In November 2013, an auction house in Dallas advertised that it was selling a rocking chair that John F. Kennedy used in the White House along with two flags that were anchored behind his desk. The minimum bid prices for the chair and pair of flags were $50,000 and $100,000, respectively.
Collectors who wanted to buy a piece of history doled out big dollars for everything from Kennedy’s Air Force One leather bomber jacket (sold for $570,000) to a set of presidential golf balls (sold for $30,710.40) to the personalized pen he used to sign the 1961 Peace Corps Act (sold for $17,400).
Since promotional pens are ubiquitous these days – almost every business, small and large, gives them away in an effort to boost their marketing and advertising – it seems amazing that someone would not only pay for one of these giveaways, but pay dearly.
But the market for JFK memorabilia goes far beyond everyday promo pens. The white 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible that JFK and his wife, Jackie, rode in went for $318,000. The buyer was Jim Warlick, a North Carolina native and big-name collector of JFK artifacts. He also forked out $210,000 for a black 1960 Mark V 6 Lincoln Continental limo that was at the president’s disposal for non-White House business. This despite the fact that neither of these cars was the car Kennedy was riding in when he was shot in Dallas. That vehicle, a 1961 Lincoln Continental, was impounded after the president’s assassination.
If someone would pay $17,000 for a promotional pen and $318,000 for a car from the 1960s, how much would that person pay for an article of clothing worn by the iconic Kennedy? As it turns out, a lot. In Feb. 2013, a collector paid $570,000 for Kennedy’s Air Force One leather bomber jacket (size 44). This amount was well beyond the $40,000 at which it was valued.
Interestingly, the clothes worn by John F. and Jackie Kennedy at the time they were assassinated were not auctioned. The reason for this is they are currently located in the National Archives facility in College Park.
While the much-esteemed president’s clothing can be viewed for research purposes, according to a policy established by the Kennedy family, the first lady’s infamous bloodstained pink suit is not allowed to be viewed by the public until 2103. The suit was a knockoff of a Coco Chanel design.
In 2003, Caroline Kennedy gave the suit as a gift to the people of the United States with the stipulation that it would not be put on display until 2103 to avoid sensationalizing the violent act.
Even at that time, the Kennedy family will need to be consulted before it is displayed.