At Rockwell, History You Can Own - 8/10/2012

Considering about 60 people each spent $35,800 to have dinner with President Barack Obama in Westport this past week, the lock of George Washington’s hair selling for $6,900 at Rockwell Art and Framing on Post Road East seems like a bargain to hear John Reznikoff tell it. “It’s actually three things, his hair, his signature on a document and piece of his coat,” says Reznikoff, owner of University Archives, also in Westport.
Among items on sale: one of only 300 printings of the Declaration of Independence from the original copper plates for $50,000.
Recently, Reznikoff, a worldwide dealer of collectibles, teamed up with internationally revered document authenticator Seth Keller, and Stephen Desloge, owner of seven Rockwell galleries in Fairfield County, to form the first of its kind in Connecticut: a retail outlet selling “history you can own,” according to Desloge.
“We’re developing a new brand for the marketplace,” says Desloge, a Wilton resident recently elected as president of Westport’s Downtown Merchants Association.
Desloge said that after he met Keller two years ago, he decided to test the waters via a “satellite vignette in our New Canaan store,” selling historic documents that Keller had authenticated. The pieces sold out, he said.
“What we found is that what does not exist is a substantial retail presence for historic documents and collectibles,” he said. “We also identified that there is a strong market for it.”
According to Brian Olson, who manages the Westport gallery, “there’s nothing like this outside of New York.” He equates what is on display at 236 Post Road East to what one would find in a museum, with the only difference being that at Rockwell, it is for sale.
And what is for sale can give even the most blase “been there done that” mindset pause: the previously cited piece of a coat belonging to George Washington and a lock of his hair; the original mockup of Lincoln’s face for Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and a deed from William Penn for 5,000 acres in Pennsylvania with a promotional half-acre bonus in Philadelphia.
Also available: signed documents by Abraham Lincoln, one as a lawyer the other as president; a signed letter from President John F. Kennedy to a Msgr. Murphy dated April 23, 1963; a document signed by Napoleon; and, among the most expensive, one of only 300 printings of the Declaration of Independence from the original copper plates for $50,000.
“This is very exciting stuff, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” says Olson.
Other items, more pop culture than historic, include signed guitars by James Taylor and the Grateful Dead, Muhammad Ali’s green boxing cape and the original drawing of Charles Schultz’s Snoopy.
“I’m more than honored to be represented by Rockwell and to be doing this with Seth Keller,” said Reznikoff from a vacation spot in Spain where he said he is “looking for the next collectible around the corner.”
According to Desloge, Keller is so respected as an authenticator that he is often sought out by museums.
He recently represented the seller of a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation that sold for $2.1 million.
“The time is right,” says Reznikoff about the new venture only at Rockwell’s Westport location.
“This material is drastically undervalued, and people are just becoming aware of it. We’re getting orders from Hong Kong.
“While the real estate market has been down, and the stock market is iffy, people are putting their money into tangibles, collectibles in particular.”
Among Reznikoff’s favorite objects is the model used for Lincoln’s face on Mount Rushmore.
“When you touch that item, it almost sings to you,” he said. “You see all of the effort that went into making Mount Rushmore.”