How Much Would You Pay for Lee Harvey Oswald’s Handcuffs?

This auctioneeer say determining a price for historical memorabilia takes a lot of guesswork.

By Michael MarksNovember 15, 2016 12:12 pm

November 22, 1963: in a movie theater in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Officer Ray Hawkins placed a pair of Smith and Wesson handcuffs on Lee Harvey Oswald. Only an hour earlier, Oswald had assassinated the president.

The handcuffs are ordinary, aside from once being around the wrists of a man who killed a president. And now, they could be yours. Goldin Auctions is auctioning them off, with an opening bid of $50,000. But how do you decide the value of such a unique artifact?

Don Ackerman, consignment director at Heritage Auctions, says they assign value using “a lot of guesswork sometimes.”

“Most of the people that work here as consignment directors are also collectors,” he says. “So we look at these things from the viewpoint of a collector. We try to figure out, If this was something that was offered to me for sale, how much would I pay for it?”

Another aspect is comparing similar items that have sold at auction, but with certain items, that’s impossible. “The collectors will decide what it’s worth,” he says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How they assess demand and marketplace prices, because historical value doesn’t always translate to monetary value

– Ackerman’s interest in auctioning and buying historical and political items

– What price the abolitionist John Brown’s handcuffs got at auction