I was referred to this forum by Steve Cyrkin. A form of this posting appeared on his forum this past August.
So I'm going through a box of old books at home that belonged to my Aunt Rosemary who turned 100 years of age this past July (she tells me she's finally downsizing.). In it I find a copy of THE CHALLENGE TO LIBERTY, 1st edition, 1934 by Herbert Hoover in pristine condition w/ an undamaged, clean and tight paper jacket. I open the cover and read, "To my friend, Rosemary M.., with best wishes, Herbert Hoover".
The next book I pick up is a first edition (limited to 50,000 copies according to the dust jacket) of NEW FRONTIERS by Henry Wallace signed inside the front cover. The paper dust jacket is in very good condition w/ extremely little tattering around the edge of the spine.
I have checked on line, and to my untrained eye, both signatures looks authentic (That plus, it's doubtful Aunt Rosemary had any nefarious intentions when she gave me the box in the first place). What do I do about this (if anything)?
Thanks for contacting me. I would be interested in seeing photos of the books & signatures, though I suspect you are probably correct about the authenticity. Here is what I can tell you about each book:
Hoover - Challenge To Liberty is a very common title to find signed. It sounds like your Aunt's book is in exceptional condition which is always a plus. Signed copies are easily available. I think a reasonable retail expectation is probably in the $75 - $150 range. Given the reference to you aunt as a friend, if there is any story about how she knew Hoover, may add to the appeal. Finally, is the cloth cover red or blue and is there a letter A on the copyright page?
Wallace - With a printing of 50,000 you can imagine this isn't exactly rare. That said signed copies are not particularly common. But then the collecting of Vice-Presidential books is a pretty small market. Again the condition sounds like a plus, I would put the retail value from $50 - $125.
As to what to do with the books, you can always list them on eBay and try your luck on what buyers would be willing to spend. Or you can sell them o a book dealer, though you should expect to receive less than the retail price.
I would be more than happy to look at any photos you may have to give you my assessment.
Thanks so much for getting back to me. I will indeed take some photos and post them here; later today, if I get the chance.
Interestingly, when I looked on line for info about the HH book, I found a signed copy (w/o the dust cover or inscription) in Vegas for - hang on - $5000. Maybe there's something to the color of the cloth cover and whether or not there's an "A" on the copyright page after all (Aunt Rosemary's copy is red, and yes - there is indeed a lone "A" under the copyright info).
As for how Aunt Rosemary (nobody's named Rosemary these days - pity, it's such a beautiful name) knew HH (edited from a reply to Steve Cyrkin this past summer):
During the 30s and 40s she worked in Washington, DC for first the Department of Immigration and Naturalization and then for the FBI. Back then, life for a young "career" woman working in the US government was a bit different than it is today. There was a cordiality or an elan - a "way of carrying one's self" that I believe still exists today, but may well be harder to find. My sense in talking w/ her is that back then "genteel deportment" (at least in her circles) was somewhat ubiquitous. In that sense, it was relatively commonplace for folks like my dear Aunt to have cordial, if casual, working relationships w/ folks of some import. Did she know HH? Not in the sense that she was acquainted w/ her boss, J. Edgar., but their paths did cross from time to time. That said, she remembers a "signing party" that was arranged for workers in her specific government division where HH signed copies of his book for employees. She also had (and I now have) signed first editions of FIRST TO GO BACK - AN ARISTOCRAT IN SOVIET RUSSIA by Irina Skariatina signed by the author (paper dust cover intact), and a first edition of FAMOUS LIGHTHOUSES OF NEW ENGLAND by Edward Rowe Snow signed by the keeper and his family of Maine's Owl's Head Lighthouse during the 1930s. There's also the signature of the first keeper's great grandson under those of the then keeper's family. Again, the dust jacket is in pristine condition. On a more personal level, she has numerous letters and memos from J. Edgar inasmuch as he was her boss during her time in D.C.
I would find it extremely useful to find a reputable dealer in the Philadelphia/New York/Washington corridor to whom I could show these materials assuming they are worth the trouble (I live at the beach in South Jersey). It is doubtful anyone in my family besides me would have the appreciation for pieces such as these, so passing them down is unlikely - possible, but unlikely. I'm also not necessarily looking to sell them outright; if the right organization or agency was willing to take them and preserve them for future generations, I could be moved to donate them outright. Ya just can't do this sort off stuff w/ a Kindle, ya know?