 334 294, 231, 179, 160, 154

Import pass (unclear as to purpose) $599

Employee pass to grounds $362, 254, 158

Admit before April 30 $499

Press Pass $275, 149, 114

All ticket information copyright 2018, Norman P. Bolotin, The History Bank

Major Columbian Ticket Rarities Sale Announced for this Summer

We are in the midst of assembling more than 125 lots of Columbian material for a forthcoming sale. Our plans are for a two-part sale–tentatively in July and September–which will include a remarkable collection of tickets discovered recently in a New York estate.

The tickets were in a homemade album and a couple, sorting through the belongings of a relative, discovered the album among stacks of personal papers. The tickets have all been carefully removed from the album and while they have small glue or paper remnants on the back, they display perfectly well with no damage on the front.

We are currently inventorying the tickets, cataloging them in relation to similar and identical tickets, and appraising each one based on known sales of identical tickets over the past 40 years.

Thus far we have discovered at least ten previously unknown and unique tickets. In our 40 years of studying the World’s Columbian Exposition and fair tickets, passes and related paper items, we have never found a collection or accumulation with so many unique pieces before.

Obviously, having researched, studied, collected and sold Columbiana and Columbian tickets for nearly 40 years, this is the most exciting find we have had the good fortune to study and appraise.

The two sales will be a “Bid or Buy” and will be on our “” site. Every ticket will be photographed and as opposed to many sales which provide only the most basic information, we will include historical sales data and information about the concessions/tickets.

In a “Bid or Buy” sale, participants will have the opportunity to enter a “buy” amount and instantly own the item. Those taking the more conservative “bid” route will have theopportunity to enter a single bid and the highest bid will win the item unless the “buy” option is used.

For example, a minimum bid of $200 may be set and a “buy” figure of $400. If no one purchases at the $400 level, the highest of the $200+ bids will win. This structure allows sales participants the opportunity to avoid protracted bidding and obtain the items for the most reasonable amount. We will set the “buy” prices based on historical sales data and the overall process should allow buyers to obtain rare tickets at a very reasonable price.

The lots will be divided roughly in half between the two sales and should any tickets fail to sell, we will offer them immediately after the second sale on ebay.

Besides the tickets a small number of other Columbian rarities will be offered in the sale.

When my own collection of World’s Columbian tickets was sold in 2008 by Heritage Auctions, approximately 600 tickets (many in multiple ticket lots) grossed approximately $40,000. This collection of 125 tickets should easily average more per ticket than we did in 2008.

We will publish an essay on tickets on this site shortly, including historical prices for tickets–in multiple sales–which can be used as important guides to the values of the tickets in these forthcoming sales. Look for this document shortly after the posting of this one.

In our continuing research and writing about the World’s Columbian Exposition, we are cataloging ALL tickets from the fair and also working on a study of concessions and other financial aspects of the fair. The essay that follows provides the most comprehensive details on Columbian tickets yet published.

If you have questions or comments on the upcoming sales or on our research please contact me at or via phone at 425-481-8818. I am always looking for additional data and for previously unknown tickets which collectors or museums may own.vt_2063_front.jpg

The Vertical Transit ticket is quite rare and I was fortunate to have acquired a lot of six about 15-20 years ago, which sold for $795 each. The forthcoming sale includes a Vertical Transit ticket, one of which hasn’t been seen in the marketplace in many years.

51 Different World’s Columbian Day of Sale Tickets Now Identified

Last December (2017) we reported that a new number/letter combination from the World’s Columbian Exposition Day of Sale tickets had been found, a ticket bearing the combination 5/Y. We failed, at that time, to report on the collector who had just acquired that piece, a longtime friend, Keith Demke.

After reviewing our complete list of tickets which we published last June, Keith also reports another previously unknown ticket in his collection, 4/L.

