The first part of the most comprehensive collection of Civil War autographs, photographs and related ephemera ever offered at auction, the Dr. Michael Stevens Collection, made its debut on June 7, 2014 to a crowd of collectors ready and waiting to bid at Heritage in Dallas. When all was said and done, the collection had realized more than $450,000 in Heritage Auctions
$1+ million Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction.
"I have never seen more bidding in an historical auction that we saw on The Stevens Collection," said Tom Slater, Director of Americana Auctions at Heritage. "This is very specialized material, the likes of which is rarely, if ever, seen at auction and the response was unlike any we've ever seen."
Because of its volume and scope, the collection has been divided into three sections, each of which will be offered in its own catalog. After this auction the others are slated for fall 2014 and spring 2015.
A Civil War battlefield pass, a document thought to be perhaps unique, bearing the signatures of both Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln, proved itself to be the top lot of the collection, bringing $20,000. The pass bore safe conduct to its bearer in the last days of the war and is the only document Heritage specialists have ever handled bearing the signatures of both Grant and Lincoln.
A preliminary Emancipation Proclamation broadside, signed in print by Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward, proved quite popular with collectors, bringing $13,750 to shatter it's pre-auction estimate of $1,000, while a William Tecumseh Sherman letter, written after the burning of Atlanta and in which he says he "would not hesitate to burn Savannah..." more than tripled its pre-auction estimate of $4,000+ to equal the $13,750 mark.
A rare photograph of Robert E. Lee with his beloved horse Traveler, autographed by the general, was the subject of much early interest and finished the day with a price realized of $5,000, while a partially-smoked cigar from General Grant the General was rarely seen without his trademark cigar and would ultimately succumb to throat cancer widely believed to have been caused by his passion for tobacco realized $3,250.
In addition to collecting the tangible relics of the conflict, Dr. Stevens has been active in advocating for Civil War battlefield preservation, currently serving as president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT).
"Part of my motivation is to use a portion of the proceeds from this auction to further my efforts to preserve our remaining Civil War battlefields," said Dr. Stevens. "Some 30 acres of battlefield land, land 'well watered with the blood of heroes,' is being lost daily, and I want to do all I can to slow that destruction down."