Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2004 Issue

The Second Boston Massacre

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First impressions of this item have been selling for many, many times this estimate for years. In fact Grogan themselves sold one fifteen years ago for about $30,000. The first strike is an acclaimed rarity and the re-strike simply an attractive and collectible image. According to Bill Reese, the rare books and Americana dealer, because this is an item that appeals to collectors in a variety of fields, it is often sold outside of thoroughly described book and ephemera sales and hence is only occasionally in book auction records. ABPC finds two copies. The AED finds three other references under the title and two others under Paul Revere and the date range 1770:1771. An example of the re-strike was sold by Sotheby's in 2003 for $9,000 against a $2,000 to $3,000 estimate [AE record NO7865-4].

Eric C. Caren of The Caren Archive, Inc. described this sale "as unusual because the Revere came up in an out-of-the-way place. Chris Coover of Christie's and I speculated a few months back about what one would bring in the current market and Chris thought $150,000 was about right. I bought my Revere-Massacre in 1986 for $8,000. This image is a cross-collectible icon for aficionados of printed Americana, historical newspapers, broadsides and historical American engravings." Eric was one of the telephone bidders.

Both Evans [B3156] and Shipton & Mooney [42050] record it. The Church catalogue, now almost 100 years old, describes it as item 1078. Sabin of course describes it [80672]. In 1941 Lathrop Harper offered an English impression of this broadside printed the same year that had belonged to "Samuel G. Drake." His price was $125. Goodspeed offered a second English printing in 1967 for $500 and in 1971 a copy of the first American impression, signed at the bottom Col[ore]d by C[hristai]n Remich, for $15,000. Mr. Reese believes that six other copies of the 1770 American printing have changed hands over the past twenty years.

In the run-up to the sale four persons came forward to suggest this was possibly a first impression. Then, with only a few days to spare the mystery was resolved when the countermark on the paper was confirmed to be consistent with the first impression. By auction time the bidders knew what it was and the lot, still estimated at $2,000 to $4,000, sold for $170,000. All in, with buyer's premium, the full price was $195,500. Ultimately the sale took only about $2,000 a second or 90 seconds in total to identify a new owner who, it turned out, was in the room along with the under-bidder who wanted this broadside only one bid less.

By all reports, this example is a gem. In many cases, when an item far exceeds expectations, it brings out other copies. We'll see what happens in the year ahead.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
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