Amherst’s RR Auction deals on global stage
AMHERST – According to RR Auction’s executive vice president Bobby Livingston, the local, internationally renowned RR is much more well-known in London, than in Londonderry.
“With our auctions, since 1976, we have been a national and international company,” he said. “We don’t have a physical location for people around here to visit us.”
A fixture in the world of auctions, RR Auction typically makes history by selling history – everything from NASA and presidential documents and items, to rock and roll autographs and literature pieces.
RR Auction founder and CEO Bob Eaton said the pandemic has been a boon for his business.
“In our 45 years, 2020 has not only been the highest-grossing year, but the most profitable year,” he said.
RR Auction has been known for over four decades for selling autographs and manuscripts. Livingston said Eaton is a specialist and authenticator of handwriting.
“He can tell you whether a George Washington or an Elvis Presley is real,” Livingston said. “We also have other consultants who help with that. We’re very well-known as a marketplace and for auctions focusing on manuscripts.”
Over the years, the company has developed specialties, including rock and roll and the NASA program.
“Alan Shepherd is from Londonderry,” Livingston said. “Not only do we sell things that originate from Alan Shepherd, but we also have moonwalkers who are actual consigners. We sell things from the Apollo 15 commander, the Apollo 14 science officer, Jim Lovell, from Apollo 13. So we have offered many things that have gone to the moon.”
Another segment that is very powerful right now is Steve Jobs and Apple computers.
“We’ve sold three Apple 1 computers, the original Apple 1’s that were built by Wozniak and Jobs out in Jobs’ garage,” Livingston said. “Those have ranged from $375,000 up to the last one, which was over $750K. So right here in New Hampshire, we’ve probably had more Apple 1’s in one location since the Byte Store in Menlo Park.”
One of Eaton’s favorite subjects is that of John F. Kennedy and items related to the 35th president. His fascination is multi-layered.
“I think part of it is because of my age,” Eaton said. “I was born in 1957 and in 1963, I was six years-old and my parents were into Kennedy. And they were very political. I remember – or at least I remember-remembering watching the years and everything about Kennedy.”
Eaton said RR had a huge auction on the anniversary of JFK’s death in 2013.
“We sold the car that brought him to the airport as he was about to fly to Dallas,” Eaton shared. “Bobby went to Texas and met with Marina Oswald’s daughter and we sold Lee Harvey Oswald’s wedding ring. And because of the things we’ve sold, we sold the diary. This was JFK’s diary from 1946 when he was in Europe after WWII had ended.”
Certain celebs, according to Eaton and Livingston, have more cache and will always be the “biggies,” such as Marilyn Monroe. Elsewhere, the market can ebb and flow.
“It changes,” Eaton said. “Steve Jobs right now is a huge thing. We sold just a magazine cover signed by Jobs for $50,000. We sold an employment application signed by Jobs for $175K and it just got resold for $275K. Princess Diana is another big one.”
Livingston said that over the decades, what used to sell for big money forty years ago has lost a bit of its luster.
“Of course, that generation of collectors has passed on, and some of those items just don’t hold the same value,” Livingston said. “The Greta Garbo’s, the Jean Harlow’s, used to be huge money. As time goes on, the stars of the past are forgotten and a new generation comes along.”
The artist known as Prince has become a major player on the auction block. Livingston said RR has become quite famous as a seller of Prince memorabilia.
“His ex-employees are selling this things through our auctions,” Livingston said. “But the newer collectors are emotionally connected to him and they’re buying his things at very high prices.”
On the other hand, Elvis interest has gone down. Livingston said as generations come and go, RR is proud to have been a major player on a global front for more than four decades.
“To go through these things right here in New Hampshire, we call pretty remarkable,” Livingston said. “That we have been able to service international clientele for decades and now generations of collectors, is equally remarkable.”
Many people who inherit collections might sell them off, while others might retain them.
“It depends, and it really varies from collector to collector,” Eaton said. “For some families, it’s just stuff and they really just want to get rid of it and get the most amount of money. Other people remember their dad collecting those things.”
Eaton said being an authenticator is all about time – a long time to be exact, to know and learn the art form.
“It is an art,” Eaton said. “It’s not a scientific process. Some people can be in the business for 40 years and they’re just not good at it. Over the years, the process behind this has really changed. We use third-party authentication services to look at everything in every category and we have experts in every category. But we still look at the manuscripts and the documents, but it absolutely comes from years of looking at things.”
Over the course of a year, it’s estimated that RR looks at over 100,000 items. But above all, what Eaton and Livingston do is still fun.
“I started when I was 19 years-old,” Eaton said. “Before that, Bobby and I – we’re related – when he was a little kid, we used to go get baseball autographs. We’d hang around the ballpark and get autographs. I had a love for it when I was a kid. I still do.”