When our recently-signed client asked me to come out to his beautiful estate on Lake Minnetonka, he asked me if I knew much about John F. Kennedy documents. Honestly, I said “not much”. Nonetheless, he wanted to be there at 3 o’clock sharp. In preparation for the meeting, I studied everything I could about signed JFK letters so that I could, at least, participate in the conversation. I learned that the values of JFK items depend on whether it was during his year as a Massachusetts Senator or in the White House. Did he sign it Jack? Or John. To whom was he writing? If it was to Jackie, it might as well be a goldmine. The last element that helps determine its value is the subject matter. A letter of condolence for a fallen soldier brings a little bit of money and a “thank you” note goes much higher than that.
As I greeted our client, we started talking about the item and I anxiously listened in anticipation of seeing it. Was it a Jackie letter? Correspondence to a Head of State? A note written to Caroline or little John John?
In an attempt to show our client that I had started our diligence on this unseen JFK piece, I started talking about how the subject matter of the item contributes significantly to its value (yes, I wanted to sound as educated as possible). Stupidly thinking that I could actually teach HIM something, he got a little smile on his face.
With calmed confidence with a hint of giddy excitement he says, “Yes, I think you might find the subject matter kind of impressive. Do you want to see it?”
Yes, dangit. Show it to me! As he pulls it from his safe, I can clearly see that it is a nicely framed letter of some sort. I can’t yet see what’s on the letter, but it’s definitely a letter with the seal of the White House at the top.
He starts walking toward me and begins telling me about his adoration of and respect for JFK and then he says, “but, it’s time to say goodbye to this” and he lays it in front of me. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t have my glasses. I can’t see crap without them. I was doomed. What is in front of me?
With exasperation, I asked him “are those glasses readers and, if so, can I please borrow them for a second”? He obliged and I as put them on my face, there was no question about what the document in front of me was. There was the White House Seal on the top which was perched above the date of 20 January 1961. Right there at the bottom was JFK’s signature.
But, it’s what was right in the middle that made my heart and time stop completely. You just think to yourself, can this be real? Yes, it was real.
It was the Oath of Office for the Presidency of the United States. The date at the top of the document was, in fact, inauguration day and this is one of five copies that he signed immediately after making his inauguration speech as the 35th President of the United States of America.