Generally defined, provenance is the verified, proven history of an item that links that item with someone or an event, in a manner that makes the market for that item react favorably; increasing the value of the item over and above an identical item, which does not share the same linkage.
There are several aspects to provenance that impact value, besides a historical event or a particularly personage, such as the believability or credibility of the evidence that connects the item to the historical event or a particular personage. The market judges this connection and renders a judgment consistent with its evaluation of the connecting evidence. This type of market judgment is most often subjective and very seldom a matter of objective evaluation. Some of the evidence that is often seen can take the form of letters from third parties, pictures, and letters coming from the principles associated with the event or the person his self/herself.
I have seen countless cases where an individual claim that a particular item is connected to a famous person or a famous historical event merely because someone told them it was, or because he has some other facile evidence connecting the two.
When discussing items that are linked to historical events these items and their connections can be ranked in accordance with the significance of the historical occurrence, the market’s reaction to the historical events, and the market’s perception of the connection between the item and the historical circumstance.
There are several tiers that can be helpful in ranking items connected to historical events in terms of the importance of the historical events, and the market’s reaction to items connected with someone or historical events.
First Tier: items connected to historical events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, or the Emancipation Proclamation, etc.
Second Tier: items connected to historical events such as the treaty, which concluded the Civil War, the treaties, which concluded the first and second world wars, or documents pertaining to the secession of the Confederate States of America, etc.
Third Tier: items connected to historical events such as treaties, which concluded various American Indian wars, documents signed by Theodore Roosevelt regarding his campaign against certain giant American monopolies, or original documents pertaining to the United State Supreme Court’s ruling on various import and sociological issues of a particular time in American history, or items or documents pertaining to such historical events such as Louis and Clark’s expiration of the Louisiana Purchase, the weapon used by Aaron Burr his fateful duel which ended up with his untimely death, items connected to famous battle such as Custer’s Last Stand (single rifles or pistols satisfactorily connected with Custer’s Last Stand can bring as much as $60,000), etc.
Forth Tier: items connected to historical events such as the signing of a famous baseball player during a particularly time in American history, items and documents pertaining to such events as famous sporting events, e.g., world champion heavyweight boxing matches, the world series, etc.
Fifth Tier: items connected to historical events such as
Items connected with famous individuals can also be ranked in somewhat the same manner that items associated with our store to events can be ranked.
First Tier: ownership by someone such as President Abraham Lincoln, President George Washington, President Thomas Jefferson, etc.
Second Tier: ownership by such famous personages as General George Armstrong Custer, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, General Benedict Arnold, President Ulysses S. Grant, etc. (A fairly recent sale of a weapon, with good evidence, given by Jesse James to Bob Ford, Jesse James’s assassin and then used by Ford in James’ assassination, sold, at auction, for $350,000. A gun, with more modest proof of authenticity, given by Wyatt Earp to a friend recently, at auction, sold for $87,500.)
Second Tier: ownership by someone such as John Wayne, Theodore Roosevelt, famous Texas Ranger, famous outlaw, etc.
Third Tier: ownership by someone such as James Cagney, the Lone Ranger, Clark Gable, or other Hollywood solid gold icon, etc.
Forth Tier: ownership by someone such as Joel McCrea, recognized, but more obscure law enforcement officers, etc.
The placement of items in the various tiers regarding the various historical events and the various historical personages is arguable, but has been established to this Appraiser’s satisfaction by 33 years of watching items with provenance sell, and the market’s reaction to such items. There are Tiers of provenance below the tiers as herein set forth, and there are rankings within each Tier or even sub-Tiers. There would be great discussion and disagreement among collectors regarding all the rankings and other factors. This is very complicated. The market is not homogeneous in its attitudes, opinions and judgments about such matters.