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Details of Camelot draw most interest at auction

SHARE Details of Camelot draw most interest at auction

Aside from the $5.9 million sale of President Kennedy's yacht the Honey Fitz, it was the smaller bits of Camelot - such as notes he scribbled on legal paper - that attracted the most interest as a two-day auction of JFK memorabilia opened.

One surprise Wednesday was a 1961 speech package that included a photocopy of Kennedy's handwritten draft of his inaugural address - best known for the line, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." It sold for $40,250.Along with the draft, the speech package, which was valued at $4,000 to $6,000 in presale estimates, included a single sheet of yellow legal paper on which Kennedy scribbled this line from the address: "An inaugural is a beginning and an end."

Bidders also got some bargains, as many Kennedy-linked trinkets sold far below their presale estimates. Others were removed from the sale when bids failed to reach a minimum price.

"I got some good deals," said Frank Harvey of Houston, who paid $1,100 for two telegrams sent by Kennedy, $1,600 for photos of Kennedy when he was a senator and $2,500 for a signed lithograph of Kennedy by Norman Rockwell.

The Guernsey's auction got under way after the Maryland collector who consigned most of the items reached a last-minute agreement to return "intensely personal" items to the slain president's children, Caroline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert L. White agreed to turn over two of Kennedy's handwritten journals and a clock the president kept in the Oval Office.

For their part, the Kennedy children surrendered all claims to other auction items, including the Cartier watch Kennedy was wearing on the day he was assassinated and his favorite briefcase - a black alligator Hermes model he had with him that day. His children had wanted both.

The briefcase sold for $772,500, including commission. White had wanted $1 million.

The watch, which White said he traded to someone else, did not sell after the highest bid stopped at $750,000 - $100,000 short of the owner's minimum price.

The Honey Fitz, an 88-ton motorized yacht built in 1931, was named by Kennedy for his maternal grandfather and used during his administration as the presidential yacht. The Honey Fitz was purchased by an unidentified company.

Despite its few big-ticket items, Wednesday's bidding failed to even approach the excitement of Sotheby's 1996 sale of items from the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

"Maybe we were lulled into thinking the Jackie O auction was an indication of the interest of this sort of thing. Maybe that was just a fluke," Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger said.

A 22-foot sloop sailed by Kennedy was withdrawn after the high bid of $800,000 fell short of the owners' seven-figure minimum price. A Felix de Weldon bust of Kennedy, estimated before the sale at $75,000 to $100,000, sold for just $20,700.

Kerry McCarthy, whose mother was a first cousin to Kennedy, watched with dismay as many items went for rock bottom prices. She owns several items scheduled to be sold today, including an ashtray and a portrait of the Kennedy children.

"I'm a little surprised that the prices are so low," she said. "I'm trying to stay calm."