What Autographs Are Worth: An Interview with
Walter R. Benjamin [excerpt]
“There has been a slump
in all autographs of that period, though the best ones will probably
be higher in the future. Even Wilkes Booth has gone down from the
$100 which would have been paid twenty years ago for one of his
letters to the $50 it would bring to-day. I have one in my possession
now from which the signature has been cut. It was written two or
three months before the assassination of Lincoln. When that tragedy
occurred it wasn’t exactly healthy for a man to be suspected of
intimacy with Booth, so the recipient of this letter evidently cut
the signature off and destroyed it. There’s an interesting thing
in connection with Wilkes Booth autographs, and that is that some
collectors won’t have one of his signatures in their possession.
They seem to have too deep a hatred of him.
“As for the two other assassins with
which this country has been afflicted, you can buy Guiteau’s signature
for $10, but you can’t get that of Czolgosz at any price. Guiteau
used to write his autograph and sell it for a dollar while he was
in jail. Kept himself in pocket money that way. But Czolgosz was
kept absolutely secluded. He was not allowed to write anything.
He  really was too ignorant
to do much of it anyway. After his execution every scrap of his
belongings was destroyed. People tried all sorts of schemes to secure
something over his signature but the only person to succeed, so
far as I know, was the late John Boyd Thacher of Albany. He got
something through one of the wardens I think. The Thacher collection
had another valuable letter that might come in the same class. It
was written by Charlotte Corday and brought $500.