What's It Worth? by Leslie Hindman

How We Answer "What's It Worth?" Part V: Historical Significance

"What's It Worth" presents the 5th part of our 10 part series.

5.  Historical Significance

This may sound like it is similar to provenance, but it's actually quite different. The best way to explain historical significance with respect to determining value is with a story.

In 1989 a Philadelphia man bought a $4 painting at a flea market, hoping only to salvage the frame. Dissembling it, he found a folded copy of the Declaration of Independence, which he assumed was a nineteenth-century copy. Finally, however, a friend persuaded him to get it appraised, which he did at Sotheby's. To his great surprise, the specialists at Sotheby's declared that this Declaration was one of the originals printed on July 4th, 1776. This document came up for auction in 2000, and was one of only twenty five known to remain in existence (remember the importance of rarity?). All the others were in or had been promised to museums or other institutions, making this copy the only one that could conceivably ever remain in private hands. It sold for $7.4 million to TV producer Norman Lear and a partner, a record price at the time.

Its clear that this document, in and of itself, was a piece of history.

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