Barry Landau is one of the most prominent collectors of American historical documents and presidential memorabilia, accumulating more than 10,000 items over the years. But last month, Landau and an associate were arrested and accused of stealing many of those documents from historical societies, libraries, and universities across the United States.
Recently, the market for rare American documents has been booming. Last year, Sotheby’s sold a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln and once owned by Robert F. Kennedy for nearly $3.8 million, and in 2009, Christie’s sold a 1864 victory speech hand-written by President Lincoln for more than $3.4 million. According to Sotheby’s, the overall auction market for rare American historical documents totals $30 million to $50 million annually.
The story recently took another interesting twist, as Landau, strapped for cash, needed to apply for permission from the court to sell an Andy Warhol print of Elizabeth Taylor and other collectibles to pay for his living expenses. In order to guard against the potential sale of stolen goods or evidence, one of the terms of Landau’s bail agreement is that he seeks court permission before selling or disposing of any assets. Last week, Judge Catherine Blake granted his application.
Landau has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but there is speculation he may change his plea at an upcoming hearing.
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