Collecting Abraham LincolnCollectors began keeping objects associated to Abraham Lincoln while he was still serving as President. After his assassination, interest and production of items having to do with Lincoln and his name (Lincoln prints and statues, Lincoln Insurance pamphlets, Lincoln Logs etc.) increased exponentially. That interest remains strong today. Antique hobbyists and dealers can draw two conclusions here. One is that any item having to do with arguably the most esteemed American in history will find a higher value associated with it than a comparable item without it. Two, not only are Lincoln items easy to sell, they are also still somewhat easy to buy. Think about it. You walk into a legitimate estate sale where items have been stored away and maintained in the family since before the Civil War. Isn't it only logical to assume that some tidbit having to do with the fallen President was preserved just as many of us have saved Man on the Moon memorabilia and objects connected to Princess Diana, Elvis and even Bill Clinton? To be successful in the world of antique hunting you'd be well advised to take a positive attitude toward such an assumption.
The most valuable and interesting items having to do with Abraham Lincoln are those objects produced during his lifetime and associated to "The Rail Splitter" and the close circles he traveled in.
On February 12, 1809, Abraham was born in Kentucky - the son of a frontiersman who also dabbled in the art of cabinetmaking, especially corner cabinets. I have inspected many a Southern made piece of furniture over the years looking for a signed piece by "Thomas Lincoln." Abe's life-long rival - Stephen Douglas - also apprenticed as a cabinetmaker in Vermont before moving to Illinois to practice law in the 1830's. Objects associated to Lincoln's parents, Steven Douglas, Mary Todd, John Wilkes Booth, General Grant, Hannibal Hamlin and Andrew Johnson are sought after by many Lincoln collectors as peripheral items.
Exceedingly scarce Lincoln articles predating 1858 - especially newfound items - are one of the Holy Grails in antique circles. Abe Lincoln struck out on his own and worked as a store laborer and rail-splitter in 1826. In 1832 he served as a militiaman in the Black Hawk Wars for a few months before running unsuccessfully for state legislature as a Whig candidate. He began practicing law in Springfield Illinois in 1837. Married Mary Todd in 1842. And he was elected to represent Illinois in Congress in 1847. Lincoln ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senator twice in 1855 and 1858. The second campaign featuring the magnificent "Lincoln-Douglas Debates" would jettison his political career.
Four distinct types of photographs were produced during Lincoln's lifetime: Mirror-like daguerreotypes (1839-1855), glass plate ambrotypes (1855-1865), photos on tinned steel tintypes (late 1850's - 1900) and finally photos on paper (salt prints and albumen prints) that eclipsed other types of photos by 1860.
High-number runs of Lincoln paper-on-card photos "Carte de Visites" (CDV's for short) usually fetch several hundred to $1000+ depending upon rarity, age, size condition, subject matter and artist. Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner were the two most prominent photographers of Lincoln. Tintype images were also reproduced for distribution especially in the making one of the first types of political campaign buttons called "ferrotypes" that fetch $500 - $1000 at ephemera auctions. A one-of-a-kind paper, tin or glass plate photo of "Honest Old Abe" (as one of the 1860 campaign slogans read) would fetch well into five figures today. An original Lincoln daguerreotype would fetch $100,000+. A superlative image might exceed a million dollars.
Red, White and Blue cotton banners from Lincoln & Hannibal Hamlin's (1860) and Lincoln & Andrew Johnson's (1864) campaigns are usually shaped like flags or pennants with bold graphic elements. They value around $5000 - $20,000. Lincoln's signature on anything usually exceeds $2500. A handwritten and signed letter will fetch ten times that amount. 19th century engravings of Abraham Lincoln are severely under-priced in the market today fetching only $100 - $500. Lincoln memorial items, post cards and advertising imagery run all over the board in price.