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Rare Lincoln items to be auctioned

A California auction house today will sell a Dayton, Ohio, man's collection of rare Abraham Lincoln photographs, documents and other items valued together at about $1 million.

The collection belonged to Lloyd Ostendorf, who died in 2000 at the age of 79. Ostendorf was a leading authority on Lincoln images and photographs.

"He began collecting when he was about 13 and continued until his late 70s," Catherine Williamson, director of books and manuscripts for the auctioneer, Bonhams & Butterfields of Los Angeles, said Monday.

The collection being sold today was not Ostendorf's first, Williamson added. An earlier collection of photographs is housed at the Lincoln Life Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"Earlier in life, he put together a major collection and sold it to the museum for $1 million. He took that $1 million and began collecting more materials. That's a true collector," Williamson said.

Ninety percent of the items being auctioned are photographs, including of Lincoln himself, his wife and children, his birthplace, his home in Springfield, his funeral, his contemporaries and even his horse.

Among the other items are a piece of lapel from the jacket Lincoln wore when he was assassinated, locks of his hair and a casting from a mold of his face made by sculptor Clayton Mills in 1865 before the assassination.

Among the photos to be sold is a picture of Lincoln taken around 1858 that he signed. Its value is estimated at $70,000 to $90,000. About 400 to 500 photographs will be up for bid. There will be just over 200 lots, with multiple items in each lot.

Lincoln sat twice while a sculptor made a mold of his face - once in 1860 during the presidential campaign and then again in 1865. It was fairly common for public figures to do this, Williamson said. The molds were used to make Lincoln masks and busts.

The Ostendorf collection has been highly anticipated, Williamson said, noting that it has taken awhile to come to market, which is typical. Ostendorf's surviving family members are not collectors and did not want to spend money to maintain the collection, she said.

"This is a pretty famous collection," she said. "Everybody who collects 19th-century photography knows who Lloyd Ostendorf was. Most who collect Lincoln memorabilia know who he was. In our world, it was a famous name."

Richard Norton Smith, director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, said the library is aware of today's auction and hopes to be able to bid on items such as these in the future, when funding becomes available through a planned endowment.

The library's foundation hopes to raise $50 million by 2009.

Ostendorf began collecting at the age of 13 after trying to find images on which to base a portrait of the former president.

"He went to the library and did research and found photographs, and it kind of steamrolled," Williamson said.

Ostendorf made a living selling portraits of Lincoln and worked as a graphic illustrator and portraitist.

"That's pretty common with most collectors," Williamson said. "Their vocation and avocation kind of merge."

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523 or chris.wetterich@sj-r.com.

Want more info?

  • What: The Lloyd Ostendorf Collection of Lincolniana

  • When: Today

  • Where: Los Angeles and San Francisco

  • TIME: 1 p.m. PST

  • WEB SITE: ww.butterfields.com/areas/books/7558z/7558z.htm

  • telephone: (415) 861-7500
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