Gandhi memorabilia archive could bring $1.1m at Sotheby's

An extraordinary archive of personal letters and documents relating to the life of Gandhi will be sold next month, as part of a Sotheby's auction in London on July 10.

The archive consists of 18 files, each containing a wealth of material which sheds light on the Indian political leader's fascinating life. They include unpublished letters, signed telegrams, correspondence from his family and documents relating to his political campaigns.

The files come from the personal collection of Hermann Kallenbach, the German-Jewish bodybuilder who became one of Gandhi's closest friends during his time in South Africa.


gandhi archive
The archive consists of thousands of unseen documents

The historic importance of the archive has already led an attempt by the Indian Government to purchase it from Kallenbach's family in Israel - but they were unable to match its high valuation of £500,000-700,000.

The files will head to auction at a time when Gandhi memorabilia is more sought after than ever. In October 2011 a single handwritten letter sold for $20,572, and a sample of soil stained with his blood brought $15,940 in April 2012.

In a recent interview with Paul Fraser Collectibles, Richard Westwood-Brookes of the British auction house Mullock's commented on the increasing market for Gandhi memorabilia.

"He [Gandhi] has always been high in value, but now of course we have the emergence of the Indian economy... for that reason I am sure his memorabilia will continue to soar in value."

The booming Indian economy has created a new generation of wealthy collectors, who have demonstrated a desire to acquire their nation's historic artefacts. A recent sale of Gandhi memorabilia saw 25 lots, which included the soil stained with his blood, purchased by the Indian publishing magnate Kamal Morarka who expressed his desire to return the artefacts to their country of origin.

"The purchase is not a commercial decision but an emotional one," he stated. "We don't intend to re-sell such objects but to bring them back to India".

With such passion driving the auction prices, it will come as no surprise if the archive exceeds its estimate and cements Gandhi's place as one of the most sought-after names for political collectors.

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