The Legendary Merrill C. Berman Political CollectionDear Friends,
Over 40+ years in the political hobby I have been fortunate to help bring some wonderful collections to market: Paul Perlin, Chick Harris, Joe Brown's pre-1896 items, Ken Broyles and Geary Vlk's celluloids, and Ed Gillette's early 3-D material, among others. But none of these great collections could equal the celluloids, 19th century photo badges, and ribbons in The Merrill C. Berman Collection. We will be offering this amazing collection in four landmark catalogs, with the next one tentatively scheduled for late June. In addition to the catalog auctions, there are also nearly 1000 lots of single items and groups which will be sold in internet-only auctions presented by our Books and Manuscripts departments. These internet auctions will include many seldom-seen items, and we encourage you to follow them carefully as well.
I first met Merrill Berman in the fall of 1972, when I was living in New York City attending law school at Columbia and Merrill, not much older than I, was a wunderkind stock investor and venture capitalist on Wall Street. While he had collected political items since childhood (APIC #96), his newfound financial success allowed Merrill to collect more aggressively. From the beginning he had great instincts. Like another legendary hobbyist of that era, Stan King, Merrill eschewed the traditional way of collecting --- trying to see how many items one could get for each candidate. Instead he sought out only the best, and had the financial resources to do so.
The first major sale I made to Merrill was a McClellan-Pendleton ferro jugate for $2000, almost certainly a record price for a political item up to that point. In retrospect I have Merrill to thank for my becoming a "serious" political dealer. Before meeting him I had put out a few sales lists and set up at APIC shows, but had pretty much stuck with tried and true "commodity" items. However, in Merrill I had a client who wanted the best items I could find, and was willing to pay unprecedented prices which allowed me to pry out many great pieces from old, established collections. He remained my best client through the 1970s, and continued actively buying well into the 1980s, when I took a ten year "sabbatical" from the hobby to dabble in primitive art. Merrill was always one to recognize opportunities when they arose, and in 1981 he bought aggressively when the wonderful collection of Don Warner came to the auction block, purchasing many of the stand-out items in the auction.
Although Merrill continued to acquire items sporadically over the years, his collection had largely taken shape by the mid-1980s. Intensely private, he did not display his full collection publicly, and many of his discreet acquisitions, such as the spectacular set of 1860 oval ferros, will be offered for sale through our auctions for the first time. Allowing the collection to be broken up was in many ways a difficult decision, and one which Merrill approached with typically careful consideration. We are proud and honored that he has selected Heritage as the venue through which to share his many wonderful items with the hobby at large. Cataloging this material has been a joy and a privilege, and we hope our efforts are well received by the collecting public.
Thomas D. Slater
Director of Americana Auctions