BOSTON – Hedge fund manager Victor Niederhoffer is also a noted collector, and RR Auction is offering more than 100 rare and significant letters from his vast collection. Bidding begins June 22 and the online auction will conclude Thursday, June 28. The fully illustrated auction catalog can be viewed on LiveAuctioneers.
A highlight of the collection is a Ronald Reagan heartfelt and heartbreaking letter to his daughter. Written during a particularly trying period, this emotional letter captures Reagan reflecting on his family’s history as well as on his own mortality.
The one-page letter on both sides of his personal letterhead signed “Love, Dad,” and is dated Dec. 24, 1989. The letter to his estranged daughter, Patti Davis, reads in full: “Alright I’ll quit bothering you but I had more in mind than arguing politics. The line in the song says it all; ‘The days dwindle down to a precious few.’ On Feb. 6th I’ll be 80 years old. Your mother and I are hard put to understand the separation between us and our first born. It didn’t just happen with your growing up and leaving home. I can recall your mother coming home in tears after driving you to school. She couldn’t understand your complete silence even to the point of your not saying ‘goodbye.’ Was it having to share with a newborn brother? I remember a loving daughter who never let us leave the house without waving goodbye from the window. We have some snapshots that reveal a difference in a little girl. We ask ourselves, ‘what did we do wrong?’ We were once a loving family. Well as I said earlier ‘I’ll stop bothering you’ but I don’t understand the separation of our family. I recall a little girl sitting on my lap and asking me to marry her. Her mother across the room behind her signaled me to say ‘yes.’ So I did and explained we’d have to wait until she was a little older.” Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, addressed in Reagan’s own hand and bearing a pre-printed free frank. Also includes a handsome leatherbound presentation folder (estimate: $20,000+).
“It’s a moving letter from father to daughter in the hopes of reconciliation, which would come at last in the mid-1990s following the news of his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction.
Niederhoffer only selects content-rich and historically vivid correspondences, and these offerings are the best examples of the diverse writers featured, from the arenas of politics, science, sports, literature and more. From Werner Heisenberg to Thomas Jefferson to Charles Darwin, each intimate letter sheds a rare light on their personal day-to-day lives. In Victor’s own words:
“I started collecting at 25 – very eclectic interests. The publishers and sellers have told me that often people collect one or two fields; what’s unique about me is that I collect in every field. Each week, the sellers would come to my office. If I’d had a good week in the market, I’d use my entire winnings. I bought them from key sellers in the area, and from auctions,” said Niederhoffer.
“I collected for about 20 years, buying most in the 1970s. I kept them in archival volumes and often looked at them with great longing and nostalgia. I gained a lot of happiness looking through them and sharing with my family.
“The letters form a real tapestry of history. Nothing was bought just to fill a hole. They all show a tremendous vitality and the key events of their time.
“What’s amazing is that all the writers were very salient; e.g., presidents Grant or Monroe or Jackson, you never think of them as great intellectuals. Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt … they always wrote great, poignant letters. I prefer letters to historic documents because by the time they come to the president, they’re antiseptic and for posterity. Letters explain how people were really feeling. It gives you a feeling of what the normal day-to-day life was.”
In addition to the Ronald Reagan letter to his daughter, highlights include:
– Gen. Washington’s Revolutionary War-dated letter resupplying his troops prior to the 1779 Sullivan Expedition (estimate: $20,000+).
– Thomas Jefferson’s letter successfully reducing taxes on American cargo with the aid of the Marquis de Lafayette (estimate: $25,000+).
– Werner Heisenberg on the atom bomb and the Nazi government: “I was never in doubt about the fact that the German regime consisted in its most official positions of fools and scoundrels” (estimate: $30,000+).
– Charles Darwin replies to a German physician: “Such cases certainly occur in non-Jewish families.” (estimate: $7,500+).
– Louis Pasteur writes a page of “Notes on the Cell Structure of the Silk Worm” (estimate: $15,000+).