Capturing American history in real time is hard enough. But to commemorate, collect and chronicle American history on paper is truly an art form. One of the best curators of this pursuit is Eric C. Caren, a 60-year-old collector and history aficionado who possesses more than one million pieces in his personal collection. This week, 115 select items from his immense assortment head to auction in a much-anticipated Sale, for which Caren independently obtained PSA certification on all individual items.
“Based on results from previous consignments that I had further examined and certified by PSA, I felt it was important,” said Caren, a Rockland County, NY native who has been collecting American history since age five. “Materials I’ve consigned in other auctions that were PSA-certified and slabbed did much better than I had anticipated.”
The items going up for bid represent Caren’s eighth single-owner auction in the past six years and provide an incredible look into history through the lens of multiple centuries. The selection contains printed books, broadsides, letters, manuscripts and photography including what is perhaps the earliest, exact-dated photograph (Dec. 2, 1839) taken by Alfred Swaine Taylor, a British toxicologist and an early experimenter in photography.
“My attempt with each auction is to provide a mix of events from Christopher Columbus right up to the computer age,” said Caren, who has been referred to as the “Babe Ruth of historical collecting” by both trade and mainstream media.
“I’ve never lost my childhood sense of wonder. My hope is that this unveiling will open up a whole new world of opportunity for seasoned and beginning collectors of all historical topics.”
Top lots in the auction include: a John Hancock signed commission (Feb. 19, 1777) of Major General Benjamin Lincoln who was then the highest-ranking General under Washington in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War; a typed “God” letter from Albert Einstein (July 2, 1945) that he signed “A. Einstein” and in which the self-proclaimed atheist debates the existence of God; a 1904 World Series postcard (dated Oct. 1905) hand-written and signed “Mac” by New York Giants player/manager John McGraw after his team beat the Philadelphia A’s in five games; and a George Washington autograph letter signed “Go. Washington” (Feb. 5, 1783) in which the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army speculates to longtime friend Bryan Fairfax whether the next news coming from Great Britain will be “the continuance of the War – or acceptance of Peace.” The sale also boasts the earliest procurable newspaper mention of baseball from The Sun(NY) in 1834.
John Reznikoff, PSA’s historical and political autograph authenticator, examined the various lots and came away duly impressed.
“The staggering range of documents within the collection, from colonial times in America all the way up through the 20th century, is what’s most remarkable,” he said. “The items range from the most famous signature in history, John Hancock’s, to more contemporary newspaper accounts of historical events. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better John Hancock [signature], except for the one that’s on the Declaration of Independence.”
Added Caren: “Most all Revolutionary War military commissions are found tattered, if not in pieces, due to soldiers folding and refolding their commissions. This Hancock-signed commission is in amazing condition.”
Reznikoff believes the collaboration between PSA and the Eric C. Caren Collection could prove to be groundbreaking.
“Though PSA is more known for sports, they have the resources and talent in the historic field where I believe the excitement that currently exists in sports could potentially be achieved in historical items as well,” he said.
PSA has the world’s largest and most diverse lineup of veteran authenticators who service a wide range of collectibles ranging from early American history to entertainment to sports trading cards, autographs and memorabilia. Since 1991, PSA has examined and certified over 37 million collectibles with a combined value of over $1 billion. For more information, visit www.PSAcard.com.