Filed under: Auctions
On December 3, Christie's will sell at auction a rare first edition of America's national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. Composed by poet Francis Scott Key during the evening of September 13, 1814, the sheet music will be offered in Christie's "Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana" sale at its headquarters at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. The pre-sale estimate for the lot is $200,000 to $300,000.
The sellers are two retired Pennsylvania antique dealers who bought the sheet music as part of an album in 1989 for $50. The dealers only later realized the significance of what was contained in the album.
According to Chris Coover, senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Christie's in New York, the dealers attended many small auctions in the Pennsylvania area over a period of many years. At one of these small auctions, they acquired an album that contained popular songs from the 1814 era with most of the songs being undated. "After buying the album, the dealers studied it closely and realized it contained a first edition of The Star Spangled Banner which was bound into the album," says Coover. "They did their homework and realized they had a very rare piece indeed. They were thrilled to be the owners of a great piece of Americana."
According to Coover, there are only eleven copies still in existence, including this one, though, until recently, it wasn't well known that this one even existed. "It is the only one still in private hands with all others owned by institutions," says Coover. "It is quite a rarity."
Gallery: Star Spangled Banner