Autographs: 2016 auction review

We lost some of the biggest and brightest stars of the 20th century this year, with Prince, Muhammad Ali and David Bowie (among many others) passing away.

Demand for their autographs has increased in response, as buyers seek the best of a now finite supply.

However, it was historic names from the past that provided the highest selling lots at auction in 2016

Top autograph sale of 2016

Once again a signature from Abraham Lincoln is the top sale of the year.

Lincoln's abolition of slavery was perhaps his greatest achievement

A signed copy of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, sold for $2.4m at Sotheby's in May.

Lincoln was one of America's greatest political figures and is still regarded with a huge degree of reverence. Rare materials connected with key moments in his presidency are much sought after, even by non-collectors.  

2016's most important autograph sales

Anne wrote the poem five months before her family went into hiding

A poem Anne Frank wrote to a friend just months before her family went into hiding was undoubtedly the most moving lot of the year. It made $148,681 in a Dutch auction. 

A rare signed photograph of mysterious Hollywood bombshell Greta Garbo realised $17,908 at RR Auction this December. She famously hated publicity and rarely signed anything, making this a rare outing for her signature at auction.

You think you know all about Al Capone? Well, in September a tender letter to his son sent from Alcatraz showed a softer side to this notorious gangster. It went for $62,500 at RR.

How does 24.7% growth over six years sound? Not bad I'll bet. A signed Washington letter achieved just that at RR in March, hammering for $119,216.

The most unusual autograph sale of 2016

This September 14, 2001 copy of the New York Times features five presidential signatures

A signed copy of the New York Post's 9/11 commemorative edition signed by five living presidents was the most unusual lot on offer this year.

It made $11,000 at Lion Heart Autographs, which donated its commission to the victims of terrorism charity Tuesday's Child.

It was a breakout year for…

Anne Frank's own copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales sold this year

Anne Frank autographs are extremely rare, so the fact two were offered this year is very unusual. Her signed copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales achieved $50,000 at Swann in May.

It was acquired by the Museum of World War II in Boston, where it will form the centrepiece of its holocaust exhibit.

It was a year to forget for…

One of the most interesting things to keep an eye on next year will be the change in value between autographs signed by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the aftermath of the latter's shock election.

In early November (when Clinton's victory looked more or less assured) we recorded an average of $700 for Clinton signed photos and $450 for Trump. That will almost certainly have switched.  

One you may have missed

Beatrix Potter has illustrated the letter herself

This beautifully illustrated letter by beloved children's author Beatrix Potter was one of the most charming lots sold this year. 

It's addressed to a young fan, assuring them a new book would be out soon. It pulled in £8,500 ($12,027) when it sold at IAA in March.

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