Remembering Malcolm Forbes - truly the 'Collector's Collector'
It's been over two decades since the publisher passed on, but his collections still amaze buyers today
Today, February 24th, marks the 21st Anniversary of the death of the late, great Malcolm Forbes - the collector's collector, whose many passions led him to amass some of the most impressive groups of rare and historic items ever seen.
Born in New York in 1919, Malcolm was the son of Bertie Forbes, founder of the famous 'Forbes Magazine' - renowned for its lists. After a distinguished military career during the Second World War, Forbes dabbled in politics before ascending to the ownership of the family business.
Under his stewardship, the magazine became highly successful and world famous as the "capitalist tool" - a moniker that enraged Communist Russia and China, and delighted the ebullient Forbes. He was well known for his lavish lifestyle, famous friends, million dollar parties and his collections.
Forbes' great love was the autograph. He began collecting aged 15, cutting signatures out of correspondence in the Forbes Magazine mailroom. He famously commented:
"None of my other investments give me the joy that autographs do, because they make me feel that I am holding a piece of history in my hands."
By the time of his death, Forbes had amassed 4,000 signed documents relating to Presidents of the United States, with an estimated total worth of over $50m.
Highlights included Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which declared the liberation of 3.1 million slaves. Signed by the President, it is one of the most significant documents in American and Civil Rights history.
Forbes also owned Lincoln's last speech, made at the close of the American Civil War - the billionaire considered it his prize possession, after buying it for $231,000. Other notable items included a letter from Einstein to Franklin Roosevelt, marking the beginning of the US atomic weapons program, and George Washington's request to serve in the military.
He also owned a high-profile set of nine Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs - they were sold after Forbes' death to Russian oil baron Victor Vekselberg for $100m. In addition, the publishing magnate - a keen motorcyclist - had a significant collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and an enormous amount of 19th Century art.
Forbes was a keen hot air balloonist, setting six world records; he also owned a variety of specially shaped balloons. Each time he would visit a country, he would commission a new balloon to honour it, including an elephant for India and a pagoda for Japan.
Possibly the most vast collection owned by Forbes was an array of toys - including early Monopoly sets, toy cars and motorcycles, and a 37 inch model of the Lusitania. Last December, a large number of his toys were sold for $2.38m - you can read more about the sale here.
Forbes' ceaseless passion for collecting the very rarest, most historic and incredibly valuable items was no doubt helped by his enormous wealth - but his dedication to collectibles, and the significant returns they have brought, should always be remembered.
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Image: Alan Light