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1951 Jim Thorpe Handwritten Letter - Signed "The Old Indian, Jim Thorpe"
Starting Bid - $500.00, Sold For - $1,540.50
One-page handwritten letter on Hotel Belvedere New York City) letterhead, dated November 30, 1951, signed by legendary Olympic gold-medal winner and Hall of Fame football player Jim Thorpe. In addition to having an extraordinarily noteworthy closing, this letter comes with a rare and remarkable provenance in that it was written directly to our consignor's father and has remained in the family since that time. Our consignor's father had written Thorpe on behalf of himself and some of his friends regarding a plan to raise money. Thorpe's response in full: "Dear Boys - I rec'd your three nickles [sic] and I want to thank you all. I think you have a wonderful idea and I appreciate your good thoughts for me. Very Sincerely Yours - The Old Indian, Jim Thorpe." Both the text and signature have been scripted in black fountain pen and grade "10." According to our consignor, the nature of his father's idea and the significance of the three nickels was never made clear to him. However, Thorpe was basically destitute during the latter period of his life (when this letter was written) and perhaps the nickels were part of a fundraising plan for Thorpe. Interestingly, before Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, was named after the legendary athlete, it was known as Mauch Chunk, and in the early 1950s, in response to the town being so economically depressed, a drive to collect nickels was promoted as an economic stimulus for the town. By 1954 (the year of Thorpe's passing), the town had collected $30,000 in nickels, and used these funds in part to honor Jim Thorpe and provide him with a final resting place. The town of Mauch Chunk, of course, also changed its name to Jim Thorpe. We don't know if there is any connection between the town's fund-raising efforts and the nickels that Thorpe refers to in this letter, but we thought the coincidence was too fascinating not to make note. We can't think of any other towns that thousands of people have tried to saved by collecting thousands of dollars in nickels. The fact that Mauch Chunk, now known as Jim Thorpe, is that town is certainly interesting in light of the fact Jim Thorpe is giving thanks in this letter for the receipt of nickels. 1951 (the year the letter was written) was also the year in which the movie Jim Thorpe - All American was released, which renewed interest in Thorpe and his career. Thorpe passed away just two years later at the age of sixty-five. The letter (6 x 9.5 inches) displays one vertical and two horizontal mailing folds, as well as three small horizontal tears along the left border. In Very Good to Excellent condition. Ideally, it is accompanied by its original mailing envelope (6.5 x 3.75 inches), postmarked November 30, 1951, and bearing Thorpe's typewritten name in the upper left corner. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $1,540.50
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