Swann Galleries has withdrawn six lots of material from Ronald Reagan’s presidency from its May 23 autographs auction in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which mandates the preservation of all presidential records that are generated in the course of doing governmental business composed after Jan. 20, 1981. The redacted material comes from the files of Anne Higgins, Reagan’s Special Assistant and Director of Correspondence, and was consigned to Swann by a relative of Ms. Higgins. The auction house made the decision after receiving a notice from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The withdrawn lots include, according to a statement from Swann, a draft of a letter to Felix J. Cuervo, the founder of the Native New Yorkers Historical Association; a note signed ‘RR’ to an unemployed black Vietnam veteran; and “an archive of over 50 notes from Reagan to Higgins, many written on or relating to letters from citizens addressing the president.”
“I wasn’t aware of the Presidential Records Act,” said Marco Tomaschett, a specialist in Swann’s autographs department. “In fact, we’ve never received a consignment where there were so many letters of this kind. Anyway, we don’t normally have this problem.”
At the moment, the correspondence is still in Swann’s possession, but will not be hitting the block at Thursday’s sale.
“It’s likely that the material will go back to the consignor, who will then fight it out with the government,” Mr. Tomaschett said. “But that has not transpired. We may end up being subpoenaed by the government, but they better hurry.”
The sale has around 260 lots, which includes a signed letter by Thomas Jefferson as well as one item dating from Reagan’s presidency: a signed holiday card announcing the arrival of a new family dog, valued between $700 and $1,000.
“It also has a paw print from the dog,” Mr. Tomaschett said, “which I’m counting as a signature.”