Our top five John F Kennedy collectibles

Last week Ted Robinson, who served with the future President John F Kennedy during World War 2, donated some of his personal belongings to the Smithsonian museum. These included a famous picture of a young Kennedy leaning on a cane, and the cane itself.

At that time, Kennedy hadn't decided on a political career. Following his tragic death by Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet in 1963, memorabilia associated with the popular President from all times of his life has become valuable. Here we take a look at some of our favourites:

Photograph of a young, serving Kennedy

In 1943, John F Kennedy's US Navy boat was comprehensively destroyed by a Japanese warship. Kennedy and others swum to a small island. Ted Robinson volunteered for a rescue mission, which found Kennedy and 10 others.

The men were starving and sunburnt, and Kennedy had sustained a back injury, but he hadn't lost his sense of humour.

"'Where the hell have you guys been? I've been standing at this bus stop for a whole week now." he quipped.

Ronbinson shared a tent with Kennedy whilst the latter recuperated, and took a couple of pictures of him, including a now famous one of the young, smiling JFK leaning on a cane to keep the weight off his back.

The 91 year old Robinson has now donated both the original picture (negatives were destroyed on the basis of censorship) and the ironwood cane to the Smithsonian, to help fill out the picture of Kennedy for those who didn't know him.

Double-signed Campaign program

Kennedy's short Presidency saw a number of events which changed America and sometimes the world, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race and the African American Civil Rights Movement.

But of course he had to be elected first. The campaign involved a number of campaign dinners and functions.

A program from one of these, showing JFK with his running mate (and later successor) Lyndon Johnson, is unusual in offering not only John F Kennedy's signature, but also that of his wife Jackie. This is available on the market right now.

JFK's last signature

The Dallas Morning News newspaper ran the headline "Storm of Political Controversy Swirls Around Kennedy On Visit." on the morning of November 22 1963. Kennedy was in Texas to unite Democrats, who had fallen out, and shore up his own brittle support in the state.

On that morning, hotel maid Jan White ran up to the President to ask for his autograph on a copy of the newspaper. This was almost certainly his last signature as he was shot a few hours later.

JFK John F Kennedy last signature autograph
John F Kennedy's last signature
(Click to enlarge)

The newspaper sold for $39,000 at Heritage Auctions last year. Whilst above the $20,000 estimate, we think that this would count as a very safe investment as such a unique and valuable piece of memorabilia with always be in demand.

Jack Ruby's hat

Following Kennedy's assassination Lee Harvey Oswald was himself killed by Jack Ruby live on television. Ruby was wearing a grey fedora with a black band at the time and the call of call "follow the hat" became famous worldwide.

It sold at the same Heritage auction for $53,775.

Letters to Inga Arvad

In 2007, a set of letters written by Kennedy to his lover - a married woman named Inga Arvad - were put up for auction at Christie's.

The secret letters, written in the early 1940s, give some very candid insights into Kennedy's personality. The letters contain filled with sexual longing for his "Inga Binga," resentment at her seeming coolness, and deep bitterness about the waste of war.

The letters are also filled with Kennedy's sense of humour, comments on the relative fighting spirit of Japanese and American soldiers. The Japanese were fighting for the Emperor and their homeland, he says, but Americans "are fighting on some island belonging to the Lever Company".

JFK's letters to Inga Arvard
John F Kennedy's letters to Inga Arvard

JFK also commented on his own saving of a crewman when his ship was sunk, before Robinson's crew liberated them all:

"I received a letter today from the wife of my engineers, who was so badly burnt that his face and hands and arms were just flesh, and he was that way for six days.

"He couldn't swim and I was able to help him, and his wife thanked me, and in her letter she said '...if he had died I don't think I would have wanted to go on living...' There are so many MacMahons that don't come through..."

The unique letters easily surpassed their $20,000-30,000 estimate to be taken home for a grand $144,000.



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