Most writers second-guess the quality of their work, whether these doubts are frequent or limited to insomnia-causing late night angst sessions. Fewer writers guess that those on the bestseller list have these same fears. This week, a letter from a young Theodore Geisel—a.k.a. Dr. Seuss—is available at auction for $3,500. Like Geisel's books, the letter tells a fascinating yet unbelievable story: a vulnerable, personal account of an aspiring author who nearly burned his first children's manuscript.
As we’ve covered before, some literary memorabilia sell for thousands and thousands of dollars. In one insane instance, a Hogwarts Acceptance letter from the first Harry Potter film sold for $40,000. The Harry Potter franchise isn’t the first to sell items from the films for insane amounts of cash. Everything from wallets to toilets to ashes of beloved stars have sold for immense amounts of money. Here are a list of some of the most obscure literary relics sold at auction.
1. Charles Dickens’s Toothpick
Image Via The Telegraph
Engraved with his initials and used on his last visit to America, Charles Dickens’s toothpick sold at action in 2009 for $9,150. The tiny object was put up for auction by heirs of the Barnes and Noble family.
2. Harper Lee Taj Mahal Letter
Image Via Nate D. Sanders
Harper Lee wrote a letter to her friend Doris Leapard in August of 1990 with content spanning all sorts of topics from social revolution to novels she was enjoying. At the end of the letter, Lee even apologized for the quality of her typewriter. Her lyrical style seen in To Kill A Mockingbird was used to trash Donald Trump and his Taj Mahal-inspired casino in New Jersey. The letter sold for $3,926 at an auction in New York in 2016.
3. Sylvia Plath’s Wallet
Image Via Bonhams
A wallet put up for auction included Sylvia Plath’s ID cards including her Boston Public Library, her Poetry Society of America membership card, driver’s license, social security card, and a small photo of Plath with her mother. The wallet sold for $11,669 March 21, 2018. Along with the wallet, some of Plath’s other belongings were also sold including her fishing rod, articles of clothing, and her drawings.
4. J.D. Salinger’s Toilet
Image Via Writers Write
The beloved Catcher in the Rye author’s toilet was sold on Ebay with a letter from the present homeowner, confirming that the toilet was formerly owned by the reclusive author. The item came “uncleaned and in its original condition”, as stated in the ad. The toilet sold for $1,000,000, not including cleaning fees.
5. X-Ray of Ernest Hemingway’s Foot
The injuries shown in the x-rays Ernest Hemingway would later be detailed in his novel, A Farewell to Arms. The x-ray remains in its original hospital file folder with labels identifying it as his. The lot included the x-ray of his foot, ankle, and knee where a bullet can clearly be seen. The auction ended on December 7, 2016 with the x-rays selling for $15,000.
Featured Image Via William Pitt.
One of the six full-sized prototypes of the moving wanted poster of Sirius Black has sold at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas to an anonymous buyer.
Poster sold at auction | Image via Daily Mail
Heritage Auctions is no stranger to breaking world records with selling Harry Potter merchandise, including the chair that J.K. Rowling sat in when she wrote the first two books in the series sold for $394,000.
J.K. Rowling Chair | Image via Daily Mail
The poster was originally estimated to sell for $3,000 – $6,000, but tripled that selling for $18,000. The sold poster is now one of the world’s most valuable Harry Potter movie poster sold to date. The poster itself was a prototype put into production by Warner Bros, but then pulled due to the costly nature of producing them.
The man, Mr. Fox, who bought one of six posters is an avid collector of Harry Potter memorabilia also owning first editions of the beloved series.
Featured Image Via Pinterest
In Lincoln, Nebraska a man named James Seacrest has bestowed a vastly extensive and extremely impressive literary collection to be sold at auction in New York this year. Seacrest passed away in 2016, but for decades before that point he had been a newspaper publisher, and a collector of rare and signed books of all varieties and genres.
James Seacrest | Image Via North Platte Telegraph
Seacrest had dealt heavily in the business of book dealing and collecting. The man was an addict for hard-to-come-by editions of books, and when his home was visited by the Director of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions, James Gannon, the man was taken aback by how long he would have to extend his stay in order to sift through all of the material. Seacrest had several signed Charles Dickens books, a couple signed F. Scott Fitzgerald books, a signed copy of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, a signed copy of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, a signed book by President Obama, not to mention thousands of other fiction and non-fiction tomes. Gannon says there was even one room in the home entirely dedicated to books on the state of Nebraska’s history!
Image Via Medium
Gannon estimates that the 200 books picked out to be sold at auction should total approximately $440,000 and that proceeds gathered are intended to be donated to various charities of the Seacrest family’s choosing. Apparently James Seacrest was always quite private about his collecting and also about his charitable nature, so out of respect for his legacy the family has declined to announce which charities the money will go to.
I know that I can’t fathom the delight and pleasure of even just holding one of these precious pieces, let alone read from them! I can only hope that they find beautiful, new homes to inhabit!
Feature Image Via Rare Book Hub
A collection of Sylvia Plath’s possessions is being auctioned off by her daughter, Frieda Hughes, including clothes, jewelry, furniture, books with heartfelt inscriptions from husband Ted Hughes, a heavily annotated cook book, and the Hermes typewriter on which the author wrote The Bell Jar.
Among the collection are numerous pieces inscribed with love notes from Plath and Hughes to one another, many of which include the date 1956, the year the pair met, fell in love, and married. The auction will take place at Bonham auctioneers in March. One piece, a sketch Plath drew of Hughes on their honeymoon is estimated to draw upwards of £30,000.
A 1957 first edition of Ted Hughes’ book The Hawk in the Rain is inscribed “to Sylvia, because the book belongs to you just as surely as all my love does.”
There’s also an extremely worn copy of the Shorter Oxford dictionary, which Plath and Hughes bought as a Christmas present to themselves in 1956, and it is inscribed with their names, the date of their marriage, and the birth dates and times of their children, Frieda and Nicholas.
Plath’s proof copy of The Bell Jar is estimated to fetch £60,000 and is inscribed with the address of the home she shared with Hughes. The pre-publication author’s copy, estimated up to £80,000, is inscribed with Fitzroy Road, the flat she and her children moved to after the end of her marriage.
The work in this collection doesn’t stop with Plath’s suicide, a month after The Bell Jar was published. Instead, it continues, thanks to Hughes’ preservation of Plath’s work, including the publication of Ariel which earned Plath a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. Frieda Hughes noted, “Without Ariel, my mother’s literary genius might have gone unremarked forever.”
Also included in the collection, and potentially the most used book of them all, is Plath’s copy of Joy of Cooking, which was given to her by her mother.
“Some of it is hard to read, knowing what happened,” said Luke Batterham, a senior books specialist at Bonhams. “You would have said this was a very happy and enduring relationship, with both of them giving the highest respect and support to each other’s work.”
The collection will be sold at the books and manuscripts auction at Bonhams in London on March 21, 2018.
Featured Image Via the Poetry Foundation.