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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 44, October 28, 2007, Article 22

MONTROVILLE DICKESON HANDBILL ON EBAY - A LESSON FOR BUYERS

Pete Smith writes: I was very excited by an item that 
appeared on EBay last week. It was a handbill promoting 
a lecture by Professor Montroville Dickeson and presentation 
of the Egan Panorama. E-Sylum readers may recall my report 
of viewing the panorama at the Minneapolis Institute of 
Arts on July 29, 2004.

"Dickeson is the author of a pioneering encyclopedia on 
American coinage. He studied the Ohio and Mississippi 
valleys and dug Indian mounds between 1837 and 1844. The 
panorama, painted by John Egan in 1850, is 7.5 feet high 
and 348 feet long. It was mounted on rollers that were 
turned to show each scene. Dickeson’s lectures around 
1852 were theatrical performances based on his observations. 
While the handbill is not a piece of numismatic literature, 
it is a great “association” item.

"In my library I have five books and catalogs related to 
the Dickeson – Egan Panorama. This is not an indication 
of the breadth of my library but rather the depth of my 
interest in the panorama. The handbill would be a great 
addition to my collection.

"I hoped the handbill might slip by unnoticed. After two 
days the bid stood over $60 indicating at least two bidders 
with a serious interest. Two days later the bid was at 
$16.50. An earlier bid of $355.75 was withdrawn with the 
explanation, “Entered wrong amount.” I knew it would take 
a bid over $60 to get back in competition.

"“Mississippi Panorama,” edited by Perry Rathbone, is 
the catalog of an exhibition in St. Louis in 1949. This 
has an illustration of a Dickeson handbill with a blank 
space near the top. I assume these were printed in large 
quantities with a specific time and location added later. 
The item on eBay had the space filled with “at the City 
Art Museum of Saint Louis.”

"Here is where the story gets interesting. The book has 
this statement about the 1949 exhibition, “The original 
handbill, twenty inches long, advertising Dr. Dickeson’s 
“magnificent scenic mirror, was reproduced in facsimile. 
With the Museum inserted, copies were given to the audience 
as souvenirs of “this gorgeous Panorama.” 

"An original handbill from 1852 would be ephemeral, with few 
survivors (which is why we call it ephemera). A souvenir from 
1949 is much more likely to be retained.

"The item closed Sunday night at $218.49 with the underbid 
at $215.99. The third bid was $105. Six bidders participated 
with 15 bids.

"I won’t pretend to know what the item is worth. If I thought 
it was an original handbill from 1852, I would still not have 
bid enough to win the item. As a 1949 souvenir, the item is 
worth considerably less. I have no way of knowing what the 
seller thought he was selling or the bidders thought they 
were buying.

"It is quite likely that the buyer doesn’t have the book. 
There are a couple of other clues to age. The City Art Museum 
of Saint Louis was named in 1912, a fact easily found on the 
web. Also the paper has the color of deteriorating modern 
paper rather than 1852 era paper. This is easy to say when 
one knows the facts.

"A specialist or scholar with a good library may find bargains 
on eBay based on knowledge of the topic. Knowledge and a 
good library can also keep one from bidding too much."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
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