Kennedy’s rosary beads could reach $1M at auc­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY ALEX HOP­KINS

An odd lit­tle bit of Camelot hits the mar­ket later this month: Al­most ex­actly a month be­fore the 50th an­niver­sary of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion, his rosary will go on sale at Bos­ton’s Omni Parker House ho­tel on Oct. 24.

The seller, New Hamp­shire­based RR Auc­tion House, de­scribed the rosary in the auc­tion cat­a­log as be­ing “ar­guably the most per­sonal pos­ses­sion as­so­ci­ated with John F. Kennedy ever of­fered at pub­lic auc­tion.”

Kennedy, the only Catholic to serve in the White House, gave the rosary as a gift to his close per­sonal friend and as­sis­tant, David Pow­ers.

Pow­ers, who died in 1998 at 85, fre­quently cam­paigned with Kennedy from 1946 to 1963. He was also in the Dal­las mo­tor­cade when Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated on Nov. 22, 1963. Later, Pow­ers served as the mu­seum cu­ra­tor of Bos­ton’s John F. Kennedy Li­brary and Mu­seum for 30 years un­til 1994.

“I can imag­ine that re­flect­ing with th­ese rosary beads gave my fa­ther com­fort in the years af­ter the pres­i­dent’s death,” reads an en­closed let­ter writ­ten by Pow­ers’ son, David Pow­ers, in part to au­then­ti­cate that the rosary gen­uinely be­longed to the na­tion’s 35th pres­i­dent.

Al­though bid­ding will be­gin at $10,000, the beads could reach up to $1 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to RR Auc­tion House Vice Pres­i­dent Bobby Liv­ingston.

The younger Mr. Pow­ers “sold his col­lec­tion in Jan­uary, but he sold it pri­vately. This is the finest piece of the col­lec­tion. The leather bomber jacket [worn by Kennedy] sold for more than $600,000. Since this is a more per­sonal piece, we ex­pect it to fetch a much higher price,” Mr. Liv­ingston ex­plained.

The ear­lier JFK me­mora­bilia sale vastly ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, with the late pres­i­dent’s U.S. Navy jacket fetch­ing more than 14 times the an­tic­i­pated $40,000 es­ti­mate. An an­no­tated “fi­nal hours” itin­er­ary also net­ted far more than the $5,000 “high” es­ti­mate.

RR Auc­tion House, which spe­cial­izes in of­fer­ing manuscripts and his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments, rarely has a per­sonal item for sale.

“We have just dou­bled our reg­is­tra­tions,” Mr. Liv­ingston said, not­ing the wide­spread in­ter­est in the rosary.

The rosary it­self sug­gests that the owner was a high-sta­tus Catholic, as the cross is en­graved with Kennedy’s name and the beads are made of fine onyx. Its ori­gins date to the early 1960s, when stylis­tic tastes changed for cru­ci­fixes, ac­cord­ing to the auc­tion house. The cru­ci­fix cor­pus on Kennedy’s rosary is much more styl­ized, a stark con­trast from the re­al­is­tic styles preva­lent in ear­lier decades.

Al­though the rosary is not in mint con­di­tion, the chipped onyx beads and chafed ster­ling sug­gests that the rosary was well used and served its pur­pose as a guide to prayer.

In ad­di­tion to the rosary, the auc­tion also in­cludes four pho­tos of Kennedy and Pow­ers taken in 1961 and 1962, de­pict­ing the pair at St. Ed­wards Church in Palm Beach, Fla., and the Cathe­dral of St. Matthew the Apos­tle in Wash­ing­ton.

Some 290 other items will be up for auc­tion, in­clud­ing the ho­tel phones used by Kennedy to make his last phone calls, a white Lin­coln Con­ti­nen­tal that he rode in on the morn­ing of Nov. 22 and the flag flown by the White House dur­ing the mourn­ing week.

A por­tion of the rosary sale’s pro­ceeds will ben­e­fit the non­profit David Pow­ers Foun­da­tion, which helps mil­i­tary fam­i­lies and the Boys and Girls Club.


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