Martin Luther King's autograph is a hugely sought after historical artefact.
Up until 1964 racial segregation was in force in America.
Black Americans drank from separate water fountains, ate only at certain restaurants and had limited access to library books. This was a country where you could be lynched for the crime of looking at a white woman - and where the justice system would acquit your killers.
Martin Luther King’s tireless campaigning enacted vast changes in American society.
In 1964, he and other campaigners in the civil rights movement celebrated the passing of the Civil Rights Act.
On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated by a white supremacist.
Around 300,000 people attended his funeral.
King is frozen in time as the powerful orator and tireless activist he was in life.
He occupies the same space as figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, men who enacted great changes by non violent means.
He has taken on the status of an icon – an inspiration for millions around the world.
Demand for his autograph is not limited to North American buyers, with private collectors and museums alike in the market.
Dr King wrote thousands of letters over the course of his life.
As a key figure in the civil rights movement, he was in constant correspondence with hundreds of people.
While his signature is not the rarest around, you’ll find few at auction.
That’s because the recipients of those letters (and their descendants) value them highly.
This in turn has driven up prices.
You can expect to pay up to $20,000 for a handwritten letter and $30,000 for a signed book.
The content is typically excellent
King was a superb writer.
As a preacher, he’d mastered the art of rhetoric.
And he often wrote his letters and book inscriptions in the same stirring style he became known for in his speeches.
Also, given he packed so much into such a short time, many of his letters relate to defining moments in American history.
The Alabama bus boycott, the march at Selma, the march on Washington...
King was at the centre of planning for each of these events.
And, as quality is high across the board, competition is fierce even for minor examples of his autograph.