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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 425-481-8818.
Thanks for taking your time to read this material.
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
|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. 6 or 8 (top cut off)
||15 cents Wellington
||25 cents Wellington
||50 cents Wellington
2018 Stand ticket sales: S102-$99. $68, 40, 22; S64-$100; S65 marked Wellington $90;
S58-($5.00)-$190. 159, 95; S22-$32
WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION TICKETS/PASSES BY PRICE
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.
camp chair $1352, 956
FESTIVAL HALL/MUSICAL PERFORMANCES
Festival Hall Railroad Day $598
Festival Hall Closing ceremonies $598
Chorus Membership $717 (Possibly unique)
As You Like It $275
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
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.
MULTIPLE TICKETS SOLD IN GROUPS
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
German Concert Garden
strip of four tickets $325
Moorish Palace strip of
nine tickets with last one
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,
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,
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
GENERAL TICKETS & CONCESSIONS
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
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
DEDICATION, PRE-OPENING TICKETS & PASSES
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
—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