Despite not being an elected or appointed official, the First Lady of the United States holds one of the most important roles in American politics. Over the course of American history, that role has become significantly more influential, and autograph collectors have definitely caught on. Presidential signatures are paramount in the collector’s universe, and those of former First Ladies are not far off.
The newest addition to the Brigandi Collection is a handwritten letter by Jacqueline Kennedy, perhaps the most influential First Lady to date.
Jackie’s biggest task as First Lady was overseeing the restoration of the White House because she firmly believed that the Presidential Home should match the integrity of its tenants and its visitors. This would prove to be beneficial to the President's relations with various dignitaries and foreign leaders.
Prior to the Kennedy administration, Presidential families were free to take items from the White House at the end of their term. Consequently, in her efforts to culturally redefine the Executive Residence, Jackie replaced the Presidential Mansion’s mundane furnishings and artwork with that of much greater historical significance. She then founded various trusts and committees to preserve these historic artifacts, and initiated a bill “Concerning the White House and providing for the care and preservation of its historic and artistic contents.” (Public Law 87-286) This Congressional Bill deemed such items property of the Smithsonian rather than the First Family.
This intimate letter, dated April 27, 1963, is featured on White House stationary and discusses Jackie’s love for fine arts. She alludes to 18th Century Mughal Paintings from India and a manuscript she acquired from U.S. Statesman and Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith
A Jackie Kennedy autograph is highly sought after and worth a few thousand dollars when preceded by one of her thoughtful notes. Simpler pieces, like the cut signature seen below, range from $900-$2,000 depending on condition.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will forever remain an American cultural icon whose grace and elegance consoled the Nation following her husband’s assassination in 1963. Influenced by the great women before her, she continued the tradition and paved the way for those who followed.
Legacies of Other Notable FLOTI (yes… we created our own plural form of FLOTUS)
- Dolley Madison (in role 1809-1814): helped define the early role of FLOTUS, best remembered for saving National Treasures after the British set fire to the White House in 1814. Dolley is also remembered as the first to be titled "First Lady". Prior to her, there was not an official name. They were unofficially referred to as Mrs. President or The President's spouse. Today, a Dolley Madison signature, like the one pictured above, is worth about $1,000. Handwritten and signed notes of high quality with nice content are valued closer to $2,000 and up!
- Eleanor Roosevelt (in role 1933-1945): the first First Lady to have a proactive role in political policy. She truly made a name for herself with her speeches, lectures, and daily newspaper column. Roosevelt signatures are worth several hundred dollars alone, and those penned on Official White House Stationary are certainly more desirable. They were among the first of their kind, highlighting her proactive approach as Presidential Spouse.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton (in role 1993-2001): initiated her own Healthcare reform and went on to a historic political career in her own right as Senator of New York, Secretary of State and breaking the so-called glass ceiling as the first woman nominee of a major party. Estimated values on her signature have dropped since the election, but a full name 'Hillary Rodham Clinton' is worth $400-$700 (note: lately she only signs 'Hillary' which is worth far less)
- Michelle Obama (in role 2009-2017): also known as the First Mother of the United States, she tackled childhood obesity and focused on America’s youth as future leaders of our nation. Michelle Obama autographs are seldom found, as they were difficult to obtain while she was in her role. Most are paired with that of her husband and we're only offered to notable citizens, such as this signed photo personalized for Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks. (sold for about $3,300 in auction). Typically, presidential and FLOTUS signatures become more plentiful after serving since they have more free time to attend fundraisers, book signings and countless public appearances.
Clearly, the political scene in today’s America is divisive and unbalanced to say the least. Following one of the most historic U.S. Presidential elections to date, First Lady Melania Trump will attack cyber-bullying, in an attempt to build on Michelle Obama’s focus on the youth and our future. Hopefully Mrs. Trump can learn from past First Ladies like Jackie Kennedy and create her own legacy! Currently, we don't own any Melania Trump autographs. A few have popped up on eBay, without certification as the usual case, but we did find one authenticated item signed by Melania, Ivanka, and Donald Trump estimated around $2,000 (we handle only items authenticated by reputable, third party professionals). As we mentioned earlier, Presidential and FLOTUS autographs are extremely rare while in office, so we don't expect to see much more for at least the next four years.