Rare Button Gwinnett signature coming to auction

Button Gwinnett's signature - one of the world's rarest and most sought after - is coming to auction.

Only 51 examples of the US politician's signature are known, including one on the Declaration of Independence.

Button Gwinnett autograph
 One of just 51 Gwinnett signatures

Of those 51, only 10 are in private ownership, making the October 20 auction at Mullock's in the UK an occasion to relish for autograph collectors.

"This is the Holy Grail of autographs because it is highly sought after and there are very few around," explained the auction house's Ben Jones.

"Gwinnett is one of the more obscure signatories to the declaration, but because collectors like having all the signatures on the document his is in huge demand."

A Gwinnett signature sold for almost £500,000 ($765,000) in 2010. That one was present on a document. This example comes with a comparatively modest £80,000 ($123,420) valuation, a reflection of its lower status as a clipped signature from an unknown document.

The item has strong recent provenance. US historian Ralph Newman discovered the signature and a collector bought it from him in 1971. It has resided at the North Missouri Historical Society until now.

Gwinnett was born in Gloucestershire, UK in 1735 before heading across the Atlantic in 1765. 11 years later, after rising to prominence as a major plantation owner in Georgia, he was one of the 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence.

Ten months later he died in a pistol duel with a political opponent, who had called him "a scoundrel and lying rascal".

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