It’s rather remarkable that we now have identified 51 different tickets and one has to wonder how many others were used at the fair. In reviewing our files for nearly two decades of information on this subject to prepare this article, we noticed that two earlier discoveries had somehow gone unreported; we have added those (4/M and 6/M) to our master list of known number/letter combinations.

Harlow Higinbotham explained his logic in using so many different combinations and it was a shock to collectors to discover that long-held assumptions about the tickets were wrong. Higinbotham explained the fair’s approach in his post-exposition final report to his board of directors that random combinations were used to thwart would-be counterfeit attempts. Higinbotham and others in the leadership group of the World’s Columbian Exposition were especially concerned—one might say paranoid—that counterfeiters might discover the day’s ticket information and illicitly sell counterfeit 50-cent admission tickets. Even if they had, the disruption to cashflow from ticket sales that reached 21 million paid admissions hardly could have been significant. But as it was, because of Higinbotham’s vigilance, the forgeries or other entrances without official tickets were virtually non-existent.

The general consensus among collectors which I heard from 1980 forward was that the ticket number probably represented the month of the fair; that made sense when one considered that the combinations only went from 1-to-6 and that the fair was open six months. But that logic failed in a couple of regards, but was still adhered to for years by many. The biggest problem with that theory was the great disparity from number to number when in fact it does NOT coincide with ticket need/attendance by month.

Including the 5/Y and 4/L (and previously discovered 4/M and 6/M) additions, there are 15 known Number 1 combinations; four Number 2; four Number 3; just three Number 4; five number Five; and 12 Number 6. One cannot find any way to correlate that to the months the fair was opened. Also, the collector community theory failed to address the single letter tickets, of which eight are known. But absent any better ideas, that was generally accepted for 35 years, until we discovered and published Higinbotham’s explanation. Just how he or others selected the combinations to use will never be known, but he said it was simply a process of selecting random number/letter combinations and then using them randomly. Consequently, the fact that perhaps the most commonly seen combination is 1/S just means that combination was probably used a bit more than any other. The other bit of deduction in all this that might even contradict our logic in the previous sentence is that tickets were handed to the scores of ticket takers as visitors entered and they were immediately destroyed. Perhaps the tickets in museum and personal collections, the 51 different combinations now known, simply represent the tickets purchased and never used….and the leftover unused tickets that were sold later as souvenirs.

This is all part of that long list of minutiae related to the World’s Columbian Exposition that one can spend endless hours studying and never find the complete answer.

When the first (and thus far only) reference was published about WCE tickets (Doolin, 1980) there were 23 known number/letter combinations. When I sold my ticket collection


We have not been able to quantify Day of Sale tickets extant to provide a statistical rarity, so such categorizing has to come from personal observation. The 6/J ticket shown here, for example, is one of the more scarce tickets. 1/S and 1/L are clearly those we have seen (and that have been reported) most often over the years.

In 2008 we had added 9 more to the total. In the last nearly ten years we have identified another 19 (including the 5/Y and 4/L cited here). Following is a complete list of the 51 known Day of Sale tickets.

Single letters (8): G L, N, R, S*, U, Y, X

Number 1 (15): 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*

Number 2 (4): 2/J*, 2/L, 2/M*, 2/X

Number 3 (4): 3/A*, 3/B, 3/G, 3/H*

Number 4 (3): 4/H, 4/L, 4/M

Number 5 (5): 5/R, 5/S*, 5/T*, 5/U*, 5/Y

Number 6 (12): 6/A, 6/B*, 6/C*, 6/G, 6/J, 6/L, 6/M, 6/N, 6/O, 6/P*, 6/R*, 6/S

The 23 combinations published in Doolin’s work in 1980 are noted with an asterisk (*).

Obviously, should any reader know of other details regarding Day of Sale tickets, including letter/number combinations beyond the 51 noted here, we would be very grateful to hear from you. Please contact The World’s Columbian Journal, Norman Bolotin, at or phone us at (425) 481-8818.