USS Constitution naval flag collection coming to US auction

A unique collection of rare US naval flags, including several from the historic USS Constitution, is coming to auction in Philadelphia on April 30.

The Dietrich Collection contains 11 flags from the famous ship, which have never been available on the open market before.

Three United States Navy ensigns will feature. A rare 31-star, 16 foot wide ensign, flown from the Constitution circa 1851, has a high estimate of $250,000, a valuation matched by a circa 1837 Commodore's Broad Pennant from the ship.

USS Constitution flag
A 31-star circa 1851 ensign, flown from USS Constitution, is estimated at $250,000

A rare circa 1846 28-star variant has a $200,000 valuation, the same figure as that put forward for a 19-star offering from 1816.

The USS Constitution was launched in 1797, and is the oldest commissioned naval vessel. Known as "Old Ironsides", she last sailed on her 200th birthday in 1997, and currently resides in her hometown of Boston.

"These flags are actual artefacts of 'Old Ironsides', flown during many pivotal moments in the nation's as well as the world's history," said the auction house's chairman Samuel M Freeman.

Several foreign naval ensigns from the Constitution will also feature, including English and Imperial Brazilian specimens, both from the first half of the 19th century and both carrying high estimates of $50,000.

An extremely rare 13-star US naval colour from the late 18th and early 19th century is the oldest flag in the auction.

The six by 10 foot ensign, not among those flown by the Constitution, has not been provided with an estimate, yet its considerable age should ensure it performs well.

"I'm not aware of any other ships' colors of this size and scope from the Civil War or an earlier period," the auction house's J Craig Nannos told the Philadelphia-based Inquirer newspaper.

"Naval flags [from that time] don't exist — that's what makes these unique."

The only surviving Union Jack from the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, flown on board HMS Spartiate, sold for £384,000 in 2010 - a record for a Union Jack at auction.

Currently in stock we have one of the most important and stunning Cuban flags in existence: a unique pre-revolution Cuban flag, autographed by both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.


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